How many times have you packed something for your travels only to NOT use it at all? This is one heck of a problem that every person has gone through before a journey. Having a raging tendency to overpack is what makes us human after all. But allow me to show you a kind of lifestyle that many have embraced. A kind of minimalist lifestyle that is challenging at first, but a lot more freeing later on.
A kind of lifestyle that will have a lot of moms frowning.
The Art of Traveling Light
Or if you prefer something less dramatic – Guide to Traveling Light.
Let me assure you that you will enjoy your travels a lot more once you embrace the nuances of traveling light. There’s no going back once you get a taste of it. If all of this sounds a bit too exaggerated, trust me it’s not.
Back in 2016, I packed all of my things into a single 50L backpack and set off to see the world. Almost 18 at the time and with no clear plan, all I knew was that I wanted to meet incredible people, live out of a backpack, and build a kind of life that I wouldn’t need a vacation from.
Before we get to the ‘How’ of traveling light, let’s try to understand the ‘Why’ aspect first.
Why You Should Travel Light
For starters, nobody in their right mind would like to haul luggage at the airport. I mean one would say just grab a trolley and while doing that makes sense, you wouldn’t comprehend the pains of hauling your carry-on luggage which weighs a lot more than the usual 8kgs limit. And not to forget the fact that you have to park your trolleys after baggage check-in and move on ahead with your hand luggage. Don’t you dare try to deny the fact that you have never overpacked your hand luggage. We all have done it at least once.
Now visualise this. Your flight is at noon. You reach the airport by 10.00 am. The attendant at the airport check-in asks you for your luggage. You have no luggage. You only have one backpack or a carry-on. The attendant asks whether you want to baggage check in your hand luggage. You say yes. Life is good. You roam about the airport with your hands swinging free cause you have nothing to worry about.
If that sounds amazing to you, let me assure you that it is. I did the Annapurna Circuit (almost 200 km) with everything I owned in a single backpack. When I say there’s something freeing about doing this, I absolutely mean it.
What u/Asperon has to say about traveling light on Reddit
Another one of the things that no one talks about traveling light is the lack of tiredness. I’ve met people who would be tired or worn out from their mere 3-4 hour flights. It’s all that luggage hauling that tends to take a toll on your body. It completely wears you out and makes you unreasonably tired. You probably end up wasting a day not doing anything because of how badly your back or legs hurt.
Traveling light not only helps you be active throughout your energy but also helps ease the physical toll on your body. If you have been traveling for as long as I have, carrying those amounts of load is not going to help you at all. And certainly not your body.
Then there are layovers. They can be a real pain if you have to constantly look after your luggage. Also, they can be pretty restrictive if you want to go outside the airport and explore. Hauling all that luggage around will just make it an uncomfortable experience.
Seriously. Comfortable stress-free travel > hauling luggage around all day.
Not to forget the amount of time you save while packing and unpacking. Especially in a stacked itinerary where you have to shift hotels every second day.
How to Travel Light
One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that you don’t need a lot of things to be happy! I come from a family of hoarders who kept plenty of things they didn’t need. Stuff that practically one would never use. I didn’t choose that path and somewhere down the line, I realized that I’d rather have a life full of experiences instead of a house full of random things.
1. Give One Bag Travel a Shot
Now when it comes to traveling light, a certain kind of travel lifestyle trend has been making rounds on the internet. Known as One Bagging or One Bag Travel, a lot of full-time travelers have been embracing this lifestyle and fully immersing themselves in the minimalism aspect of it.
As the name suggests, One Bag Travel basically means traveling with all of your belongings stuffed into one single carry-on. This particular concept has become so popular that there are online communities devoted to the discussion of this topic. One of the most popular ones is the r/onebag subreddit on Reddit.
Although I couldn’t find much on the origins of One Bagging, I would certainly not recommend this to a novice who’s just started traveling. It’s a little too extreme and only those experienced should give it a shot. But if you are planning to give it a shot, check out my One Bag Travel Packing List.
Also, this may sound weird. I advise you to look at One Bag Travel as a sport. Or a hobby. Somewhat like a fun activity that you will find thrilling. You are doing it for you and you have got nothing to lose. Your first experience may be a bit rough. But it keeps getting better the more you attempt it. Here’s an interesting discussion I found on the web:
There’s a certain kind of dopamine hit whenever you solve a problem. You will feel like that when you give One Bagging a shot. The ability to be able to adapt and move easily without any excess baggage has some kind of freedom or freeing feeling that I find hard to put into words. But it can easily lose its charm if you take it too seriously and resort to things like snapping your toothbrush into half to shave off a few grams.
