Last year, I made a commitment to myself to travel more, and more specifically to use my passport (implying international travel) at LEAST once a year. As it turned out, I actually used my passport on TWO trips last year, a financial stretch, but no regrets! Since I wanted to travel more often, I also made a commitment to travel more lightly, both figuratively and literally. Figuratively in that I knew I would travel solo more often, and more spontaneously. Literally in that I wanted to pare down my luggage so that I could travel carry-on only with as little as possible while maintaining a sense of comfort and a little style. This is what I learned.
In the past I felt that my trips had to involve others, that I was either travelling TO someone or travelling WITH someone. As a result, every trip involved more planning and a little bit of compromise, just a little, but still… So I resolved to figure out exactly where and when I wanted to travel and just go. No compromises. Just for a while, just for a trip or two, and see how it felt. WELL, it felt great. I felt…free. Very free. More free than I probably wanted to be. What I mean is, in a perfect world, I would have a travel companion who is completely at my disposal, standing by with a packed bag (and valid passport) to go wherever, whenever, I wanted. Is that realistic? No. Not if I want a partner who is also employed, pursuing his own passions, and not resenting me for pursuing mine. So I have stopped waiting for that “ideal”. Sometimes my man joins me, but often not and that’s good. Good for me and good for us. It gives me precious alone time to think, time to write, and time to just reconnect with myself. I always return recharged and with lots to talk about!
Lightening the Load: For the literal part of travelling more lightly, I started by studying ways to pack lighter, as well as the rules for carry-on luggage. I did this by reviewing the TSA’s 3-1-1 Rule (no liquids, gels, aerosols, limited to 3.7 oz. in a quart sized Ziploc bag, etc.) and reading articles on websites such as Travel Fashion Girl . I learned that it’s more economical to use reusable travel bottles rather than purchase the travel size versions of toiletries. No matter how cute those tiny bottles are, the price per ounce is highway robbery! I also learned that Ziploc bags are indispensable since they’re airtight, collapsible and water proof, and I use them a lot, even though it goes against my “no plastics” policy. I just try to re-use them for as long as sanitarily possible, and keep my eyes open for a suitable alternative which I will hopefully someday find.
A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned! Not checking a bag saves quite a bit of money at times, because more and more often airlines are charging for even one checked bag, about $30 each way, so $60 for roundtrip!
Zip through Customs! For international travel, it saves a couple of steps going through customs, since with checked bags, you have to pick them up at the carousel, get in line at Customs, then re-check the bag after Customs (if you have a connecting flight, which I usually do). With carry-on only, there is no baggage carousel or re-checking of bags.
More time for fun! I also learned to be more thoughtful in deciding what to pack, making sure that each piece is interchangeable. Multi-functional pieces are even better (Hello beach pareo/towel/blanket!). With some creativity, I can make several different outfits from very few articles and always feel put together. With fewer choices I spend less time deciding what to wear and more time out having fun.
More room for souvenirs, but do you really need them? Extremely light packing obviously weighs less, but it also leaves more room in my backpack or small weekender bag for souvenirs. On the other hand, I’ve learned that the best souvenirs aren’t things but memories in the form of pictures and stories. In fact, I learned a hard lesson carrying back several bottles of vanilla from Mexico, an amount of liquid that challenged the limits at U. S. Customs, only to learn that the same brand of vanilla could be purchased on Amazon! I feel sure that in this day and age that is the case for almost any typical souvenir item.
Each of the lessons I learned along the way resulted in much less baggage for me to lug around the world. Like learning that I could travel unaccompanied without feeling lonely, this was also a very freeing adjustment. In fact, travelling lightly goes hand-in-hand with solo travel, because when you’re the only one watching and carrying the bags, it’s best to have less to watch and carry!
You can totally do this!
If lightening the (luggage) load sounds like something you’d like to try, you can read the details of how I did it in these posts under the menu heading “Packing Tips“:
Five Tips for Planning A Successful Trip to Norway (Or Anywhere!)
Help the Environment by Adding These Ten Things to Your Backpack (or Carry-on) Right Now!
Isla Espiritu Santo, Mexico – How I Packed, What I Didn’t Need, What I Wish I’d Packed
My Favorite Travel Shoes for Any Destination
2018 – The Year of Traveling Lightly