If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light.
“Is that all your stuff?”
Nodding “yes” to that question, or better yet, smirking in response, is one of my favorite pastimes. Together with many other minimalists, I love traveling light. Most people take enough stuff on the weekend to last a year. Then there are people like me.
Why are we minimalists so bent on traveling light? The reasons are many:
Reason #1: Conserving energy for what really counts
If you’ve ever felt worn out after lugging a 6o-liter backpack around all day, imagine how many more sights you could see – or how much fresher your legs would feel – if your backpack weighed 20 (or even 40) liters instead.
Next time you watch someone try to muscle their treasure of earthly goods into the overhead baggage area of a plane or onto a crowded bus, you can be doubly thankful for the Spartan pack by your side.
Reason #2: Less to lose
Regardless of the nature of your trip or how you arrive, it’s nice not to have to worry about whether your luggage will also arrive. Keeping things simple leaves you with less to carry; it also means less to lose.
Most veteran travelers have at least one horror story of luggage turning up three weeks late or not at all.
If you have a favorite necklace or heirloom watch you can’t bear to lose, the best strategy is to either keep it on your body or leave it at home. Nothing can be misplaced by baggage handlers because there’s nothing for them to handle.
Reason #3: Stress reduction
Traveling can be stressful at the even best of times, and lugging a huge piece of baggage adds to that stress. Taking a larger rucksack and too much gear is the most common mistake for the first time or rookie travelers.
Bottom line: traveling light is simply a more stress-and-hassle-free way to go. You have more time because packing takes little. You waste less energy hauling stuff. You know what you have, where everything is, and that it’s sufficient – so there is much less to worry about.
Reason #4: You can pack fast!
Want to leave for a trip at the drop of a hat? Some travelers have that down to such a science that they can leave within 30 minutes – or less – of when they decide to set off. That sort of speed comes in handy when you’re moving from place to place.
Light travelers can also avoid having to “drop off’ the suitcases before starting to explore, or easily make unplanned stops along the way.
And when they get off the plane, there’s no waiting around to collect luggage because it’s been with them all the time.
Reason #5: It’s more secure
Lighter bags translate into a much-reduced need to hand over your belongings to the care of others, which in reduces the chances of theft, damage, misrouting or other baggage handling mistakes by airlines, railroads, or bus lines. Similarly, you foil those who would enlist your unsuspecting aid as a conveyor of contraband goods.
Reason #6: You can blend in more easily with the locals
By bringing fewer items of clothing and making those ones that can be worn in many different situations you are less likely to find yourself over or underdressed.
The key here is versatility (e.g. steer clear of duds that are flashy or trashy). Unfortunately, clothes specifically designed for travel (such as cargo shorts or pant legs that zip off to become shorts) don’t always fit in. If you’re not sure what most people wear in your chosen destination, Google to learn what you can.
Also, nothing says “I am a tourist” quite like two suitcases and a carry-on bag. Packing light will help you to dodge that label.
Reason #7: You will save money
On a flight to Auckland with Air New Zealand, one traveler was surprised by a $75 “excess baggage” fee for a single 17-kilogram piece of luggage. In the past, they never had to pay for carry-ons with that particular airline.
Extra baggage fees, which are hitting us from many airlines now – $25 down the drain here, $90 down the drain there – really do add up.
“Welcome to the wave of the future,” say industry experts. When airlines started charging for checked baggage, many travelers cut down to carry-ons. Now that charges often apply to carry-ons as well, it’s time for minimalist travelers to fight back with even less luggage.
The less you pack, the more money you’ll save, and you won’t have to pay porters to carry luggage at hotels or airports.
You’ll also have an easier time traveling via public transportation, which will cut down on expensive cab fees. If you pack light enough, you might even be able to walk (which is good exercise, too!).
Reason #8: You will save time
Packing light allows for greater mobility. You won’t need to arrive at airports as early, and you’ll be among the first to leave the airport after your arrival while others wait at baggage claim.
Even if you do decide to check in some extras, keeping essentials and valuables with you on the plane is a good way to make sure you aren’t left high and dry if your luggage does take a detour.
Reason #9: Packing light is fun!
Seeing how many items can be eliminated from a backpack or suitcase can be quite a puzzle, and a fun one at that. The key is to focus on how many things can be left out without too much hassle. This is in sharp contrast to the RV-packing mindset, where the goal is to bring everything you might possibly need.
Reason #10: Packing light is green
Traveling light is an important part of an environmentally friendly lifestyle – one which results in lower fossil fuel consumption and fewer vehicles required for transportation. The less you take on trips, the more you are helping to preserve the Earth for others to enjoy.
Traveling light is simply a better, more hassle-free way to go: you’ll expend less energy by not hauling a heavy bag and less time searching through multiple bags to remember where you put that city map!
With less to pack up at the end of your vacation, you can squeeze every last memorable moment out of your trip.
Ultimately, you’ll spend less time worrying and more time enjoying. You will also be following the advice of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a famous aviator of the early 20th century, who once said:
He who would travel happily must travel light.