Packing only essentials may be tricky but it’s a travel skill.
It’s good to travel light. For one, it’s easier on the back if you are walking. Also, it’s easier to run to catch a train, a bus, a metro…. Or to run from someone who may have dubious intentions concerning your safety. Air travel is far more convenient if your pack is carry-on size: you won’t have to waste time at airport carousels waiting for your things. It also greatly minimizes the chances of your luggage flying to Paris when you’re heading to Barcelona. The size of carry-on luggage varies from airline to airline so it’s a good idea to check before you leave. Pack properly and you’ll be amazed what you can fit in a carry-on. Think of clowns fitting into a VW Beetle.
No frills packing is obviously essential when travelling light. One pair of pants, one pair of shorts, a couple of t-shirts, maybe a sweater for a nice night out along the way, a light jacket, and clean underwear and socks should do it. And don’t forget your camera and a passport! Of course, what you pack will depend on the destination as well as the time of year. Unless you are heading to Sweden in February, it’s easy to pack light since your wool socks will stay home. Your favorite guide book is also a good idea so you can read about what’s around you as you sip a cold drink on a hot afternoon, or while travelling by train for an hour or two. In the past we also packed a small laptop with us – wifi is readily available in restaurants, train stations and the like. But with smartphones being so common, it’s easier than ever to get online. Sim cards can be found everywhere, in some countries for as little as a dollar!
There are plenty of things you may need for your travels, but don’t need to bring with you, such as toiletries. You could even leave clothing at home and pick up what you may need along the way. Shopping for a razor in a foreign country gives you an opportunity to meet the locals in their natural habitat! It also gives you a chance to try out the few phrases you learned before leaving home. You did learn how to say hello, goodbye, please and thank you before you left, right? You might only know a couple of phrases in broken Spanish, but when a local sees you are trying, they will likely respond back in broken English if they can. There’s no question that meeting locals will greatly enrich your travel experience. And buying a tube of travel sized toothpaste is more fun in Malaga than it is in your hometown, I’ll tell ya that.
It’s good to connect with locals. More often than not, they’re more than happy to help you out, or give directions. They might want to find out a little bit about you too. Sure guide books are great. But locals can often point you towards fantastic sights off the beaten path. Here’s a thought to consider: guidebook and travel magazine articles are generally “paid advertising”. This is why you seldom, if ever, read a travel horror story in a magazine. Speak with any traveller and they will have a story of things gone wrong. Actually, those are often the best stories. But you won’t read about them in magazines.
Our backpacks in the historic city of Valetta on the island of Malta. Due to circumstances we were a tad overloaded, so we eventually mailed a parcel to ourselves back home, easing our load. We lived 3 weeks out of those 2 packs. Inside the large pack is a 3rd smaller backpack where our important things were kept. When we have a chance to stash our larger packs, we bring the smaller one containing our valuables.
Something else to consider when travelling light: don’t buy souvenirs you can’t carry. If you really absolutely need to buy that carpet in Turkey, mail it home if you can afford that. This is the reason why my everyday keychain weighs 12 pounds. Key chains are cheap to purchase and easy to carry. Every time I look at my keychain, I see Ireland, Italy, England and Spain. I like that. So look for convenience if you have to pick up a trinket along the way. They make great gifts too! But of course, I still don’t have a Turkish carpet on the bedroom floor.
One more thought about what to bring. Make sure your shoes or boots are comfortable and well broken in. It hurts to walk just 3 blocks with a nasty blister, never mind a mile. Although, visiting a farmacia for ointment and bandages, well, that’s travelling!
Now having said all this, perhaps the best thing you can bring along on your travels is a good attitude. Remember, YOU are the one on foreign soil so it’s up to you to adapt to the countries and situations you find yourself in. Don’t be belligerent or have a “Don’t you know who i am!” attitude. Nobody likes an asshole. Being humble and kind is not only its own reward, but people will likely go out of their way to help you. Patience will come in handy if you don’t speak the language, or if things aren’t done the way you’d like them to be done. Be a person YOU would want to meet. Sometimes simple things like buying a bus ticket in La Linea de la Concepcion can be tricky. And that’s a great experience.
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Dianne & Mike