How I Travel Light

How I Travel Light


I knew before setting off to travel long term that I did not want to lug around a lot of stuff, I did not want the weight on my back to be a deterrent to exploring. I started with 17 kilos, over time I have brought that down to 12. Here are the steps which have helped me travel with a lighter load: 


1. Experience & knowing my travel style

Travelling light might seem difficult at first, especially while packing surrounded by the details of a home life, a closet full of choice, bathroom shelves lined with ointments and cosmetics, a hobby room stuffed with fun pastimes. Over time I have learned to pare down with a ruthlessness born from an understanding of what is most important to me when I am wandering. Painting and sketching supplies over an extra pair of shoes, thermal layers in loo of pyjamas, tea paraphernalia and a supply of chocolate but no make-up, a small camera and laptop in favour of a hefty DSLR with professional lenses.


2. I can only bring it if it fits

Before I learned what I can more easily do without, my main strategy to keep the load manageable was to buy a small bag. Most backpackers I saw travelled with between 55 to 70 litres of capacity in their packs, and it seemed as though many made full use of it. So, I decided not to go above 40 litres. Finding the right bag did prove to be challenging, but I triumphed in the end (read more about my choice here).


3. Get rid of the What Ifs and Just In Cases

Then came the time to decide what to put inside the bag. I was both incredibly happy and terribly dismayed with my self imposed limitation when I compared the pile of stuff I first deemed essential with the space available. I started by separating the ‘what ifs’, items such as a knitting project in case I do not always feel like sketching. I will always remember the time I dragged along half a suitcase full of schoolbooks to Paris oh so many years ago, thinking I might finish a couple of assignments ahead of time. Yeah, ‘just in case’ packing rarely proves useful. 


4. Eliminate the duplicates

With the exception of undies and socks, and pens (a personal weakness 🙂 ) if there was more than one of a particular item in the pile I chose my favourite and set the rest aside. One pair of pants, one pair of leggings, one tank top, one t-shirt, one sweater, one all purpose skin cream, one sketchbook … This step may have been the most successful in reducing weight. It made me confront the underlying desire for luxury through choice, and once I became comfortable with the idea of reduced options the ‘no’ pile really started growing in comparison to the ‘must bring’ pile.


5. Make do & remember I can probably buy it later

It is always reassuring to remind myself that if later on I find inadequacies in what I originally decide to pack, it is likely I will be able to find the missing items while on the road. In the mean time I find a way to compensate for the lack, or simply get used to not having what I think I need, which often leads to a decision not to purchase it after all. 


writing on the wall – Split, Croatia


I know minimalist packing is not for everyone – though I have yet to meet someone who said they wished their luggage was heavier. For me, finding ways to shave kilos from the contents of my pack has become fun, sort of a game, with results I have to admit are laced with at least a small dose of pride.

The quest for a lighter bag initiated a journey towards becoming comfortable living with less stuff in general, not just for the days spent on the road. Learning to make do with not much more than the bare essentials has created positive outcomes in other aspects of my life: resources such as money and time have been shifted from acquisition of material items with benefits unlikely to last long term to the creation of experiences and memories which will endure; and when I do decide to purchase something new I can afford to spend more on a higher quality item. 

What is your packing style like? Have packing tips of your own? Feel free to add a comment.


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