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Travel Light: The How And Why


I learned how to travel light from lightweight backpacking,
then found it was just as useful to keep it light on trips
overseas or driving across the country. The last time my
wife and I went to Ecuador, I had 10 pounds of luggage, all
in one carry-on bag, and Ana had just 8 pounds in her
carry-on bag. This wasn't a short trip. We spent six weeks
in Ecuador, at times on glacier-covered mountains, and at
other times lounging on Pacific coast beaches.



Travel Simplicity

Why travel light? Travel simplicity. Everything is simpler
when you travel light. With only carry-on luggage, we were
on our way to a restaurant in Quito, while others were still
waiting for their checked luggage. When we took busses our
luggage was safely with us, not on the roof or in the hold
below being cut open, like one time when I was in Mexico.
While others struggled down the street with three heavy
bags, we had our hands free and were walking comfortably
because we use daypacks or small backpacks. We had less to
lose, less to be stolen, less to wait for, less to pack and
unpack in hotels, and less to worry about.



Light Travel Issues

There are a couple minor problems when you travel light.
First, expect an extra question or two from the customs
officials at the airport (Six weeks with only this?).
Second, a small bag won't work if you plan to bring back
many souvenirs. In this case, you can still go light. Just
plan to buy a second bag at some point during the trip, to
carry your acquisitions. As for the seemingly obvious issue
of not having enough clothes and other things all in one or
two small bags, I'll explain below why that isn't as big a
problem as you may think.



How To Travel Light

Silk shirts weigh 3 ounces, and travel well if rolled up.
Nylon dress socks weigh less than an ounce, and they are
cool and comfortable. Poly-cotton blend t-shirts weigh 5
ounces. Supplex or other lightweight travel slacks weigh 9
ounces, and are sufficient for a fine restaurant or a walk
in the woods. All of these weigh less than half of the
typical travel choices, and take less space, yet function
the same. There is no sacrifice involved here. For this
exercise in travel simplicity, you even get to go shopping
for new clothes.



You don't have to buy new clothes, however. You don't have
to buy a scale and count ounces to travel light. Just choose
the lighter alternative whenever you can. Set aside your
lightest jacket, socks and pants for your next trip. Travel
simplicity is the goal, not more complicated planning.





More Ways To Travel Light

Money replaces weight, especially in the form of a debit or
credit card. Why carry two pounds of your favorite shampoo
when you can simply buy small bottles as you travel. It
really won't cost much more to buy things wherever you go,
instead of carrying your bathroom and wardrobe with you.
Also, you really don't know exactly what you'll need,
particularly on an overseas trip. Buy what you need as you
need it, and you won't have a pile of useless things in your
luggage. Don't we all regularly unpack things at home that
we never once used during the trip?

Take a lesson from long-trail hikers (backpackers who travel
a trail for months). They send things, such as new shoes, to
a post office on their route, ahead of time, so they'll be
waiting for them. They also send home things they no longer
need, such as a winter coat. The latter may be a useful
practice for other travelers. If you buy bulky gifts for
family or friends, why carry them around for weeks? Put them
in the mail.



A Light Travel Example

What I Took For Six weeks in
Ecuador:

* 8 pairs of nylon socks (less than an ounce per pair)

* 2 silk shirts for going out (3 ounces each)

* 4 poly/cotton blend t-shirts (5-6 ounces each)

* 5 pair of light underwear (2-3 ounces each)

* 1 extra pair of lightweight slacks (9 ounces)

* Nylon shorts for hiking or swimming (2 ounces)

* Thin gloves (1 ounce)

* Thin hat (1 ounce - honestly)

* Thin wool sweater (11 ounces)

* Waterproof/breathable rainsuit (14 ounces)

* Light plastic camera (3 ounces)

* Sunglasses (1 ounce)

* Small chess set (3 ounces)

* Bathroom kit (5 ounces)

* Maps, notebook and various small things (3 or 4 pounds)

My pack weighed ten pounds, and my wife's weighed 8 pounds.
We never felt deprived. I'm not suggesting that you start
counting the ounces (that comes from my backpacking days),
or that you buy all new lightweight things. Without spending
money or thinking about it too much, you can just start
setting aside your lightest shirts, socks, etc., so you can
travel light on your next vacation.

About the Author

Steve Gillman traveled alone across the U.S. and Mexico at
17. Now 40, he travels and backpacks with his wife Ana, whom
he met in Ecuador. His stories, tips and information on
travel and backpacking, can be found on his websites,
http://www.EverythingAboutTravel.com, and http://www.TheUltralightBackpackingSite.com