Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Travelling Light, Redux

People in an airport

Each year for the last four, I’ve been taking week-long trips to the United States from New Zealand. What’s ironic is that during that time I’ve yet to return to Canada, the country of my birth …

Those four trips have been for a couple of events — an unconference and documentation sprint in 2013, and to attend a conference called All Things Open in 2014, 2015, and 2016. With the latter three trips (and the few I’ve taken within New Zealand during that time), I’ve been trying to see how lightly I can travel.

While I’m not obsessed with carrying as little as possible, I do want to find how much I actually need to take with me when I travel. Those experiments have had mixed success over the last three years.

I’d like to share my latest adventures in travelling light with you.

My Last Trip

As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, that trip saw me head to Raleigh, North Carolina in October, 2016. I attended a conference called All Things Open and met with the moderators and team at Red Hat, the company that supports, paid my freight on both legs of that trip. This time ‘round, all of my flights were aboard United Airlines.

I don’t know if you’ve ever flown United, but whenever I do the overhead bins are usually full when I get to my seat. That makes travelling with as little as possible very important. If I can’t fit my bag under my seat when necessary, I have to check it. And I don’t want to do that.

Here’s a photo of what I took with me:

Stuff I took with me to Raleigh

All of that, starting from the top left, is:

  • Three pairs of underwear
  • Three t-shirts
  • A toiletry bag
  • My laptop
  • A hoodie
  • Three pairs of socks
  • My ebook reader
  • A water bottle
  • A USB charger
  • A pair of USB cables for charging my phone and ebook reader

There was also a pair of light travel pants buried under the pile of t-shirts.

All of that was going into these bags:

The bags I carried it all it

From left to right:

The hoodie, laptop, and electronics went into the pack, while I put my clothes into the Rolo. The nifty thing about the Rolo is that it rolls up into a tight cylinder, which I can then strap the my pack.

What about the EDC pouches? My brilliant idea was to attach them to the straps of my pack. They’d hold my phone, my wallet, my passport and boarding passes, a notebook, my glasses, and a couple of pens. Those items would be easy to get to — I wouldn’t have to fumble around for them. That was the idea, at least. More on this in a moment.

How Did That Work Out?

Overall, it didn’t work out too badly. It was the first time I travelled with the Rolo and it worked well. My trusty 25 litre pack yet again didn’t let me down, and I used it as a day pack and to carry my laptop around at the conference.

I probably could have gotten away with carrying a bit less — one less pair of socks and one less t-shirt, and perhaps leaving the extra pair of pants behind. I wouldn’t have gone around in smelly clothes, in case you’re wondering. I always bring a small bottle of castile soap and a travel clothesline with me to do laundry when I travel. On top of that, I usually snag a free t-shirt or two at the events I attend. I only took the extra pair of pants in case the ones I was wearing got dirty or torn. They didn’t.

Three paragraphs ago, I alluded to the fact that the experiment with the EDC pouches didn’t work out in the way I thought it would. A big part of it was that I couldn’t securely lash the pouches to the straps on my pack. The ties kept coming loose and the pouches slipped down the straps. On top of that, the two pouches were bulkier than I thought they’d be. In the end, the EDC pouches were a bit more trouble than they were worth, at least in the way that I used them.

Lessons Learned

I do like the freedom that travelling light gives me. And if I can lighten that load just a bit more, all the better.

On my next trip, whenever and to wherever that is, I’ll probably wind up taking a couple of fewer items of clothing. I might leave the ebook reader at home and read on my phone. I might also forego carrying a laptop and instead take a tablet, a portable stand, and a folding Bluetooth keyboard.

I’m also not ready to give up on the EDC pouches yet. On my next trip, I might carry one and find a way to better lash it to my pack. Or just come up with a better way to carry it.

Regardless, my trips over the last few years have reinforced the keys to travelling light that I outlined in a previous post. I’m going to keep doing that until I get it right.

(After I got back from my last trip, I noticed that Leo Babauta published an ebook called Ultralight: The Zen Habits Guide to Travelling Light and Living Light. The book is worth its $4.99 price tag and contains some great advice.)

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