Learning to Lighten your Load
There's no question: overpacking tops the list of biggest travel mistakes.
So here is OneBag.com, a non-commercial Web site that teaches — in exhaustive (exhausting?) detail — the art and science of travelling light.
Here you can learn how to go pretty much anywhere, for business or leisure, for an indefinite length of time, with no more than a single carry-on-sized bag.
An experience that can — as I hope you will discover — be life-changing.
Of all the travel skills you might acquire, travelling light is the one most likely to result in enjoyable, productive, stress-free travel experiences. For two thousand years, seasoned travellers have written of its many important benefits, including …
You can laugh at checked baggage fees. You don't have to pay porters and others to carry and store stuff for you. You are more able to take public transportation (just like airport personnel), rather than limos, shuttles, and (often scam-prone) taxis. You can even walk. All of which also bring you into more intimate (hence rewarding) contact with the people and places that you have come to visit.
Less stuff means greater mobility, thus more options. With no checked or awkward-to-manage luggage to limit your travel alternatives, you can better cope with delayed transportation & missed connections, and exploit unexpected opportunities. You can switch to other (sometimes earlier) flights when space is available, and use alternate transport (trains, rental cars, etc.) when it isn't. You needn't arrive at airports as early (no waiting for luggage check-in), and will be among the first to leave (while the hordes wait for baggage carousels and customs inspection queues). You can board trains, trams, and coaches with alacrity. You won't feel compelled to take the first hotel room offered, but can comfortably walk down the street should the ambience be unsuitable or the price unreasonable. You can sell your airplane seat (by volunteering to be "bumped") on full flights. You can travel as an air courier. You can be more spontaneous.
Travelling lightly reduces stress: it is simply a more hassle-free way to get about. 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. We've all seen those anxious folks at the airport, struggling with too much baggage, concerned that they have lost track of something, or left it behind. Foreign travel can be particularly challenging, because it is unfamiliar and less predictable. But the one-bag traveller copes by operating from a solid, familiar, and — most important — well-considered foundation, with fewer unnecessary things to worry about.
All of the above are concerned with short-term benefits to you. But travelling light also yields long-term benefits to the planet. Less stuff to manufacture. Less use of vehicles and other equipment to move you and your belongings about. Less fuel for those vehicles that do move you. Less greenhouse gas production. Less damage to our celestial home. Greater likelihood of upcoming generations being around and able to do some travelling of their own. (It's not often that the most convenient option is also the most environmentally responsible.)
Don't just take my word for it. Read what others have to say!
Typical travellers shouldn't expect the transition to happen overnight (unless they're extraordinarily diligent). The proficient one-bag traveller will have mastered the three core elements of light travel, illustrated here in order of importance.
But there's no need to become an instant expert. Feel free to meander through this site, taking inspiration where you find it. Every single topic detailed on these pages can help you become a better (thus happier) traveller, but it's unnecessary (and perhaps even counterproductive) to tackle them all at once. Start with those that most appeal to you, and leave the others for when you seek to further hone your skills.
Here's a straightforward promise: if you persevere, you will at some point reach a transcendent moment, in which your (one) bag will be small and light enough to carry without consequence, no longer of any meaningful concern. And — from that instant — your travel experiences will be forever changed, with an unfettered freedom that is beyond the comprehension of those who remain bound to their baggage.
I strongly suggest starting with Using A Packing List, because that will yield the most benefit in the least amount of time. Once you've begun to develop your own personal list, continue as and where your interests lead you; you needn't learn everything immediately.
Looking for luggage tips? You'll find much on that topic under the What To Pack It In menu. Appreciate, however, that merely acquiring a new bag, no matter how "perfect", will no more turn you into a one-bag traveller than a superb violin will turn you into a concert soloist!
You'll also find here a collection of effective packing techniques (including how to pack clothing so that it doesn't get wrinkled), a detailed analysis of every individual item on my own personal packing list (to help you understand my choices, and thus be better equipped to make those best suited to you), and a considerable variety of supplemental information, including:
- a checklist of things to take care of prior to leaving on a trip
- contact information for suppliers of harder-to-find items mentioned on these pages
- a (very) few recommended books on related topics
- collected links to some carefully-chosen sites that OneBag enthusiasts are likely to find interesting
- my own compilation of frequently-used travel industry links for airlines, hotels, and rental automobiles, plus the best metasearch engines, handy lists of country/airport/airline code designations, a telephone country/area code finding & deciphering service, and tools for checking real-time flight status, airport delay conditions, and aircraft seating arrangements (a useful page to bookmark)
Finally — and possibly even most importantly — don't miss the TraveLetters page, featuring comments from people like you, who have tried out these ideas and reported on their experiences, thus offering reassurance that this site isn't merely (or at least, entirely!) the ravings of some geek with a packing fixation.