Traveling light is a joy. There’s a great deal less hassle and far more freedom when we know how to pack light. So why is it that we repeatedly take too many things even though we promise ourselves not to do so next time? One reason is that we have grown up used to having so many things to make our lives easier that we aren’t sure what we’d do without the comfort they provide us. But what I’ve found is that I get a lot less out of my things than I once believed I did, and that the freedom that comes from traveling with less is absolutely more valuable than the comfort they provided. But even though we realize this each time we lug a heavy suitcase down the street of a foreign country, we seem to forget it when we’re packing, and always end up bringing too much.
So how can you stay true to your promise to pack light next time? My experience has taught me how to pack light when traveling–I’ll share what I’ve learned here.
Pack in a small bag. This is by far the most important step. If you constrain your packing to a certain size limit, you will naturally begin to see what are the things that you really need and what is in there just because it’s nice. Holding yourself within this limit is actually the most freeing thing you can do, as it provides the opportunity to realize how you really do just fine without much stuff.
Don’t take anything you “might” need. This might take a little practice, but if you’re deliberate and honest with yourself it will soon become second nature. Almost everywhere you go will have products that far exceed a person’s basic necessities, so if you really regret leaving something behind you can probably find it at your destination anyways. My rule is, if I am not one hundred percent sure that I will use it, I don’t take it. The only exception is whatever emergency supplies like first aid that I feel are reasonable, though I keep those to a minimum too. And actually, I’ve never had a travel experience ruined because I didn’t take something, but I certainly missed a lot of opportunities in the days I lugged around a lot of stuff, due to the logistics of it.
Pack multi-use items. My pants zip off into shorts that are perfect for swimming. My headscarf works perfectly for both warm and cold climates, and can also be used as a pillow, a blanket, a meditation cushion, and a towel. Things don’t have to be used only for their intended purpose, and figuring out ways to do more things with less stuff is actually really fun. After traveling for a long time, I’m just beginning to carry my kitchen on my back–one pot, one spoon, and one camp stove! You’d be surprised at the delicious meals that come out of that.
Don’t take so many clothes! There are lots of things that people tend to over-pack, but clothing is by far the most common. For the past eight months I have been traveling with only two pairs of pants. I wash one by hand whenever I change out of it and let it dry overnight. Not only is my bag lighter, I also never dread doing a big load of laundry or pay someone else to do it.