Traveling Light

There’s packed, and then there’s over-packed.  Let’s take a look at two solo travelers.

First, there’s me heading to Europe for 11 days.  Then there’s my sister heading to Florida to spend 10 days on the beach with her girlfriends.

Hmmm…  Notice anything different???  (And, no, I don’t buy into the argument that women have to bring more than men.)

How much you bring with you on a trip can make the difference between a great trip and a miserable trip.  Of course, the kind of trip you’re going on can influence your packing choices, too.

My sister is more inclined to be a single destination traveler.  Arrive, unpack, and hit the pool with the fruity drinks with umbrellas in them.  There might be one change of location during her vacation.  In that situation, traveling “heavy,” as she did, may be acceptable.  Stuff everything in the dresser drawers and hide the suitcases somewhere in the hotel room.  It works.  (However, it wouldn’t work so well in Europe where hotel rooms, even in U.S. chain hotels, are a fraction of the size that they are here.)

Still, schlepping that much luggage from the car to the terminal and through the airport can’t be pleasant, even if the cases do have wheels on them.

I tend to be more of an explorer, never really staying more than three or four nights in one location.  That means I’m hopping in or out of cars or trains frequently, so having very little luggage to hinder my mobility is important to me.

Yes, I carry fewer clothes and that means that I’ve taken time out of my vacations to actually do a load or two of laundry.  I’ve done laundry not far from the Eiffel Tower in Paris; alongside a mountain river in Switzerland; and in Salzburg as The Sound of Music tour buses went driving by.

Is taking time out of an expensive vacation to do laundry worth it?  Yes and no.

I’ve met some very interesting people–both locals and other tourists–in Laundromats.  I’ve had some great conversations with them where I learned a lot about the area that I’m visiting.  I’ve also used the two or three hours of down time to get caught up on writing postcards or planning the next phase of my usual make-it-up-as-I-go trip.  If you can time the laundry day to match a particularly crappy weather day, all the better.

I will admit, though, that if the laundry begins to take more than two and a half hours, I begin to think that I’m wasting precious time.

As you’re packing your bag (keep it to one!), ask yourself, “Am I really going to need/wear/use that?” If there’s a hint of doubt, leave it at home and travel as light as you can, even if you’re going to that all-inclusive resort.  (How much room does a bathing suit take up anyway??)

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One thought on “Traveling Light

  1. I like this reminder and confess I overpacked for my 3 weeks in Italy last year, which was probably the hardest, yet most effective, way of learning that lesson. While sitting in a cafe in Assisi, I heard two young women discussing this very topic. One of them finally summed it up for me when she said, “You travel to see, not to be seen.”

    What struck me most about your post, though, is how true the same philosophy is for life on many different levels. We can drag lots of stuff with us that we don’t need. Whether it’s actual physical things or emotional baggage it always helps to ask ourselves, “Is this _________ something I really want/need? How is it serving me well in my life? How is it making the journey harder than I want it to be? What do I want to do with it?”

    P.S. On another note and in your sister’s defense (and probably in defense of all women to some extent), our SHOES can take up a lot of room:):)

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