Travel Light

Photo by Dawid Zawila on Unsplash

When we travel, we have the perfect opportunity to try a different lifestyle.

Packing for travel is a bit like decluttering.  You have to consider carefully which clothes you'll need, which toiletries and accessories.  Maybe you make a list.  As you pack, you might think of a few additional items it would be nice to have, just in case.  But you're still limiting your choices -- you're only going to take a fraction of your possessions, after all.

As you roll your suitcase out the door, are you full of excitement and anticipation, or are you worried that you've forgotten something important?  Hopefully, you let that sense of freedom take over and realize that you'll probably do just fine with what you have.  You know you packed the really important stuff, because those things were on your list.

When you arrive at your destination, you're greeted by a clean, uncluttered hotel room with its freshly made bed.  You have no desire to turn on the TV for distraction, like you might do at home, because the outside world beckons.  You unpack quickly, but you're no longer worrying about the things you brought with you.  As you step out the door, you feel light on your feet, interested to see what lies around the corner, and already paying attention to the details of your new location.  You don't have the usual chores or work responsibilities weighing you down, so you have plenty of time to explore.

When we carry only the essentials, we practice minimalism.

What does what you pack say about you?  My suitcase used to say, "I'm insecure and fearful I won't have enough, so I've stuffed in as much as possible."  Sometimes it said, "I'm desperate to impress the people I'm going to see."  Today, I think it says, "I'm simple, comfortable, and confident."  That's because I've learned to pack lightly.

When you travel with more than you really need, you weigh yourself down.  You're slower, less flexible, and you have more to think about and manage.  But when you live for a week with a small suitcase of belongings, you're reminded of how little you actually require.  You also get a clear sense of which clothes fit well, flatter your body and your coloring, and are comfortable and easy-care, since that's probably what has seen the most use.

On your next trip, pack the clothes and other items you think you need, and then remove half of them.  Leave the "just in case" items at home.  Notice how light you feel when walking through the airport, unpacking at the hotel, and exploring your surroundings without worrying about all of your stuff.

When we're free of our normal obligations and distractions, we experience time affluence.

Time affluence is the feeling that you have enough time for the activities that you care about.  There are studies showing that people who commit to maintaining some unscheduled time tend to be happier overall than those who don't, probably because being over-scheduled makes us feel anxious, overworked, and out of control.

Americans seem to be suspicious of unscheduled time.  Maybe it's the influence of the Protestant work ethic, but even on vacation we get so worried that we're going to miss something, we rush from here to there, making ourselves nervous and impatient.  We're so focused on our itinerary that we may wind up missing the experience of being in a new place -- not the tourist destination that we're determined to cross off our bucket list, but the actual place.  The streets, the houses, the shops, the sky, the scents, the sounds, and most of all, the people.

Consider scheduling just one must-see destination per day, and don't rush through anything.  Leave time for serendipity so you can explore off the beaten path.  It's true, you might not visit every single thing that's available (that's probably impossible anyway).  But what you do experience will be deeper, more detailed and memorable.  And you'll come home feeling like you really got away.


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