Tourism’s Very Own Minimalist Movement, Tiny Travel

Tiny Travel

By Shay Perryman

Less is more. This sentiment resonates in one of tourism’s newest trends, tiny travel. The hustle of everyday life can leave one longing for less—and the market to meet that demand is growing in many destinations. 

How would you like to walk into one of those picturesque spots where an Airstream is nestled in the forest, with the air offering as much fragrance as the ambiance does enchantment? Or, stay in a posh camper van along the Pacific Coast Highway, the thunder of high tide your alarm clock? What about a tiny house that allows you to practice, albeit briefly, a minimalist lifestyle? You’re in luck.

Why is tiny travel such a big deal?

My first trip abroad was to Nicaragua. Standard-sized backpack in tow, packed the night before flying out, I was ready to live with very little for two weeks. I found that it was, well… I just did laundry more often. I stayed in hostels where the amenities offered were scant but essential. Clean drinking water, strong coffee, security, and a comfortable bed.

Over time I realized that “tiny travel” isn’t necessarily about how much stuff you drag along. Traveling light is symbolic of the growing trend toward a minimalist lifestyle. It represents environmental altruism because, after all, requiring less translates into the generation, use and disposal of less.

The resources you require while traveling indicate your level of impact. 

Don’t get me wrong—my airline emissions tally doesn’t quite afford me a soapbox to stand on, but it has imparted a bit of perspective. I think the greatest defense we have against tourism’s impact on our planet is the collective actions of individuals.

Sense of Discovery

Tiny travel allows you to be comforted by your senses and discoveries instead of your possessions. Perhaps for some it’s a relief from these luxuries that eases the ironically stressed lives we lead. The many things we enjoy require care; from daily chores to supporting hobbies, we have a pace to keep with families, school, pets and careers.

Sometimes I think that our inner child wants to relive those memorable moments from growing up. Do you remember the excitement of building forts out of couch cushions? Tent camping in the living room? Tiny living spaces may very well be that childhood joy trying to find the same thrill from an adult’s perspective.

Try it on for size one day 

Rent a campervan (road trip!). One of the most liberating feelings on the road is to tow your accommodation around with you—not to mention you save a little time (un)packing! However, trade-offs come into play when you compare energy-intensive hotel stays with the potentially     

higher output of a 3- to 4-ton wagon and the miles being cast behind it. Nevertheless, it can be comfortable and will be memorable. 

Backpack. One of my fondest memories from abroad involved a cave, a corn harvest, and a family of semi-nomadic pastoralists. My home for one night was nestled inside this cave, surrounded by a gorgeous dusty-orange landscape that chased the horizon straight across North Africa to the Mediterranean Sea. I wore borrowed shoes two sizes too big and carried nothing but water, a toothbrush and a sleeping bag.

To say that I felt insignificant in this landscape is an understatement. The small cave where I found shelter is what gifted me with a sense of pertinence. 

Stay in a hostel! Noisy parties, noisy youth and the threat of bed bugs are not defining characteristics of dorm rooms. I know because I have been quite successful at avoiding them. Discomfort and tiny travel are not mutually exclusive. Hostels usually cater to a backpacking culture that has arguably embraced minimalist living the most thoroughly. 

Less is not only more, it is often sustainable

Tiny travel isn’t just a symbol of minimalist trends in living, it can be an adventure in and of  itself. It can liberate us from the constraint of the upkeep required of having more. Thriving on the bare essentials empowers one to become more efficient at being efficient!

Traveling light implies a focused appreciation for sharing in the most fundamental joys of the human experience with destination hosts and a reverence for the astounding landscapes of our world. This alone is something to be enjoyed and celebrated.

Follow all of ASU’s sustainability series by visiting our website.

Shay Perryman recently graduated with a master’s degree in Sustainable Tourism (MST) through Arizona State University’s Center for Sustainable Tourism, with a focus on pro-poor destination development. She manages her own travel blog at, and has studied and volunteered in Ghana, Guatemala and Oaxaca, Mexico. She is currently working as an interpretive park ranger in her home state of California.

Photos by Shay Perryman

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