How To Travel Light
I learned how to travel light from lightweight backpacking,
but found it was just as useful to keep it light on trips overseas
or driving across the country. The last time my wife and I went
to Ecuador, I had 10 pounds of luggage, all in one carry-on bag,
and Ana had just 8 pounds in her carry-on bag. This wasn't for
a short trip. We spent six weeks in Ecuador, at times on glacier-covered
mountains, and at other times lounging on Pacific coast beaches.
Why travel light? Travel simplicity. Everything is simpler
when you travel light. We were long gone from the airport in
Quito (we had only carry-on), while others were still waiting
for their checked luggage. On busses our luggage was safely with
us, not on the roof or in the hold below being cut open (like
the time I was in Mexico). While others struggled down the street
with three heavy bags, we had our hands free and were walking
comfortably (we use daypacks or small backpacks). We had less
to lose, less to be stolen, less to wait for, less to pack and
unpack in hotels, and just less to worry about.
Light Travel Issues
There are a couple minor problems when you travel light. First,
expect an extra question or two from the customs officials at
the airport (Six weeks with only this?). Second, a small bag
won't work for you if you plan to bring back many souvenirs.
In this case, you can still go light. Just plan to buy a second
bag at some point during the trip, to carry your acquisitions.
As for the seemingly obvious issue of not having enough clothes
and other things all in one or two small bags, I'll explain below
why that isn't as big a problem as you may think.
How To Travel Light
Silk shirts weigh 3 ounces, and travel well if rolled up.
Nylon dress socks weigh less than an ounce, and they are cool
and comfortable. Poly-cotton blend t-shirts weigh 5 ounces. Supplex
or other lightweight travel slacks weigh 9 ounces, and are sufficient
for a fine restaurant or a walk in the woods. All of these weigh
less than half of the clothes people commonly travel with, yet
function the same. No sacrifice here. For this exercise in travel
simplicity, you even get to go shopping for new clothes.
You don't have to buy new clothes, however. You don't have
to buy a scale and count ounces to travel light. Just choose
the lighter alternative whenever you can. Set aside your lightest
jacket, socks and pants for your next trip. Travel simplicity
is the goal, not more complicated planning.
More Ways To Travel Light
Money replaces weight, especially in the form of a debit or
credit card. Don't carry two pounds of your favorite shampoo
on your trip if you can simply buy small bottles as you travel.
It really won't cost you much to buy the things you need as you
travel instead of carrying your home with you. Also, you really
don't know exactly what you need on a trip, particularly if it
is an overseas trip. Buy what you need as you need it, and you
won't have a pile of useless things in your luggage. Don't we
all regularly unpack things once home that we never once used
during the trip?
Long-trail hikers (backpackers who travel a trail for months)
use the post office to keep their weight down. They send something
they'll need (new shoes) to a post office on their route, ahead
of time, so it will be waiting for them. Then they send things
back (winter coat) when they no longer need them. The latter
may be a useful practice for other travelers. If you have bought
bulky gifts for family or friends, why carry them around for
weeks? Put them in the mail.
A Light Travel Example
Six weeks in Ecuador (what I actually took):
* 8 pairs of thin nylon socks (less than an ounce per pair)
* 2 silk shirts for restaurants and discos (3 ounces each)
* 4 poly/cotton blend t-shirts (5-6 ounces each)
* 5 pair of light underwear (2-3 ounces each)
* 1 extra pair of lightweight slacks (9 ounces)
* Single layer nylon shorts for hiking or swimming (2 ounces)
* Thin gloves (1 ounce)
* Thin hat (1 ounce - honestly)
* Thin wool sweater (11 ounces)
* Waterproof/breathable rainsuit (14 ounces for the set)
* Light plastic camera (3 ounces)
* Sunglasses (1 ounce)
* Small chess set (3 ounces)
* Bathroom kit (5 ounces)
* Maps, notebook and various small things.
I have forgotten a few things that I brought, but my pack
weighed ten pounds total, and my wife's pack weighed 8 pounds.
We never felt deprived. I'm not suggesting that you start counting
the ounces (that comes from my backpacking days), or that you
buy all new lightweight things. Without spending money or thinking
about it too much, you can just start setting aside your lightest
shirts, socks, etc., so you can travel light on your next vacation.
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