Almost everyone travels somewhere for something at some time. True, there are some recluses and hermits who choose to never venture far from their nest or cave. But, in the second decade of the 21st Century, I'm sure the recluses and hermits are more the exception than the rule. And, of course, there are some people who can't travel or find it difficult due to illness or any number of physical impairments. However, I see many people with a variety of disability issues getting out and traveling more and more. I commend them for their courage and tenacity to overcome their individual challenges
Here's the thing, if you're reading this article, you are interested in simplifying your life. Some of you may not want to accept and implement this tip. That's okay. Everyone is an individual and can do whatever they choose to. I'm basically a pragmatic person. I've experienced just about everything I write about and I call on my past life experience to create these tips. I've been implementing them in my own life, or at the very least, have witnessed other people dealing with these issues and choosing to simplify each of their lives.
We travel with too much stuff! That's a simple, clear, concise statement. Some readers will agree with that statement. Others won't agree. It doesn't matter. Unless you've already simplified your life and become a minimalist, you travel with too much stuff.
Travel isn't the same as it was 15, 20, 30 or more years ago. Yet, I still see people, typically, women more than men, traveling for a week or two with two, three of even more pieces of luggage. This luggage is crammed full of clothes, sundries, toiletries and other assorted paraphernalia. At the same time there are people traveling around the world for months or even years, with little more than a backpack and maybe a hand carried piece. This includes men and women alike.
Downsizing and Traveling LIGHT
How can anyone travel that light? The first thing is to become enlightened. This is the second decade of the 21st Century. We live in a different world and a different time. Much of what we considered standard travel practice changed as of September 11, 2001. Airlines changed all the rules for domestic and international air travel. Cars, unless you drive a minivan or a large SUV, no longer have the kind of cargo capacity the behemoths of automobiles past had. I remember trunks large enough to camp in.
Buses, though not as widely used as airplanes and even passenger trains, a very small travel conveyance in the U.S. compared to other parts of the world, don't provide as much luggage space as they once may have. Add the onerous security procedures imposed on air travel, plus most airlines charge for each individual piece of checked luggage and the more bags the more hassle and expense. And, if the luggage, depending on whether it's intended to be carried on the plane or checked, must meet stringent and enforced dimension and weight limitations.
All of this can become very challenging and, often, aggravating and frustrating, not to mention, costly. So, why do so many people continue to put themselves through this torture?
Here is another thing to take into account. We live in a much less formal world. While it's true that there are still some protocols for business attire in certain industries and positions, the formal, three piece business suit, tie and wingtip shoes are diminishing in importance and more casual clothes for men is more acceptable in many more situations. The same is true for women. The very formal, dark business suit, with trousers or skirt and black high-heels, pantyhose and appropriate jewelry and accessories is also giving way to what is now termed, “business casual.”
Whether I have been attending theatrical or concert performances or art galleries and museums, I've attended in casual attire. I regularly see people who are, most likely, travelers attending these events in jeans and other extremely casual attire. Business casual is nice because it is usually appropriate for taking care of business and doing the touristy stuff, hiking, exploring, etc.
So, how do those world (or domestic) full-time travelers manage with just a back pack or a nominal sized soft duffel bag? It's simple. They take only what they NEED and know they will actually USE. In many cases they build a travel wardrobe that is lightweight, multi-functional, can be interchanged with each part of the wardrobe to create a number of outfits (probably more important for a woman than a man), are wash and wear and simple to clean and maintain and require no ironing. And, every item can be carefully folded to avoid creasing and wrinkles and easily fit in a nominal (not a monster) sized backpack or duffel bag.
Yes! There are companies specializing in travel clothing. One such outfit is ScotteVest. This company, founded by an enterprising entrepreneur and his spouse, has created an entire line of clothes worn by domestic (like me, a very satisfied customer) and international travelers and trekkers, media people, explorers, adventurers and casual travelers. Click on this ScotteVest link and visit their online catalog. In most photos you'll see of me, I'm wearing one or more Scottevest garments.
There are other companies offering a variety of travel clothes, accessories and pragmatic luggage.
Don't Travel That Much Currently
Male or female, what if you're thinking, I don't want to buy an entire new wardrobe right now. I only travel occasionally and I might not wear these travel garments when I'm home. That's fair. Although, again, man or woman, I would highly recommend you consider at least getting one of ScotteVest's travel vests. They make them for men and women in several different versions. This vest will replace the need for attache cases, purses and other carry around cases and carryalls. I never leave “home” without mine.
But, let's look at your current wardrobe. First, take out every piece of clothing you normally pack for a specified period of time, for example, a long weekend, a week or two weeks. Carefully fold them the way you would to pack into your luggage. Stack them neatly on your bed.
