Though we are not travelling full-time, our family has already spent many months on the road. We’ve developed a particular attachment for two kinds of getaways: the short ones like long weekends, or the very long ones like four weeks in a row. In the between, well, that’s less our type of travel.
When you leave for a weekend, you don’t want to carry too much. If the weekend bag is the usual grab, we much prefer to depend on a school backpack: the size of a large bag. We want to be able to enjoy our cities escapes at their most. That’s why we’d rather have a backpack on our shoulders rather than a carry-on following us during the first and last day of our trip.
The exception being the road trip weekends: we don’t bother packing everything in a backpack, we take our carry-ons. But don’t get it wrong, in the weekend situation, our carry-ons remain half empty. Why? Because we naturally don’t want to pack and unpack too much stuff that would be useless for us to take.
Therefore, when we leave for 4+ weeks, we don’t pack the unnecessary either. We don’t want to fight every day with our trunk to fit our suitcases. Four carry-ons and maybe a bag for the food is all we need.
Over the years I realized that this could extend to our daily life too. I reckon I have a larger wardrobe than I could possibly fit in a carry-on. But we try not to expend indefinitely the hangers and wardrobe we have in our apartment.
1- We do with the space we have
When you leave for your vacation, whatever you choose to take with you, you still have to deal with the space that is offered. If you can live for a few weeks with a suitcase, and generally enjoy your life far more than your everyday life, it means you could manage with much less at home.
When your travel agent or airplane company limits the things you can take with you, you always manage to follow the rules. You are one step away from understanding that a lot of things are just a matter of self-limits. If you think you need more, you’ll need more. When you believe that you can manage with what you have, you’ll eventually manage in most cases. If you think you need another wardrobe to fit your work outfit in, you’ll buy it. Then you’ll have some spare room and will allow yourself to fill it. Until you end up having too much.
Start questioning every single new purchase is what we learned when travelling. We don’t want the stress of dealing with extra luggage to pay for, or even carry. We keep it to whatever we have as long as possible. It is so useful to start buying less, and most of all, spending more time managing purchases.
2- Books are a heavy burden
I love books. I really do. We used to have all the wall of our living room covered in books. We even had some more in the long corridor of our apartment many years ago in Paris. But books are heavy. When I travel, I always make a point of having enough to read for the whole trip; I also taught my children to do the same. Being away calls for even more relaxation: one of the minds goes through escaping in books.
But I realized that the heavier the books are, the less I was inclined to take it out during vacations. I just don’t want to deal with heavy knowledge, and by heavy, I mean literally. Getaways are expected to be freeing and relaxing; I don’t need the weight of books during that time.
I still always have something to read. But I take with me either, books or magazines I can abandon when I’ve read them, or eBooks on my Kindle. Minimum weight, minimum space, maximum choice. However, I make sure to download them before leaving the books I intend to read, just in case I don’t have WIFI, and also because too many choices are not relaxing.
3- We don’t need a lot to work as an online business owner
If you are not a lifestyle photographer on the go, you don’t need that much equipment to bring fantastic shots. This principle could apply to many activities too, professional and personal. You don’t need a lot to do your job if you are working online. Everything can be done with no additional tool at first. You can backup online; you don’t need an extra keyboard or mouse to write your blog posts, emails or reports. I’m writing this post with a mini keyboard connected to my iPad!
Of course, I need a computer to edit my pictures, but I could use Lightroom on my iPad too. Though managing the files is far much easier from a laptop. I tried to avoid the use of a computer on the go during a full summer, but I admit I gave up. Eventually, I had to use my husband laptop for a few tasks.
Think light, think small
So now, you have a general idea. My message here is “think light, think small”. It’s a kind of procrastination always to think we’ll do better when we have the perfect equipment. For sure, a professional wildlife photographer will need heavy lenses to catch a glimpse of the hidden life in the wild. But how many of us are carrying far too many things for the sake of “the” perfect shot, used eventually on Instagram. Can I remind you that, for most of us, a photo’s impact is 5 seconds? Eventually, you will need props for a blog post, most of the time read from a phone in the commute from home to work? Creativity is key, and you can train yourself to create more simply.
Whatever your passion is, you don’t need a lot to pursue it in most cases. So, think minimal equipment is a way of unleashing your creativity, and your personal involvement. You’d rather invest in some help for the things you can’t do, hate to do, or make your life easier, than in some fancy gear.
4- Pack smart and multi-purpose
When we travel, it becomes obvious for us to take only the accessories that will have multiple uses. But why don’t you apply that in our everyday life? Why do you need several water-pitchers? Why do we have a travel cup, a water bottle, and eventually end up buying coffee on the go, or a plastic bottle (which is indeed not the best answer to travelling light!)?
If you have a water filter at home, you don’t need extra pitchers. If you have an insulated water bottle, it can serve multiple uses along the day. Rinse your bottle as soon as you finished your coffee, the caffeine smell won’t stay. If you have only one go-to bottle, you’ll have less chance to forget it. Therefore, more opportunities to use it.
You can apply this idea to everything in your life. But travelling with a carry-on repeatedly certainly taught us to use this principle naturally on a daily basis. Having too many choices is overwhelming, and often we end up not choosing at all. So, simplifying the different options we have in many simple daily tasks to the minimum of one, is already soothing for the soul and the wallet.
5- Be open to change
We never take toiletries. We always buy toothpaste, shampoo and shower gel where we stay. When travelling with a carry-on, we don’t need to check our luggage in airports. And it’s not very convenient to pass the controls with a lot of liquids. So, we keep them to the minimum: the very specific products we use personally, and some essential oils for the first aid kit.
There is no place where people don’t wash their hair or teeth. At least most of us don’t visit such places during a few-week escape! You can simply buy what you need on the go. The French author Dominique Loreau says something like that (I do not quote here, but the idea is the same): Do not visit Japan if you do not dare try their toothpaste. It is so truant to keep an open mind to everything new you encounter. Don’t be stuck on a brand of shampoo. This is certainly not a good start.
Being open to differences start with a small step, like everything else. Stay open to new possibilities, because they can offer something amazing you would have never thought of in the first place.
6- Time is your most precious possession
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, when you travel with a carry-on and fly, you don’t have to check your luggage. You can’t imagine how much time we spare not waiting for our suitcases after a flight. Not to mention all the stress we spare to our already tired minds, with no risk of losing our luggage. Not to mention the complexity of managing the luggage you don’t have anymore when a flight is cancelled.
This could go on and on. When travelling light, we are far more relaxed, secured, and when we see the stress everyone else is going through, we realize, once again, that we were right to minimize our stuff.
It can be extended to weekend escapes. If you have suitcases, you can’t possibly wander the streets with it. But at what time do you check in your hotel or Airbnb? First, you’ll have to find a locker, pay for it. Then come back and pick up your suitcases later. Even if your hotel can keep your suitcases, you’ll spend useless time coming and going. You’d be better walking the streets and enjoying this new city. After all, remember you only have a couple of days there!
Time is your most valuable possession. You can’t gain it back. You can’t buy it. But you can and must manage it wisely to do what matters most!
7- Travel is the best teachers
This will be my conclusion. I love travelling because I find the experience of being the best teachers in life. I teach you freedom, resourcefulness, open-mindedness, simplicity, tolerance, and so many more! It is the most important thing I figured out as a traveller: you’ll keep learning and improving!
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