Serious minimalists (one-bag style) maintain a lifestyle that is perhaps more similar to hunter-gatherers than any other historic model.
Serious or hardcore minimalists own, travel, and move with a minimum of stuff. Many serious minimalists can fit everything they own into one bag. The minimalist’s bag, in this case, becomes the standard by which possessions are measured: Does it fit and how much does it weigh?
Minimalists from across the spectrum of minimalism are out of step with mainstream Western culture – one-bag minimalists especially so. Nomads and perpetual travelers seem to gravitate toward minimalism easily as they quickly learn, both practically and experientially, that possessions are baggage. Possessions literally weigh a person down and restrict freedom of movement. Possessions quickly possess.
Nomadic minimalists carry only what is really needed or truly provides value as they roam the world, migrating at will. These minimalists rely on finding what is needed, when it is needed, where it is needed. In many cases, these minimalists work remotely while traveling or run microbusinesses from wherever they happen to be.
The nomadic minimalist life differs from subsistence farming or nearly any other form of urban existence in history. Most vocations require ties to a geographical location, while many require tools or real estate that likewise hinder movement. Perhaps the only historical model to which nomadic minimalism can be compared is that of a hunter-gatherer.
A hunter-gatherer needed to travel light out of necessity. Carrying more than the minimum slowed a person down, especially if traveling on foot, but even on horseback there are real limits to how much can be carried. Further, any food that is successfully obtained on a hunt or through foraging must also be carried until it is consumed.
The hunter-gatherer would necessarily need to travel (migrating to find food and other resources), and would also need to travel light (only what could be carried on his/her back or pack animal), relying on skill and luck to find food and other resources as they were needed.
This model is remarkably similar to today’s nomadic minimalists. The nomadic minimalist travels (migrating for any number of reasons), travels lightly (only what can be carried conveniently), relying on skill and luck to find work or business, food, housing, transportation, and anything else that is necessary.
Consider too that both the hunter-gatherer and nomadic minimalist have a work-life-travel blend that is remarkably different from most Western, career-oriented lifestyles.
The typical Western model that many consider normal forces artificial distinctions between work time and personal time (life) while reducing travel to something allowed only on a rare vacation. In other words, what is frequently considered normal is an artificial, dualistic worldview that seeks to separate life into convenient boxes beneficial to the corporation, but harmful to the individual.
The nomadic minimalist, by contrast, frequently (and necessarily) blends work, life, and travel together in a holistic lifestyle. Work, travel, and life blend together organically, which is not to say that a nomadic minimalist never struggles with keeping everything in balance. Having abandoned the pursuit of possessions, however, it often becomes easier to focus on what is important.
It is perhaps no coincidence that I have seen a resurgence in interest in the simplicity of the hunter-gatherer societies in recent years. (Which is not, of course, to say that interest is becoming mainstream.) Interestingly, pursuing simple living based on the model of nomadic minimalism may be more viable and sustainable for those who are intrigued by such things than would the ancient hunter-gatherer model. In many ways then nomadic minimalists are the new hunter-gatherers of the digital age.