Now, take half of them and put them away. That is correct. You are only going to need half of what you pulled out to take with you. Next, make sure your underwear is easily hand washable and quick drying, just in case you do run out of it before you can get to a washer and dryer. Here's a hint, it's way, way less expensive to use a coin operated washer and dryer in a laundromat or a hotel's guest utility area than the cost of taking one extra bag or an overweight bag on just about any airline (except for the couple airlines that don't charge for bags until you have more than one or two).
Also, you should wear one pair of comfortable shoes and take one extra pair of shoes, two extra pairs is the maximum, and still probably overkill. Women, one of the pairs of shoes may have a low heel on it.
The clothes you select to bring should be wearable as business casual for business, if that is a reason for the trip, and for entertainment and recreational events. Do not bring expensive jewelry. That last statement is mainly of concern to women, but some men also wear items like watches, diamond rings, gold bracelets and chains. Leave the Rolexes at home. All expensive jewelry is targets for thieves wherever you go and whether you stay in a hotel or not. You might want to wear a light blazer as part of your travel ensemble, that way you don't have to pack it. You can use it for business, a night out, dining in a restaurant, going to the theater or a concert, etc.
Keep your shirts and blouses/tops simple and universal. By simply mixing and matching them (with anything else you brought along) you can create several different looks/ensembles. Men, select a universal color sock, like flesh/beige or black, no patterns. Ladies, you might bring along one pair of pantyhose, though women seem to be wearing them less and less these days. Remember, you only want to bring things you WILL USE. Don't bring things you MIGHT USE. If you might use them, it means you don't really need whatever it is.
Unless you already have a lightweight backpack or duffel bag, acquire one. Part of traveling simple and light is to have the smallest and lightest bags possible. Here's another tip. Learn how to fold or roll clothes for compact packing while eliminating as much wrinkling and creasing as possible. Wrinkle resistant, wash and wear should become your mantra. It's usually good practice to bring along a bathing suit. With careful shopping, you may be able to find a bathing suit (this goes for both genders) that can double as casual wear and bathing suit.
Don't worry about bringing all kinds of cosmetics and toiletries. Things like soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, mouthwash and, in some places, even toothpaste are often provided. And, remember, the TSA limits the amount of any of these kinds of toiletries you may bring with you if you're traveling by air. If you do stay at a hotel or motel, most of them provide ironing boards and irons if you have an occasional wrinkle or crease to deal with.
Unless you absolutely need a laptop computer, leave it home and just take a tablet or a phablet (larger smart phone) and a smart phone. Keep all your important files stored in the “Cloud” so they are accessible from anywhere. If you must bring certain files with you, transfer them to a “jump” or “thumb” flash drive. If you have massive amounts of data you need to take, buy a portable hard drive. One Terabyte 2.5” portable drives are available regularly for $50.00 to $70.00
If you still want to have a laptop with you, the “netbook” is back. Remember those? They were fully functional laptops with an 8” to 11” screen and very light weight. I'm seeing prices on them around $100.00 at some of the big online stores. Start using Open Office, a free, open source, downloadable Office Suite that matches the Microsoft Office Suite with word processing, spreadsheet, database, presentation, pdf capability and a few other utilities including a drawing program. Did I mention the price is FREE?
By the way, your ScotteVest travel vest has pockets for your Smartphone, an mp3 player or a second device, two pockets that will accommodate tablets or one of the small laptops I mentioned in the last paragraph, a digital camera, an auxiliary charging battery unit, flash drives (thumb, SD or others), document pockets, pens, pencils, glasses including a glass cleaning cloth, spare keys or you primary keys attached to a tether in one of the pockets and even a large hidden pocket. Like I said, this one vest can eliminate a purse or an attache case or both. And, since it all fits in the vest without being obvious, you become less of a target for purse snatchers or holdups.
The Bottom Line
So, what have we accomplished through this tip? We've minimally cut what we're going to travel with in half and hopefully more than in half. That also reduces your “bulk” when you travel along with the weight. It will likely save you money if you're traveling by air in the form of extra bag check fees and overweight bag fees. You'll learn how to dress for travel to accommodate just about every scenario and situation.
Even if you travel by train, bus or car, and especially car, you'll travel lighter and more efficiently. You'll be able to carry one bag in and get settled in a lot faster and you'll be able to repack and leave a hotel or wherever you might be staying, faster. Also, you're car won't be overloaded.
You've also learned that there are clothes especially designed for the full-time or frequent traveler. One item in particular will make your travel more convenient, efficient and safer at a very economical cost, especially for a garment that does so much.
Tip #22 of the 52 Weeks to a Simpler Life is . . . travel simple and travel light. Try it! I'm going to wager, once you realize how much easier it makes your travel, you're going to make it your primary way of traveling from this time forward.