I often get the question – How much luggage do you take? How do you take so little? How do you even pack for a trip of more than two weeks?
A bit of my travel history: In the past few years I’ve taken what some would call “mega-trips”. Travel for months at a time into more exotic and poorer parts of the world. My travel started with a few normal trips. Couple days in Italy, a week or so down to the Bahamas and Aruba. 10 days in Morocco. 10 days on the Arabian Peninsula (Oman & Yemen). This eventually morphed into six months driving from Istanbul to Dakar. Two months in India, Afghanistan, Nepal and SE Asia. The next year five weeks in SE Asia.
As I got more experienced in packing, as well as travelling into different parts of the world, I eventually got to the point of carrying what some would call the “bare essentials”. I actually just call it what I need. I don’t think I would go anywhere now with more than just a backpack that can be classified as the size of an airline carry-on. That is with all camera gear, usually two SLR bodies, at least three lenses, and all pertinent gear able to fit into that bag.
It’s not that I even have to “try” to fit everything anymore, it’s just what I need. Over the years I’ve learned alot of things about travel and what to bring. Four of the most important listed below in no particular order:
- Common Sense. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere, and I’ve been to alot of out of the way places, that I couldn’t buy something that I forgot or intentionally left at home. Forget the big bottles of shampoo, soap and all other toiletry luxuries. All you need is small sample sizes. Haven’t been to a country yet that doesn’t have soap or shampoo. Haven’t been to a country yet that doesn’t sell clothes either. Haven’t been to a country yet where I couldn’t find anything I needed – outside of Nikon equipment that is. Bottom line is, you could leave your house with virtually nothing, just the clothes on your back, and you would be fine. …which leads to the next point:
- Comfort. Carrying a small bag around is alot more comfortable than heaving heavy bags around the world. If you don’t believe me, go sit at an airport and watch the differences between a guy with a backpack and that guy with a duffel on top of his wheeling suitcase with his attache and backpack on …always makes me smile.
- Enjoyment. From a western point of view. The less you have to worry about, the more you enjoy the time. Could pretty much stop there but I won’t. As far as photo equipment goes – I see alot of people asking the question, should I bring my $10,000 USD SLR camera system or just buy a point and shoot for the trip. My response is almost always – why did you spend ten grand on a camera if your too scared to use it. Bottom Line: if it’s too expensive to use, you probably shouldn’t be buying it anyway …or you could buy insurance on the item and spend even more money. I don’t take anything I’m that worried about losing. I mean, yeah, it would suck if I lost all my camera gear and photos, but I wouldn’t kill myself. Enjoy the trip, forget about “things” – isn’t that why you took the trip anyway …to enjoy life for awhile. No need to mess that up with money matters.
- Savings. Travelling in Asia, Africa or any other non-western type nation I find that most often the same item you would bring from home costs about 10% of the price at your destination. So now you’re not only carrying around three suitcases and fighting the crowds, and enjoying the trip alot less, but your actually saving 90% of what it would cost you at home.
There you have it. Four points for travelling light. Add in the fact that you don’t have to worry about your luggage being lost by airlines, paying their “extra baggage” fee or going and waiting at the ol’ luggage carousel even means extra time and savings. Customs officials almost always will let you just pass by seeing you really don’t have anything which is an added bonus.
One more “lesser” type piece of specific advice I give alot of people – leave the laptop at home. It’s relatively big, relatively fragile and relatively expensive. Just an added worry and piece of equipment you don’t need. I’ve never been to a country where I couldn’t get on the internet without my own computer…
Now, everyone is different and it is all opinion, but I find everything noted above works great for me and alot of other experienced travellers. Personally, I find the Kelty Redwing 2650 (now called Redwing 44) to be perfect for me. I have an older version that has seen me through years of abuse from Yemen to Afghanistan, Nigeria to Ethiopia, with barely a thread out of place …although those threads have become a bit “browner” with some added dust and dirt. There is also a women’s version. Perfect for airline, train, truck, backpacking, war zone, and every other type of travel.
Different areas of the world bring different circumstances also, but the basic thinking is the same. If you take anything from this article, I would be most proud if it is too at least leave the damn hair dryer at home. You don’t need it! …and guess what, if your in a place that you do, you can buy one there. So, stop worrying, stop acting with the commercialistic and consumermeristic “I am my things” state of mind and get out and enjoy the world.