If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I focus on how to pack light for travel. My techniques are a little bit radical, but so is the concept–that you can live well on the road with virtually no possessions.
We love our Stuff, it brings us comfort to have everything that we could possibly need. What is the advantage of working to pack light? There are more advantages than you may know.
I was recently having dinner with a colleague in Rome. She told me that she had a number of women on her tour who had watched my YouTube videos on how to pack light. They had followed my advice and trimmed down their bags, bringing very little. They felt very proud of themselves, she had told me, not just because they we able to carry on their bags but because doing so had made them feel empowered and capable.
I started this project for random reasons, not really thinking anyone would be interested. Packing a bag is a pretty normal task for me, nobody could possibly find that interesting. It’s been mind-blowing to me that anyone would want to read my writing, on that topic or any other. Hearing, though, that another woman had felt empowered and emboldened to travel through this project, well, it makes me a little misty to think about.
I’ve been turning this idea in my head like a smooth stone. How can it be that something as simple as learning to pack light can change someone’s point of view?
More Stuff Doesn’t Equal More Good
American culture spends a lot of its time focused on the pleasure of obtaining stuff. House, car, entertainment equipment and on and on and on. We’ve been convinced that more is better. We’ve been convinced that newer is better too, no need to repair what you have.
I have the sense that the sheer amount of things I own is a quiet stress in the back of my mind. There is the cleaning and maintenance of the Stuff. There is the Stuff i need for the organization of the Stuff. There is the constant project of thinning and rethinking the Stuff. Maybe I need new Stuff!
In my years of travel, I’ve come to the conclusion that this just isn’t so. For one thing, my European friends live in houses just a fraction of the size of mine and are perfectly happy to have fewer floors to mop.
My walk-in closet is packed to the gills with a million pieces of clothing, but I can’t escape the feeling that I have nothing to wear. My friends in Europe own far fewer, but far nicer things that they care for and keep a long time.
Letting go of the need to have so much Stuff is a big leap, I think. Learning to pack light is step in that direction in the broader scope of one’s life.
Lighten Your Bag and Your Mind
There are the obvious reasons to pack light: easier to maneuver, no checked bags for the airline to lose, easier on your arms and back. I’d argue that another benefit is the mental lightness of having less to keep track of.
Keeping track of bags is a bummer and distracts from a trip. I hate that sinking feeling you get when you leave a city on a train and remember that you’ve left something in the room, even if it’s a tiny thing. By definition, bringing fewer things give you less to think about and more mental space to enjoy your surroundings.
For example, bringing fewer beauty products makes my morning routine fast. I don’t have much with me, so I can’t make it complicated.
Pack Light–Organization is Power
Staying organized while on a trip can feel like managing a three-ring circus. Learning to pack light and bring less keeps the organization simple. If you have less to organize, it is a snap.
Our lives can be chaotic and out of our control. There is often nothing to be done to fix bigger issues. I’d argue that there is a certain power that comes from learning to control the Stuff. It isn’t solving bigger problems, but the sense of accomplishment from doing it can provide the confidence to tackle larger problems.
It’s All About Confidence
Wrangling our belongings and making a goal to pack light can build confidence. If you arrive at the airport, certain that you have everything you need, and only what you need, it’s like sprouting wings for take off. No worries, you’ve got this.
That confidence can power a whole new set of views. If it’s possible to pack a 16 pound bag, it’s possible to go anywhere. It’s possible to do anything. Maybe you don’t believe me, but that is an actual feeling, a charge you get when you meet a personal goal that seems impossible. It’s not world peace, but you have to start somewhere.
Trim Your Bag, Trim Your Life
Travel gives us a small window of time in which to live life differently. Travel to another place, adopt the customs, eat the food, experience the scenery. It opens the mind to possibilities. That concept extends to the physical things brought along.
You may be the kind of person that drives a car full of things you “might need” or a purse that overflows with the Stuff. If you’re going away for a couple of weeks, it’s a good opportunity to try out a new version of yourself. Leave the Stuff. If you find you need something, you can always buy it at your destination.
When you get back, evaluate how it felt to live with few things. Do you really need all you have? Maybe you’ll find yourself to be a new person when you come home, one that needs to have a garage sale, getting rid of the Stuff to fund more travel.
My gratitude to Anna Pipperato, PhD, for inspiring this post over a spritz.