Travel gear constraints force you into meticulous consideration for the importance of every object. Without being aware, you perform a careful Knapsack Problem analysis of each item.
I’ve done this from time to time on shorter (under two-week) travels. However, as I write these lines, I’ve just departed on one of my months-long perpetual trips (to Brazil) with nothing but a backpack… and one of those unsightly belt pouches. In any case, the luggage passed as a personal item in one of those discount airlines that charge extra for carry-on baggage.
Granted, the packing turned into one of the more challenging I’ve undertaken. On such long journeys, I previously resorted to a small supplemental gym bag. Yet I’ve been yearning to liberate the hands from carrying the additional weight. Such freedom I’ve felt at last. What does this entail in terms of content, you may ask?
- Two pairs of shoes, one fairly generic that I wore (more emphasis on comfort than aesthetics), and the other sports pair stuffed with socks.
- Several generic all-occasion T-shirts, one worn.
- A long-sleeve fleece, worn on top of the T-shirt.
- Three all-occasion long-sleeve shirts.
- Three multi-occasion shorts, one pair worn.
- One multi-occasion pair of pants, worn on top of the shorts. (I’m heading to a fairly tropical place).
- Undergarments to last 5-6 days.
- A few ultra-light gym/exercise pieces of attire.
- Tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard. I’ve done away with the laptop. Too bulky, little marginal return.
- Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Carried in the hand. Forget E-readers.
- Essential toiletries that cannot easily or inexpensively be purchased.
- Small electronics - chargers, converters, etc.
- A file folder with needed paperwork.
- A bunch of index cards and a small (yet dense) notebook fit precisely into the belt pouch.
- A hat, sunglasses, and over-the-ear headphones all simultaneously worn.
All of the above managed to occupy the backpack (to 95% capacity) and the belt pouch, beyond the couple of items in my hand. It’s not perfect, but close enough. Best of all, the backpack houses mostly voluminous, yet light possessions.
What have I sacrificed to meet the constraints?
- Sandals. Will obtain on location.
- Laptop. Not much of a sacrifice though. I’ve gradually transitioned to working on a tablet with Termux, a pseudo-Linux Debian environment.
- Head shaver - a bulky item that I may indeed miss. Maybe it’s a mistake. Hello hair salons.
I may (and will) acquire some occasional items, and probably resort to a small (really small) bag just to alleviate some backpack spacial constraints. My experiment concerned less an idealistic crusade of fixed baggage, but rather the mere notion of initiating the journey light and slightly uncertain..
And that’s the idea. You let go of the comfort of insuring full coverage. You certainly need not expect to subsist six months down the road with the identical set of belongings. You may infrequently acquire a thing or two, along with a supplemental tiny vessel to house them (lest it be crudely improvised with a grocery bag or simply carried).
The benefits of this method of travel feel extremely liberating. Zero anxiety for the carry-on. Ease of boarding public transit. Having everything on your back is a huge bonus. No arm stress. Feels harmonious.
I’ve noticed that once I’ve trespassed a certain weight of luggage, my mind gravitates towards “transport mode.” I feel marginally handicapped, insofar as limited to a subset of normal day-to-day operations - little beyond the proceeding to point B from point A via a pre-established route. I certainly feel the incapacity to diverge from my directives and explore.
However, with the luggage entirely affixed to the back and under a certain weight, these pressures miraculously lift. It feels like a normal operating procedure again, with the liberty to follow your predetermined route or completely deviate into a side quest. Little concern remains for transport logistics. It feels hardly different from a nature hike.
Give the backpack-only travel a shot. Be sure to carry water.
Questions, comments? Connect.