Whether you’re backpacking, taking a road trip, or staying in hotels — be it a long journey or a short one — from my experience of traveling over the years, the best advice I can give is be prepared, but travel *light*! You’ll be surprised as to how little you actually *need* when traveling.
I did half a year around the world using a single medium-sized backpack. It wasn’t a tramping pack, just a normal backpack of about 15 – 20 litres. Of course if you’re traveling in winter you’ll need a bit more in the way of warm clothing, but still, I’m sure one backpack would do the job.
So when I started putting my kit together for my most recent trip, I was happy to know that everything I needed and wanted to take with me could fit into a backpack.
When I left for our first backpacking trip last year, I didn’t bring my old 90 litre backpack, I bought a brand new 65 litre backpack one. The shop assistant told me that she thought I might find it a little small for the kind of backpacking trip we were planning….our Pro Travel Tips
Basic travel tips:
- Pack an extra outfit in your carry on, in case your checked luggage gets lost.
- Always bring dozens of plastic bags and baby wipes 🙂
- Embrace situations that are different. You’ll always end up with a great story.
- To always expect the unexpected and keep your cool.
- Say “yes” when hostel people ask you to come out with them
- Be realistic about your itinerary & don’t try to fit too much in
- Don’t plan too much, be flexible. Keep your options open.
- Always learn AT LEAST, hello, please & thank you in the local language
- Duct tape and a headlamp: both extraordinarily useful
- Bring several bandannas; they’re the perfect travel tool
- Consider stuff sacks, and my favorite Gobi Hoboroll
Basics of Light and Easy Backpacking
The shop assistant was right. My new backpack seemed small.
The first few weeks were upsetting as I tried to pack my gear in my backpack when we left to go to a new place (which was nearly everyday).
And since we basically walked everywhere (for hours every day) with a 7 kg tent, we started hunching and our backs were really hurting.
It didn’t take us long to realize that we couldn’t continue like this.
I remember how tough it was at first to throw something out – I always had 100 reasons to keep every small item!
But the thought of carrying that backpack around for a year like that was just unbearable, so I had to get rid of my ego and think practical.
It’s actually a really good ‘spiritual practice,’ learning how to get rid of the ego’s “want” for everything. I started asking myself:
Do I REALLY need this?
After that, every time we went to pack our bags we threw something out, and never would we buy something new without throwing away at least one item. The more you discard or donate, the more you understand how little you REALLY need.
I disposed of 90% of my belongings (i.e gave it away to hostels and second hand shops) but I just didn’t have the guts to give my NEW backpack away, instead I sort of folded it in half since there was basically nothing left inside.
And one of the biggest benefits of traveling light? No checked luggage! Whilst the other travelers were still waiting for their 20kg backpacks and suitcases to appear on the airport baggage claim, I had already cleared customs and was out of the airport.
The weight of my backpack was 7.2 kg before leaving Stockholm, which included a bit of extra food for the stopovers at the various airports, which saved a lot of money!
I always enjoy the reactions from the check-in clerks when they realize the destination of my flight (over 20,000km from the point of origin) and my answer to their question of “How many checked bags do you have, sir?” is “None.”
So here’s some advice of how to travel light:
- Think practical. Ask yourself: ”Do I really NEED this?”
- Bring two pairs of underwear (at the most three). You can wash one when having a shower, wear the clean one while you leave the other pair to dry during the day.
- Make sure everything goes with everything else. All of your shirts have to match all of your bottoms. If you have something that only goes with one other item, it’s not a good idea to bring it.
- Bring a mini-laptop (I recommend about 10 inch screen) with you. It might not sound very lightweight, but in the end it is. You won’t have to bring any books, notebooks or travel guides – instead you can download it all into your laptop and read them from there. Make sure it’s a light one though. A big and heavy one is just trouble. (Nathan took a 15 inch laptop and 2 months later simply gave it away to the Red Cross – too much hassle!)
- If you are a smoker, now could be a good time to quit. You will save money and likely improve your health. But if not, ecig’s and Vaping Kits are a good alternative. They are easy to pack light, save time and money not trying to find and purchase cigarettes in various countries, and consistency with what you are smoking. Traveling is a great time to break the smoking habit because you will be out of your usual routines.
- Don’t bring clothes made of heavy fabrics like jeans and wool. Bring as light clothing as you can. If you’re going to colder places, buy long johns and poly-pro tops instead of woolen jumpers and hoodies.
- Bring stuff that can be used as several things, like a Sari. You can use it as a normal towel, a beach towel, dress, skirt, blanket, fold it to make a bag, etc. Travel and Microfiber Travel Towel
- For guys, instead of bringing a pair of shorts AND a pair of board shorts, try to look for a pair of board shorts that look just like normal shorts (or as close as it can get).
- Don’t bring anything white, since you don’t bring many clothes you’re going to use the ones you have a lot. White clothing will need to be washed more often than dark and colored fabrics.
- Remember the essentials. It’s critical to protect against mosquitoes and to have a small first aid kit. Prioritize space for these.
Some people suggest you cut your toothbrush in half because even small things weigh and they add on. It’s true that everything adds on, but I don’t go that hardcore myself to care about how much weight my toothbrush adds on. Lightweight traveling should be easy, not extra hassle.