Minimalism: How The Travel Mindset Can Help You At Home
In 2015, I picked up this exact travel backpack and booked a one-way ticket to Thailand. My goal was simple: to travel as many places around the world that I could, while listening to my intuition as to where I should go next. If I felt like a particular destination warranted only a short visit, I would honor that. If I loved a particular destination so much that I felt the need to stay, I would honor that, as well.
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." - Leonardo da Vinci
What did this mindset do? It set the foundation for openness – to be aware of the widest array of possibilities and take the best course of action. I not only wanted to satisfy my curiosities and sense of adventure, I also wanted to learn as much as I could about different cultures and lifestyles. I wanted to understand how we could be so outwardly different, yet fundamentally all the absolute same.
Thailand ended up being an excellent base for me. I already had a friend who had "moved" there as a digital nomad. It was in the heart of Asia with one of the most accessible airports in the area and the costs of living were significantly lower than back home in California. Thailand served as a springboard to explore other parts of Asia with great ease.
When I arrived in Bali, I knew I wanted to stay for a few months. In Japan, I knew I wanted to live there for at least half a year. Other destinations like Cambodia and Laos were great, but not countries that I saw myself planting down and setting as a base.
In order to maintain this flexibility of travel, I had to scale back on my load significantly. I had to carry everything I needed on my back. Minimalism was the most efficient way to make these trips enjoyable. At first, it was only meant to be a temporary measure to alleviate the inconveniences of having so much to carry – not to mention the airline baggage fees that could ensue.
After a while, I got used to this lifestyle. I realized that I don't miss any of the "bells and whistles" that I had in my cosmopolitan LA life. In fact, it was liberating not to have to worry about all of this stuff. My happiness wasn't affected at all by scaling back.
There's a quote from the movie Fight Club that's still with me today:
“The things you own end up owning you.” - Fight Club
People greeting me upon arrival would often say, "Wow, is that all you're here with?" How to pack like a minimalist is an entirely different conversation, but this mindset even affected how I began to make music. I couldn't carry hardware synths or any other gear that would take up additional space in my bag. I had to travel with the bear minimum – my laptop, a portable 25-key MIDI keyboard, and other absolute necessities which I talk about in this post entitled "Mobile Music Production Essentials".
My music production process went completely "in the box" as I relied solely on software instead of the hardware gear that I had back in my LA studio. This was all supposed to be temporary, but here I am, five years later in my Berlin flat, back on the same setup that I used when I was traveling for years. When I arrived in Berlin, I began working out of a studio until the pandemic took hold of the world. And now, more than ever, I'm grateful for all of those exercises in minimalism on the road.
My setup is highly efficient. The minimalist setup is the same rig that I used while traveling in Japan when I wrote "Rituals". It was the first record I signed to Grammy-nominated Paul Oakenfold's Perfecto Black label. That was written mostly in a Tokyo hostel in 2017. And here we are in 2020 – I just signed another record that I made on that same exact setup.
So what has minimalism taught me? It has taught me to appreciate and make the most of the essentials. It prevented me from looking out for the next best thing, and instead allowed me to focus on developing my strengths and abilities, my skills and knowledge, and mastering a few things one-by-one rather than diverting my attention to multiple avenues. These exercises in limitation are still challenges that I put upon myself today in order to encourage both personal and professional growth.
Minimalism isn't just a philosophical mindset for travel, it has indeed become a lifestyle, which is also apparent in my music production process. As we're all sheltered in place, it's important to remember that restrictions can be assets. You have all that it takes to make great music. Take this as a time to master the few things that are already at your disposal.
Less is more.
The Nomadic Music Producer's Handbook is the result of over two years of trial-and-error as a nomadic DJ and music producer. I discuss ways you can earn an income remotely as you travel, landing DJ gigs, finding free meals and accommodations, staying fit while traveling, my take on mixing and mastering, preparing for travel, and much more.