Learning to Travel Light

-By Emily Benson

“Happiness is not a station you arrive at but a manner of traveling.”–Margaret Lee Runbeck

Ideally, digital nomads limit their worldly belongings to laptops, Swiss army knives, telephoto lenses, and a few practical Gore-Tex or Neoprene items. My husband, Robin, who admittedly had years of training for packing light as an airline pilot, epitomizes the savvy traveler. He never brings more than a carry on and never buys anything unless it’s experiential and will immediately evanesce–admission to a museum or renting parasailing equipment for a day.

For me, however, refraining from bringing an enormous suitcase has proven a difficult endeavor. On our honeymoon, my husband, bless his heart, lifted my suitcase on and off trains, up and down stairs, but it slowed us down considerably, and, as he pointed out, it felt like we were traveling with a third person, a drunk unconscious person, whose dead weight we had to drag around a whole continent.

I learned my lesson the hard way. Don’t make the same mistake. Your suitcase should be no bigger than a cat bed. If your cat gets lost and can’t find his way out, repack.

Photo by Robin Scott

Five Reasons to Bring a Carry On Rather than Checking Luggage

1. It’s more secure. It’s far less likely your luggage will be lost by an airline if you don’t check it.

2. You don’t have to navigate an unfamiliar foreign airport to find baggage claim and thenwait around, sometimes an hour or more, to claim your luggage.

3. It’s much easier to get on and off trains and go up and down stairs. True, wheels are wonderful and save you a lot of grief, but let’s face it, the world is not flat.

4. It’s easier to store a carry on. If you’re traveling by train, you want to be able to stow your luggage overhead or underfoot so you can keep your eye on it. If you leave it at one end of the train, where the behemoth luggage is often parked, it’s much more likely to be stolen.

5. If your luggage is stolen its not the end of the world. If you’ve got your documents and credit cards in a money belt around your waist (which is where they should be) and your electronic devices in a small shoulder bag you clutch for dear life, should your luggage be stolen you won’t have a complete meltdown because it doesn’t contain everything you own.


Five More Tips for Packing Light

1. Ditch the laptop, and consider bringing the much lighter iPad instead.
For a long time people have complained they can’t use an iPad for business travel because it’s not compatible with common office software like Microsoft Office. However, a new app, CloudOn, brings Microsoft Office to your iPad. Using CloudOn, you can edit Word documents, manage tables in Excel or present from PowerPoint. As online teachers and bloggers, an iPad is usually all we need.

2. Bring an iPad or Kindle instead of books. Many books are available as ebooks, which tend to be less expensive. This includes guide books which are too heavy to carry around. Why spend $15 or $20 to buy a book that will take up space when you can pay $9.99 and have it stored electronically?

3. Buy cosmetics and toiletries when you land.
Then you won’t have to worry about airline regulations with liquids. Sometimes it’s fun to try new products as long as too much doesn’t get lost in translation.

4. Think scrunchable and synthetic. The best things to travel with are materials that roll up into a ball without wrinkling. This includes hi-tech materials and lots of synthetics–Lycra, spandex and nylon. These materials also dry much more easily. When you travel a lot, you need to do laundry on the fly, letting things dry overnight in the bathroom after washing them in your sink. Cotton and linen, while arguably more natural, wrinkle too easily and can take days to dry thoroughly.

5. Get tips from other experienced travelers on how to pack. Searching online is a great way to find these experts.
Here’s one of the most comprehensive sites I’ve found on packing light:

“He will always be a slave who does not know how to live upon a little.” ~Horace Mann

Do you have thoughts or suggestions on how to pack light? If so, we’d love to hear your comments!
If you liked this article, please “tweet,” “like” or “digg” this, or share on StumbleUpon or Reddit. We’d appreciate it. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Learning to Travel Light

  1. These are some great tips – especially the iPad/CloudOn and synthetic points! I’ll have to pingback on a blog post I recently wrote about packing light. The “drunk, unconscious person” bit made me laugh out loud! Thanks for a great read!

  2. I’ve been traveling for business for over 30 years. I never check luggage and if your staying more than a week just get it washed.

    Have to admit though that when its for work I take my massive mobile workstation with its 17 inch screen. I’m a serious power user and the extra weight in the backpack is good exercise. Especially in Europe where walking to and from dinner is sometimes a mile.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ken. And thanks for the wedding video. Mary, Robin and I watched it last night to commemorate Valentines day and loved it! We are eternally grateful to you for capturing these moments, especially the tango. Now there’s actual proof we really tangoed at our wedding. For a while I thought it was just a hallucination. We all really appreciated your thoughtfulness in recording segments of our wedding, especially invaluable given the absence of a videographer!

  3. Hello, Elisha. Thank you for stopping by my wesbtie. I’m glad you find the information valuable. Please do bookmark it and come back often. If I can help you plan a vacation sometime in the future, please be sure to contact me. Lindy

  4. Wow, you made those? They totally rock. I epeacislly like the pink polka dots. Happy Friday to a fellow SITSta! Come by and link up with Friday Follow. It’s a big party going on. Lynn

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