Traveling is an exercise in growth and experience. While the most tangible changes stemming from world travel are typically seen in outlook and perspective on the human experience had by people in other cultures, the traveler himself unknowingly become more experienced in their skills as a traveler.
While a person living out of a bag (or several) grows more accustomed to inconveniences and annoyances met on their journey, we’ve found ourselves to be constantly evolving in our planning and strategies when travelling to minimize these discomforts and make the most of our time.
One area in which we’ve grown in leaps and bounds through traveling is in the simple beginning stages when we’re excitedly packing our bags for the adventure ahead. Sure you can read up on the history and culture of a place you’re about to delve into, but packing strategically can make your whole time on the road much more enjoyable. We’ve found that a little bit of extra thought when planning can leave our experience on vacation with far less clutter and a more streamlined approach to each hiccup or change in plans.
Traveling with only one bag is almost a lifestyle choice while on vacation. Limiting yourself to a carry-on as your sole piece of luggage means a number of things:
1. No waiting at the airport for luggage returns. We are often able to get through customs, pass other people on our flight waiting for their luggage, and get in the first taxis leaving the airport.
2. No lost bags at the airport. Anyone who has ever lost a bag can tell you how inconvenient/frustrating/infuriating this can be.
3. No porters or awkward carrying of extra suitcases through (often busy and crowded) foreign cities. We save money and space by not needing help with extra bags.
4. The peace of mind in knowing that if your bag is next to you, all is well. Fear of losing something is a great way to lose focus and forget you’re in a wonderfully exciting new place.
5. Ease of public transportation. Grab your bag and jump on. Again, bonus for keeping your bag with you and not having it put in a separate area.
Our current method involves choosing a minimal wardrobe that covers all bases and cultural requirements in the countries to which we’ll be travelling (such as covered toes and shoulders in temples or palaces) as well as allowing for activities without creating too much discomfort. I usually pack two pairs of quick dry shorts, 3 or 4 tops, 3 pairs of Exoficio underwear, 2 pairs of socks, comfortable running/hiking shoes, flip flops, and a bathing suit. This size of wardrobe means that I am either paying for laundry service a few times or, if the budget is tight, washing clothes in a sink and drying them in whatever room we find ourselves in for the day. Often this means waiting several days to wash any of my clothes if we are changing rooms/locations every night, but we’ve always found those stretches manageable with a bit of forethought.
These days, we’ve managed to travel in little more than two school sized backpacks. While this might seem like plenty of room to some and not nearly enough for others, let’s first look at what we include in our bags.
The majority of my pack is filled with camera gear and clothes with a few extra items. While I refuse to skimp on my camera equipment in favor of a smaller camera design, I do only take the bare minimum for shooting photos and videos. Sure, I could take less, but I’ve balanced it out with taking less clothing and unnecessary items that many others would prefer.
You can easily see, too, that Stephanie and I pack very different items. After clothing, she has bare essentials in the makeup departments as well as some essential medical supplies. She does end up carrying some cords and spare batteries to help with the weight of my pack from time to time, but her pack is also about 35% smaller than mine. Before this summer’s vacation I was packing in a 28 liter bag, so they were very similar. I’ve since had my old climbing pack sent to me from Oklahoma (thanks, Dad) so my 35 liter Marmot pack should mean that Stephanie has more room for herself if she wants to fill that freed up space. My guess, though, is that she won’t.
So this is basically it! We definitely carry some unnecessary items, but they’ve been chosen for a reason. Both of us love reading and are perfectly willing to lug Kindles around until we get reading time on the beach. I don’t have to take my journal and favorite pen, but I chose to write down my memories each night if possible and I’ve never been willing to compromise on that venture. There are things that we don’t need to carry, but you can see that have found ways to pack small and carry small versions of the luxury items we choose (except for the big camera).
As I’ve said before, travel can be an exercise in growth and experience. As we’ve traveled more, we’ve found ourselves needing less to facilitate a more focused approach to the culture and country we might find ourselves in. With less bags and more liberated attitudes, we are more free to focus on the adventure itself and not get bogged down in the logistics. One bag allows for whims to be pursued more easily, and your mind to be more open to whatever new and exciting thing that lies before you. Pack lighter, go further.
For more inspiration, tips, tricks, and examples, check out the link below or ask us a question in the comments section below.
- 1Bag1World for gear reviews and discussions.
- Pinterest has a lot of personal packing tips and examples.
- Reddit has travel forums where literally every topic is covered, as well as a general packing list created by users with tips and tricks. Be warned, though, Reddit is democratically regulated by a wide range of people on the internet and this entails a wide range of personality and opinion.