Packing is one of the most daunting tasks while leaving for a trip. I almost always leave it to the very last day, which does create some unnecessary stress. It also forces me to think quickly, and travel light. I’ve found that regardless the length of the trip, I have a tendency, like most other people, to over pack and bring too many clothes I hardly wear, or wear at all. They simply come with me, stay in my suitcase, and smell a lot less fresh by the time I make it back home. So when I come home again I end up putting clothes I didn’t even wear once into the laundry – just to make sure they’ll be nice and fresh for the next trip. It took me quite some time to understand what a waste this is. More importantly, I realized that the length of the trip doesn’t affect the amount of clothes I’ll really need. Even on longer trips, I enjoy wearing the same comfortable clothes over and over again. I know they have enough pockets and zippers to carry the things with me I’ll need during the day. They dry quickly in case anything gets wet by rain, or my unbreakable habit to get too close to any body of water I’ll encounter. To address my over-packing, one time I wrote a note to myself after I came home, and put it in my suitcase so I would find it the next time I had to pack for a trip. The note included the amount of clothes I had actually worn on the last trip (about half of what I packed) and underneath, in capitals, “travel light”. I laughed when I found it the next time, a few months later. It prompted me to embark on a little experiment and travel extremely light that time, bringing hardly anything at all. It was a short trip of just a few days to a different city, so I figured the risk was manageable. To my surprise I didn’t miss or forget a single thing.
Being Packed And Ready To Go
Over the years, I’ve created a collection of clothes that I only wear while traveling. So now, when I leave for a trip, I just move that set into my suitcase and call it a day. If it’s a longer trip I’m fine with finding a laundromat somewhere to clean my clothes, or have the hotel clean them for me. Having the hotel do laundry can get a little pricey depending on where I’m staying, but with some hotels my clothes looked better than when I bought them new, complete with individual boxes for each piece of clothing. If I completely run out or find I really need something I didn’t bring with me, I’ll just buy it at the destination. That way I’ll have to buy local and at the same time get to know the destination a little more. Buying practical things like soap and toiletries really helps to get to know a city, and you also prevent the bottles from exploding in your suitcase. By shopping local I also end up with some practical souvenirs – even if a shirt doesn’t have the city or country name printed all over it, to me it still is a memory I take with me from that trip. Today, most of the clothes I wear are bought on one trip or another. Traveling and packing this way even turns out to be cheaper than wasting money on tacky souvenirs I’ll never look at again. By the time I get home those souvenirs almost always have lost the allure they had in the souvenir shops. Something practical to me will always carry the memories and Experience Value of the trip, regardless of whether it’s recognizable as an obvious souvenir to someone else or not. After all I don’t need to prove to anyone I’ve been to a particular place on the world by wearing the city name.
The Ultimate Shortlist
If I took my travel light principles to the extreme, the things I’d really need while away from home are my passport (makes getting in and out of most countries a lot easier), and my credit card (so I can buy anything I forget or need). Being a photographer, taking my camera kit with me is also an essential. Technically it could be replaced, but I love my camera and set of lenses and accessories I have for it. Replacing those would take a good chunk of time out of my travel schedule. For me, that list of only three items should cover it. Anything I bring in addition to that is a benefit which makes my life potentially a bit easier – however it shouldn’t be too much. Finding an exploded shampoo bottle on arrival definitely doesn’t make things much easier, or enjoyable.
So, in conclusion, here’s the 5 things I bring on any trip:
- One week of clothing, including one semi-formal outfit
- Credit cards
- Copies of all travel documentation
Really, that’s it. Anything else can be bought or replaced if you decide you really need it.