Most experienced and enduring budget travelers and free travel aficionados have one thing in common: their traveling bags have gotten quite lighter as the years went by. There are practical as well as psychological reasons for this.
The practical aspects are easily identifiable. It is much easier to get around when you’re walking or using public transportation if you have a smaller bag. It makes us better able to cope with and respond rapidly to the different variables present when we get somewhere we haven’t been before. It also means we are not scattered and have less things to keep an eye on.
The psychological ramifications are the most significant ones, however. For one thing, traveling light inevitably confronts us to our own insecurities about not knowing what’s coming ahead. It is a wonderful though sometimes uncomfortable therapy. Yet, there is nothing quite like that feeling of carefree abandon one experiences by traveling lightly. And for this reason alone, leaving those extra items at home is completely worth it.
It is an understandably common mistake to pack excessively the first few times we travel – especially if you’re a budget traveler or free travel seeker. But chances are you are not choosing to travel to recreate the heaviness and structure of the sedentary lifestyle. At the same time, the idea is not to go around uselessly deprived and ill-equipped.
So, what to bring in that backpack?
Backpack: Will ideally qualify as a carry-on bag on the airplane. Don’t go too cheap, it needs to be tough. But don’t go too glamorous either – an eye-catching bag is a burden.
There is no reason at all for it to be bigger than 50l unless you are bringing specialized equipment for trekking and such activities.
If you want to bring back gifts, buy them at the end of your trip and buy an extra bag (a cheap one will do) for them to go into.
Clothes: Shirts, pants, socks, underwear – no more than 2 of each. 1 may be enough. You will be able to buy clothes during your travels and you will be happy to wear them. One waterproof or warm coat may be necessary depending on where you go. Use compression bags to minimize the space your clothes take up.
Bathroom accessories: Deodorant, shaving items, soap, nail clipper. A compact travel towel that dries quickly is convenient. Maybe one extra luxury item.
First Aid: A few selected first aid items adapted to where you are going will do (Don’t overdo it! Medicine exists everywhere in the world.)
LED headlamp: More useful than a flashlight that you need to hold in your hands. You can always hold it with your hands if you feel funny having it on your head. Highly recommended.
Digital Camera: They are now quite affordable. The value of having pictures to look at after you have traveled need not be explained. Bring an extra memory card if you think you’ll be taking a lot of pictures.
Music and headphones: They can be lifesavers in noisy countries and can make the difference between insomnia and a good night of sleep.
Other electronics: a small battery charger (solar if you go somewhere sunny), a converter/adapter for your electrical apparatus depending on which country you go to.
Other: A thin tough rope to hang your clothes on is very valuable. A Swiss army knife is always called for at one moment or another (can’t bring that inside the place though). A stainless steel water bottle. Water purifying tablets can be a good idea in some countries. 1 smaller, soft bag for day trips or running errands.
Obviously, you wallet, cards and documents will be in there somewhere.
And voila! Add and remove an item or two to fit your personal needs and your bag should be fairy light and manageable.