Why You Need to Pack Light

Whether you’re going on a year-long adventure or just a quick trip abroad, you need to consolidate everything into a reasonably-sized suitcase or backpack. Whatever the reason you have for bringing your whole life with you on your travels, stop and evaluate. You’ll likely change your mind.

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Having ‘stuff’ is a burden

You fly from London to Tokyo. You exit the plane with your small carry-on suitcase and purse, and hurry off to the baggage claim, full of excitement and ready to begin a new adventure. Then suddenly you remember that you’ll have to maneuver through the city to your hostel with your purse, carry-on, and HUGE suitcase. You bought the biggest suitcase the store had because it seemed like a good idea at the time. The bigger suitcases were practically the same price as the smaller, so it seemed like a bargain. Why pay more for less?

Now you’re outside the airport and you have to spend money on a taxi to your hostel instead of saving money by taking public transportation. Airports are not always situated inside the main city. Narita International Airport, for example, is more than 70km away from Tokyo and a taxi ride could cost you more than £140.

Now you get to your hostel, but you’ve arrived too early to check-in. Most hostels and hotels will allow you to leave your belongings with them until check-in or check-out. While the majority of places are completely trustworthy, some are not so well-guarded and people’s things have been stolen. This is not the way you want to start a journey, especially in a foreign country where you don’t know anyone.

Plans change and so will you

You pack all your belongings and head off to one specific destination. Let’s say that you’ve planned to go to Berlin for years; you love everything about the culture from afar. It’s reasonable to assume that you’ll need lots of different kinds of clothing and shoes for all the seasons, party clothes, and various gadgets. Basically, you just need to bring your entire closet. You arrive in Berlin and everything is wonderful, but after some time there, you meet a bunch of people from Australia and become fast friends. After a few months, they all decide to go on a European tour and want you to come along. Getting a job in Berlin was much harder than you imagined it would be and nothing is holding you back – except all your stuff. Shipping costs are prohibitive and paying baggage fees for multiple flights is dreadful and unrealistic, so you end up storing your belongings with a Berlin acquaintance and take only what is necessary in a smaller suitcase. Well, shouldn’t we always strive to have only what’s necessary regardless? Going back and forth with so many items is a traveler’s nightmare.

If you intend to travel from place to place, you can only carry so much. Don’t be a slave to your possessions – be free to see everything and go everywhere possible. Would you rather have new experiences or ten pairs of shoes?

You just don’t need it

At the end of the day, you don’t need stuff. Think back to every time you’ve moved flats and all the stuff you’ve ended up just binning or giving away. Unless you’re trekking through the wilderness (and then you only do want the bare necessities), you will be able to buy things where you travel. But, exactly, you say! I need a big suitcase so I can fill it with all the amazing stuff I’m going to buy abroad. If you’re planning a two-day shopping weekend in Paris, then okay. But don’t add more stuff in your life just for the purpose of having more stuff. Dragging around a suitcase full of tacky souvenirs is not an ideal way to spend a holiday. Instead, opt for things that you really know you’ll love long-term or light-weight items that you can use for a scrapbook later. Old lottery tickets, stamps, ticket stubs, and other mementos are unique to the place visited and capture the memories much more than a stuffed animal or wine glass. And if you must start collecting more stuff when you get home, at least a stamp collection or a stack of US Powerball lottery tickets doesn’t take up as much space – and who knows, they could pay off in the end!

Traveling is about new experiences, relaxation, knowledge-seeking, personal growth, and everything in-between. The one thing it is not about is stuff. Leave it at home and enjoy.

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