2. Live by the 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule
What is the 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule? Those who are into baking may have come across the 1-2-3-4 rule. It is a thumb rule followed to make a sponge cake. 1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour, and 4 eggs. The reasoning behind this is that it is easy to implement and a lot easier to remember. The phrase ‘1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour …’ rolls right off the tongue rather than ‘X’ grams butter, etc.
Similarly, the 1-2-3-4-5-6 packing rule means one hat, two pairs of shoes, three bottoms, four tops (short or long-sleeve or outer layer), five pairs of socks, and six pairs of underwear.
Image from REI.com
Also be sure to to include swimwear, rain gear, and other essentials depending on your location. I find it better if you can shop for swimwear directly at your destination. Or you can get yourself synthetic shorts that can double down as swimwear and normal wear.
Using the 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule will help you pack lightly and should suffice for a six-day stretch before necessitating laundry. Regardless of your trip’s duration, aim to restrict yourself to no more than a week’s worth of attire. It is totally fine if you repeat clothes. Nobody even cares anymore tbh. It’s the experience that counts.
3. Go for Light Synthetic Wear
Choose light, quick-drying fabrics if the weather permits. Sportswear usually lets your skin ‘breathe’ and you feel cooler. It also keeps moisture aware and they dry pretty quickly. You can’t go wrong if you have a bunch of sportswear. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, consider investing in clothing crafted from merino wool, which not only resists odor accumulation even after multiple uses but also provides exceptional breathability and a feather-light feel.
4. Choose the Right Bag
I cannot stress this enough. Choosing the right bag goes a long, long way. You need something durable and tough yet light and comfy. Something that can hold VOLUMES of stuff. And you should be able to move about easily with your bag loaded. Having the right bag makes all the difference.
Ever since I set out to travel way back in 2016, I’ve visited more than 80 countries. Having traveled so much, I’ve gone through my fair share of backpacks. Amidst all of these countless backpacks, the Nomatic 40L Travel Bag has impressed me quite a lot.
The Nomatic 40L Travel Bag is so versatile that it enables you to use it as a carry-on as well as a backpack. Not to forget the countless attachments available for it too! You can organize this backpack any way you find comfortable. There’s a flap or a pocket for every minute object you want to tuck in. It has lasted me through heavy rainfall and there’s no other backpack I stand by so much. You can check out my full review of the Nomatic 40L Travel bag here and decide for yourself if you want to get one or not.
5. Ditch the ‘just in case’ Mindset
‘Let me grab my Kindle just in case I get time to read’
Trust me when I say this. That ‘just in case’ never works out. If you haven’t read at all this year, it is highly unlikely you’ll be reading this holiday. Ditch that Kindle. You probably won’t need it. Don’t give in to your instincts. It’s another ‘just in case’ that is waiting to happen.
Also, it is highly unlikely it’s gonna snow in a tropical country. Do not give in to that ‘just in case’ and overpack coats/sweatshirts that you may never use.
6. Make Stuff Work for You Twice
It’s all about packing smart. Take stuff with you that will have more than one purpose. By doing this, you not only hit two birds with one stone, but you also reduce your overall weight. These are some of the things you can do:
- Pack in shorts that are synthetic/nylon. They can double down as swimwear, performance wear as well as nightwear.
- Using a poncho can not only act as a raincoat jacket but will double down as a backpack rain cover.
- If you are not working remotely, ditch the laptop. Even Kindle for that matter. All the activities that you can do on these devices are accessible through a smartphone as well. If you want to get your hands on a new smartphone that will serve you well for your travels, you can check this list out.
- Carry a Swiss Army Knife that you find the most practical. Ditch all the other supplementary tools like pocket knives, mini flashlights, and much more. If the Swiss Army Knife can handle it, you won’t need the other stuff. To find a Swiss Army Knife that makes the most sense, you can go through this list here.
7. Use Packing Cubes
Try using packing cubes if you want all your items to fit in snugly. It also gives a sense of higher organization and can be pretty convenient too. Pack your bottoms in one packing cube while the top-wear in another cube. You won’t have to rummage through your entire backpack if you need shorts and know where to find them. I highly recommend packing cubes by Nomatic and you can check out my Nomatic Packing Cube Review I made when I purchased my packing cube along with the Nomatic 40L Travel Bag.
8. Don’t include Toiletries
It’s kind of pointless to get your toiletries along. With the majority of hotels, Airbnb, and other homestays providing toiletries in this day and age, you can ditch your toiletry kit altogether. Even if your accommodation does not provide toiletries, you can call firsthand and prepare or shop locally at the destination.
