What you carry is an extension of who you are
and what you are trying to accomplish.
From a House, to a Car, to a Backpack
For the past eight years, I’ve carefully limited my belongings to will fit in my car. If I had a sofa and dining room table I was emotional invested in I wouldn’t have relocated as many times as I have; 13 and counting. The easier it is to put my belongings on wheels, the more inclined I am to relocate my life to the next exciting place. I prefer this lifestyle because my desire to experience new places and meet new people is stronger than my desire to establish long-term roots in a specific community, for the time being.
While reading, Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, I daydreamed of the freedom and adventures I would get into if I could reduce my “life-luggage” from what could fit in my car, to what could fit in my backpack.
When I compared the worst and best case scenarios, the daydreaming became a reality. I doubled the local thrift store’s inventory with eight garbage bags of clothes, stuff, and more stuff. I said goodbye to my car and soon found myself in Thailand with only a backpack.
The Relationship Between ‘Stuff’ and Traveling
I had no idea what to expect and wanted to be prepared, So I packed all the “essentials” I could fit in my carry-on sized backpack. Mission accomplished, or was it? The real mission wasn’t to reduce my life to a backpack, that was just a necessary step. The real mission was to experience the benefits of a backpack-sized life. The unexpected was actually a central reason why I wanted to travel. And the stuff bulking out my pack was only a hindrance to experiencing the unexpected. It took a few months to realize what was fueling my travels and what was creating drag. Then after some emotional separations of beloved belongings, I simplified even more and, as a result, started to explore more.
I’d be interested to see a case study on the number of things someone carries in relation to the amount of physical steps they’ve taken. In my experience and in observing other travelers, more stuff limits the capacity of experiences. Less stuff = less weight to carry = less physical and mental toll = increased ability to explore = more things to see, people to meet and experiences to be had.
The Only Question You Need to Decide What to Pack
Every item you carry is an extension of who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish. When you put something in your pack, you’re giving that thing an exclusive invitation to join you on your mission. So ask each item that wants to tag along, are you necessary for me to accomplish what I’m setting out to do? If the response is not an immediate yes, it will only weigh you down and distract you from why you’re traveling.
This isn’t just limited to physical items. The online subscriptions and the apps on your phone all want a piece of your time and inevitably contribute to what makes you, you! In the end, the only thing that’s truly yours is your time. So be strategic and intentional in choosing what is allowed to take moments of your life.
But I Don’t Know Why I Want to Travel!
Then put your passport and some cash in your pocket, and just go! You’ll find both yourself and why you want to travel faster that way.
Common reasons for long-term traveling are to see new things, experience different cultures, escape from a mundane routine life, eat new foods, learn new things … all of which are easier to accomplish with less stuff weighing you down.
You can always buy what you need once you get there. Tim Ferriss coined it, the BIT method of travel: Buy It There. The price of bringing something that you’ll only occasionally use far outweighs the price of buying it only when/if you need it.
People Are Things Too
Your traveling companion and their luggage, are your luggage. You can only go as far as they can go.
Fortunately for Middle Earth, both Frodo and Samwise knew they would need the support and strength from the other to destroy the ring. But let’s pretend they could’ve done it alone, both could’ve gotten to Mordor much faster without each other. Frodo was slowed by Samwise’s luggage and Samwise was weighed down by Frodo’s emotional weight and poor navigational skills.
If you have a particular purpose for your travels in mind, make it known to ensure everyone is on the same page. If Jim wants to see the all of South East Asia while Sue just wants to relax on a beach while Nick has specific business to take care of, chances are they’ll get frustrated with each other and split ways. Just something to keep in mind when traveling with company.
What Has Earned the Right Into My Backpack?
Currently, the purpose of my travels is to work and explore Southeast Asia. So my carefully curated luggage is two-fold. For my job, I’m grateful only to need my laptop, phone, and charger. Here are the rest of my items that get to partake in my exploring with a description of how it supports my purpose.
What has your luggage taught you?
Share what you’ve learned during your short or long term travels to nearby or distant lands in the comments below!