Here’s a vacation packing tip: take just one small piece of luggage on your next vacation. I carry-on is what I used to call it but with current restrictions on liquids, dangerous weapons such as pocket knives, and weight limits you probably won’t be allowed to carry on a single piece of luggage at least on most airlines. However this shouldn’t stop you being able to travel pretty much indefinitely with one 30litre day pack or shoulder bag if you prefer. When I challenge people to this they either say “impossible” or “why”? Well it’s not impossible: I traveled for over 6 months across most of South America carrying a single bag. My jacket had to be worn either by me or on the outside of my pack as did my walking shoes: but that was the only compromise I made. I wasn’t equipped for camping but I survived “summer” in Tierra del Fuego which was about 10C all the way to the tropics of Ecuador. Not all of my clothes survived the trip: traveling light is tough on clothing. But it was a delight to never have to check my bag on a bus and to be able to accept a lift in a small car already full of 3 adults without having the bag being a problem. .

The why of taking as few items on your vacation packing list is easy too. Next time just watch someone struggling with too much luggage getting onto the bus or even just transferring to the taxi: they have to tip the porter and the taxi driver to deal with it all. It slows you down, excess luggage makes you a target for opportunistic theft and means you spend too much time worrying about the logistics of travel instead of just enjoying the experience. The most common taxis in Vietnam are scooters: you hop on the back and they put your bag between the driver’s legs in front: if your bag is too big to fit on a Vietnamese taxi: prune your vacation packing list: a lot!

Watching people packing for their vacation tells you a lot about their attitude to the vacation and their level of comfort with it. Often in travel forums people about to take off on their dream of a lifetime backpacking trip post about their fear of what they have undertaken, the next day they are back asking if their 5 page packing list is feasible and whether they should buy a bigger backpack to fit the whole monstrous list of must haves in. I think we use “things” as emotional crutches. The newly rich seem to need to surround themselves with large houses, expensive TVs and fancy cars. The nervous traveller somehow convinces themselves that it will all be OK so long as they take enough stuff with them. Of course this is self-defeating: the worst way to travel is with too much stuff: its emotionally and physically exhausting! You spend your whole time worrying about your luggage and its contents rather than chilling out and enjoying the scenery.

The best way to learn how to travel light is to just do it. Find a 30-lb bag that is comfortable for you: fill it for your next vacation. That’s it: no more than what will fit in that little bag! Think of it as de-cluttering your vacation packing list: the same as de-cluttering your apartment or house really. Don’t take anything with you which can’t do double duty. Don’t take PJs’ and an evening outfit: take a silk shirt which will do for both. Few travel gadgets are worth the money but the tiny, super-absorbent travel towels are well worth while.

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