I have a colleague who, upon going to Paris for thirty days, packed thirty outfits, spread over four suitcases. I will admit that I didn’t start out light either. On my first international trip (three weeks in Beijing and Tibet), I was carrying not one but two duffel bags with me; and not small duffels either. These were Israeli Mossad tactical duffel bags that one could probably fit a body into in a pinch. After this trip, I realized I was carrying too much, so I trimmed down to one body-carrying duffel.
This was before I had ever heard of wash-n-wear or eBooks. In fact, it was my next international trip (two weeks in Peru) where, thanks to my seasoned roommate, I learned about the joys of packing light. He carried a small bag with him, with just the essentials—some toiletries, a few wash-n-wear shirts and pants, a pair of versatile shoes, along with two pairs of wash-n-wear undies. The man had travelled the world this way, with a light, carry-on bag and a few aspirin.
This inspired me, so when I returned I started on the quest for wash-n-wear shirts. They are not cheap, so I waited for sales to acquire my initial collection. I went with long sleeved, figuring I could roll the sleeves up when needed. It also made sense to buy some wash-n-wear pants as well, also on sale, and soon I had myself a small collection of three shirts and three pants. I wasn’t sold on the undies yet, so I waited on those. I was also introduced to a great pair of traveling shoes around this time that had good grip for hiking, but could then be cleaned up and used if going out to a nice dinner.
So, now liberated of my large duffels and over-abundance of clothes, I set off for a few months in Central America, with just a carry-on bag, a small day pack, and my only pair of shoes being the ones I was wearing. I had to learn to make time to wash most every night, and allow for extra time in humid climates. I also still had to look for laundry service for my undies, but they don’t take up a lot of space, so I brought extra. The only problem: upon returning to the states, I was taken aside by a border guard who was very suspicious that I had been on the go, at least according to my passport, for two months and yet I was hardly carrying anything. I took this as a compliment.
There are pros and cons to traveling this light and I have adjusted what I carry over the years. I have now been sold on wash-n-wear undies, after an initial attempt that did not go so well (always good to attempt a trial run before heading out to parts unknown). But, on longer travels, especially when going to varying climates, the old carry-on trick isn’t the most practical. And I’m also finding it better to have at least two pairs of shoes—one that can be thrashed and one for nicer occasions. Now that I’m married, there are nicer occasions.
Next up: Learning to love eBooks.