Travelling light

I just got back from a two week vacation, and this is the luggage I took:

Backpack and items inside it
Some clothes, toiletries, a camera, and a computer – that's basically it

(Not pictured is my packable day bag. I usually take it empty and then put things in it like my camera, extra jacket, snacks, and water when I go out exploring for the day.)

I clearly remember the day I arrived in Norway with two large suitcases, a duffel bag, and an extra jacket that didn’t fit anywhere. It was minus 10 degrees, there was snow and ice everywhere, and I had to climb up a hill to get the keys to my apartment. Trying to lug everything behind me, I watched in horror as one of my suitcases slipped out of my freezing grasp, snagged my jacket and then proceeded to roll over it on its way down the slope.

I swore to myself that I would never ever carry that much luggage with me again.

Inspired by some posts on zenhabits and Ankur’s blog, I decided to try it out on my next trip (it helped that the airline charged even for carry on suitcases, and I was a poor student back then) and was immensely pleased by the results. I’ve been travelling like that nearly everywhere since 2013 and I can’t tell you how freeing and amazing it has been!

It means not having to worry about checked-in bags being lost, being able to get out from the airport quickly, not being forced to take the elevator every time you’re at a train station because there are too many bags to lug up the stairs, and being able to check out in the morning but still spend the day walking around because your luggage is so easy to manage. Carrying less also makes for easier repacking without accidentally leaving things behind.

There are three keys to packing light — pack things that are versatile, do some laundry while travelling, and a principle borrowed from the programming world called You Ain’t Gonna Need it (or YAGNI for short). Do you really need to carry 20 pairs of socks for a five day trip? Or your laptop, iPad, Kindle, phone, and paperback? Just because an airline allows checking in two 23-kg suitcases doesn’t mean that you must.

I try to be practical about the things I carry — if it’s unlikely that I’ll need a particular item, I don’t take it. If I find I completely misjudged it and the thing I forgot to take isn’t too expensive, I might buy it at my destination. But I’ve rarely needed to do that.

For my recent trips I’ve been lucky enough to stay with people that had washing machines and driers. On other trips, I take some laundry detergent and wash my t-shirts and other things while showering or in the basin.

To sum up: try travelling light the next time you go somewhere, and it may just completely change how you travel!