I don’t personally live this way but I greatly admire the minimalist lifestyle. In my opinion we own and carry around with us far too many belongings. It’s not just a problem of Emuna (belief) that one won’t take their possessions beyond the grave (though ancient Pharaohs believed otherwise). The more you own – the more you have to worry about maintenance, support, insurance, safety and upkeep of all your stuff. That’s why traveling can be GOOD FOR THE SOUL and why we have a Jewish Travelers Manifesto. Here’s why:
No matter how much luggage allowance you’ll get on the plane or cruise-ship, you’re going to leave 99% of your stuff back home. Will anyone in their right mind take their favorite sofa chair or a full-size oven along on a trip abroad? I’ve heard of people taking their Lamborghini or Roll-Royce along for a trip…but that’s the exception to the rule. When you travel every kilogram counts. If you buy an economy deal then even checked-in luggage is restricted. This teaches us to carry only the important essentials.
In last week’s Parasha, Yaakov Avinu travels to Haran by a very long route. On the way he’s mugged by his nephew Elifaz and loses all his possessions. I guess he didn’t have travel insurance against theft and nor a mobile phone to contact the credit company and cancel his MasterCard. Tough life in ancient times.
Yaakov then made a short stopover at the Yeshiva of Shem & Ever to study Torah for 14 years, prayed at the site of the future Temple and experienced prophecy. I assume he lost his money before the stopover. To make a long story short, after all his adventures Yaakov summarizes his journey with a Traveler’s Prayer and vow as follows:
The Jewish Travelers Manifesto
Yaakov made a vow: If G-d will be with me, if He will protect me on the journey that I am taking, if He gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear and if I return in peace to my father’s house, then I will dedicate myself totally to G-d. (Genesis 28:20).
Interesting what Yaakov asked for, or to be precise what he DIDN’T ask for. He asked for food but not for a place to sleep. He asked for clothing but not for a method of transportation. He asked for safety but not luxuries. As a long-term “backpacker” his needs were simple and meager.
No Baggage Challenge
Nobody says you need to travel with only your clothes on your back. I know of one special case that travel writer Rolf Potts (author of Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel) made it his goal to travel around the world with no baggage at all. Its a fascinating study in minimalist travel and ingenuity and I recommend watching his Source: Videos | No Baggage Challenge — Around the World with no luggage to get some ideas.
This is an unusual case but Yaakov Avinu had the idea long before Rolf Potts, so I guess it’s something to keep in mind for your next trip.