And speaking of shopping locally, this brings me to the next tip.
9. You can Always Shop Locally
If you have ever read Jack Reacher – A popular action crime thriller series – you must be aware of Jack’s tendency to travel light and almost without a backpack. The gist of the books is that the main protagonist Reacher is a drifter who finds himself in some kind of trouble or the other. From all the ass-kicking that takes place in this series, one aspect I find the most intriguing is how Reacher travels with just a wallet filled with a wad of cash and literally nothing else. If he needs a new pair of clothes, he ditches his current set of clothes while shopping for a new set. If there is anything he needs, he shops locally.
While this may seem a bit off-topic, I can’t help but draw parallels between our daily lives and this fictional series. Leaving aside all the extravagant action and sinister plot, at the very base the book is simply about a man who doesn’t believe in materialistic obsession and societal norms. I’m not against societal norms or anything but it’s always better to be different. Having a mindset where you aren’t too attached to materialistic things is simply freeing. You can always find what you need by shopping locally at your destination.
10. How to Travel Lightly as a Digital Nomad
First things first. You need to have your tech gear sorted. You have to plan and take devices along with you that only take up a little space. Moreover, you need to envision how your work setup will look outdoors or in cafes. The simpler it is, the better. Since you’ll probably be working a lot in co-working spaces and cafes, the last thing you want is your server serving you food, only to find there’s absolutely no space on the table. And then follows the usual scrambling to get all the wires, devices, and other tidbits out of the way with a sheepish smile on your face that screams how messy you are. We have all been there.
- To assemble your tech stack, you need to start off with a universal charger. It’s not too expensive and pretty great. It can be super tedious if your laptop/mobile charger is not compatible with the electrical outlets of your destination. With the universal charger, you’ll be able to pair it up with your fast charger and have virtually no issues at all.
- It’s always better to carry your own power bank as well. You may end up in a situation wherein your smartphone dies out while you are in the middle of nowhere. You have to prioritize connectivity a lot. Especially if you are a digital nomad. You can get yourself a solar-powered power bank. A normal power bank may also suffice but I feel this one right here is way better. Firstly, it’s solar-powered. Secondly, it is waterproof and dustproof which is pretty great. You need this kind of durability when you travel a lot. And lastly, the sheer capacity of this power bank (42800 mAh) is what makes it a really good product.
- If you are going to use your iPad or tablet for anything other than work purposes, I highly recommend not taking it. Your laptop will do just fine. Only take things that will benefit your work. If you need a device for anything other than work, your smartphone or laptop will do.
- This is something obvious and also a bit debatable. I always insist on carrying my own notebook and a pen. You never know when you may need it. While some may argue that you can get them locally, I would rather be safe and get my own. And besides, they barely weigh much.
That’s all you need if you want to travel lightly as a digital nomad. Other items may include a mouse, a pair of earphones (not headphones), and perhaps an external storage hard disk. They may not be necessary but totally fine if you really want them.
11. Overcoming your Biggest Hurdle – Laundry
If taken lightly, laundry can be one of the biggest dealbreakers of your trip. Especially if you plan to attempt a One Bag travel. The last thing you want is to have to deal with a pile of stinky clothes while you have to get going.
- You can start off by carrying a small polyester sack or a packing cube solely for your dirty laundry. In this way, your packed contents will never get messy and you won’t have to rummage around your carry-on looking for your stuff.
- If you are on a hike or a ruck, you can take care of a couple of t-shirts by washing them in the nearby pond/lake/waterfall or any other water source your exotic destination entails. You can then put washed clothes in a breathable mesh bag and clip it to the MOLLE sockets from the outside of your rucksack or bag. GORUCK Backpacks are the best in this regard.
- Before you book your accommodation, make sure you find out if they have laundry facilities or not. Booking your accommodation with laundry facilities is much better. If your hotel/hostel does not provide one, you’ll have to resort to handwashing them. You can also ask around and find out if there are any local laundromats around. Choose to set aside a couple of hours one morning and get all of your laundry done in a single shot. If they have a drop-off service, even better!
- This may be a little wild but if it works then why not:
After reading my article, I hope you give this kind of lifestyle a shot. Embracing these nuances of traveling light will change your perspective on life altogether. For some, it’s about finding ‘more’ within the mundane. And for others, it’s about the freedom angle. Some meditative aspect to it that helps you let go of things weighing you down. And I mean that metaphorically as much as the literal sense.
Slow down. Live simple and you’ll realize there’s a lot more to life than you would have ever thought.
Last update on 2023-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API