The Virtue of Traveling Light

En Route: The Virtue of Traveling Light
Everything I brought nearly managed to fit in this simple Dickies day pack.

UBUD, Indonesia — As my time in Ubud drew to a close and I prepared to bid adieu to the endearingly cute homestay I briefly called home, I was glad to be traveling light.

Packed and ready to go, I sat on the edge of one of two queen-size beds and marveled at how compact, how simple my life was at the moment.

While one school of thought says that you only carry luggage getting to and from your hotel, my open-ended schedule meant I often won’t know where I’m staying, whether there’ll be a hotel and how long I’ll have to haul my belongings before I can rest.

Before I set off for Asia, Josh and Nathalie each offered some helpful hints. (They also had some great travel camera recommendations.)

Nathalie said:

      “If there’s one piece of advice I could give you is to travel light. Very light. If you don’t need camping gear, there’s no need to take more than 30L of stuff. I only have a small carry on backpack and it’s made traveling around so much more enjoyable. I see these people struggling with 70L packs and it’s a nightmare. I just

hop on a motorbike

    and I’m good to go.”

Josh suggested a different tack: A waterproof Ortlieb duffle or portage bag with backpack straps.

“This will be what you keep everthing you own in,” he said. “Check it in and only carry when you have to, but it’ll be light and nearly empty so you can fill it along the way with [stuff] you buy.”

I had made a couple of trips to Paragon Sports in New York with the purpose of researching packs. While there were some great and reasonably priced backpacks for all budgets and itineraries, I decided to borrow my brother’s Dickies top-loading knapsack. Water resistant, it featured plastic buckles and a drawstring. Nothing fancy, it held approximately 20L of stuff.

I didn’t plan on acquiring many keepsakes, so I packed the following based on Josh’s recommendations, which filled a good 90 percent of the pack:

  • 2 pairs of pants with zip-off legs (one quick-dry Mountain Hardware, one cotton Columbia)
  • 2 button-down shirts (one wrinkle-free Uniqlo cotton, one Outdoor Research vented quick-dry)
  • 1 pair of running shorts (Nylon, for swimming or sleeping)
  • 1 quick-dry Outdoor Research baseball cap
  • 3 t-shirts (two short-sleeved, one long-sleeved, both cotton)
  • 3 boxers (two cotton, one quick-dry ExOfficio, whose product touts, “17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of underwear.” Eeeeek! So far, so good.)
  • 3 pairs of socks (two Wigwam short hiking, one short cotton)
  • 1 pair of flip-flops (75,000 rupiyah, about 82 cents, from a warung between Borobudur and Prambanan)
  • 1 pair of hiking shoes (Merrell Ozzy, black and orange with Vibram soles, on sale at Paragon)
  • 1 sweater (wool, gray, v-neck)
  • 1 small first aid kit (I could’ve made my own much more cheaply)
  • 1 bottle of Pepto-Bismol pills (still unopened)
  • 2 point-and-shoot cameras (a Canon PowerShot G9 and a Richoh GR Digital II, which both fit in my backpack’s top pocket)
  • 1 Nikon lens (either the 12-24mm or the 18-70mm, whichever I wasn’t using on the D200, which I carried on my shoulder all the time)
  • 2 travel journals
  • 1 iPod Nano (with audio books loaded, thus far unlistened-to)
  • 1 iPod Touch 8GB (second generation, for Skype, e-mail and blogging)

This list, I just realized, would also come in handy were I to go missing. Should’ve thought of that sooner. Ah, well.

Next stop, via my trusty local driver, Komang: The black-sand beaches of Amed.

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