Although the backpackers had a lot less stuff with them, I believe that has more to do with the fact that they have to carry everything with them all the time than it is the result of a restrained or more conscious packing mode. And, of course, some backpacks still are large as a lorry while others can actually be picked up without too much effort with one hand.
It appears that the difference does not necessarily lie with the manner in which they enjoy to spend their vacations, but in a mindset that prevails when they choose what to take with them – and what to leave behind for a while.
I realise that each type of vacation, be it city trip, business travel, hiking adventure, family holiday, or others, have their own demands and restrictions. While I’m not the most typical example, let’s have a look at how I usually pack, and if that brings me joy to get this topic off the ground. I used to travel a lot on business, and have a preference for vacationing in off-the-grid places where I can be alone with myself in nature, but not too remote for creature comforts. I’m certainly not the “backpack and pitch my tent anywhere flat” kind of guy, rather more the “remote cabin with easy access but limited number of people” type.
Since I travel fairly often, I personally don’t have to worry overly about the validity of my passport, but it pays to check things like passports, visa requirements, vaccines, and such things a good time ahead of time. These things can take a lot of time, depending on where you are going, and I have heard of people who had to step away from vacations because they simply couldn’t get their vaccination done in time.
I usually start about a week ahead of time to plan what specific things I need, and make sure that I have them at hand. Think: small bottles of shampoo or shower gel that pass the airport security criteria, any medication you need, that kind of thing. A week gives you enough time to provide those without having to rush off when you are packing your bags.
If you are not a frequent traveller, maybe even get a little list started to write down anything that comes to mind for when it’s time to pack? That could be a good way to take the stress of packing away from you as it will allow to let things come to you more naturally.
When it’s time to pack my bags, I put everything out on a flat surface (the living room floor turns out to be a brilliant place to do this) and gradually add what I think I will need. That includes everything, from wool socks to phone charger, from toiletries to sunhat. Everything! [This is where that list comes in handy, by the way!] And then I leave it there for a while, giving myself a chance to pass by and review what is there, and add whatever I suddenly realise I have missed.
I usually check the local weather forecast for the place I’m going to visit and adjust the wardrobe to fit.
From here on in, I might be doing something most people don’t consider: I remove some of the stuff I put out because it either does not fit the weather forecast, or I have overestimates how much I really need, or I reconsider that I actually do not want to carry around that much stuff with me,… there are a lot of reasons why I can simmer it down, and I take every opportunity I can find.
In some cases, that might feel like a superfluous luxury, but that’s a result of this restrained packing system and can’t be helped. If need be, I’ll buy something cheap that I can leave behind, or that can be easily rolled up and used at home as well – or as a small/light piece of clothing for my next vacation.
The important thing to keep in mind at this point is simple: a holiday suitcase should never contain any items that fall under the broad category of “what if” or “just in case”. If I am lacking something that turns out I need, I can either make do with something I have or I’ll simply go and buy a cheap replacement. Maybe neither option is quite ideal, but it will do, for now.
I have also found that I’d rather pay a small amount for having business shirts cleaned in a hotel than carrying an inordinate number of shirts in the first place. The same applies if I’m travelling privately: it’s amazing how refreshing it is to lug less stuff around and to get freshly washed clothes brought to my room halfway through my time away from home. If I find myself going somewhere without this kind of services, I take a small bag of washing powder and use the sink for an emergency wash. It may not be up to the usual standard, but it will be clean and it will smell fresh!
The basic concept that separates me from many other, I believe, is this: I have come to the conclusion that I don’t worry overly about the conventions I live by when I’m at home. I’m on vacation, for goodness sake! At home I might worry if I’m wearing the right clothes for the occasion, but on vacation I live by the premise that I’ll make do with what I’ve chosen to take with me.
This philosophy has served me well over the years. It also has an effect on what exactly and how much I pack into my pack, bag or suitcase when I get ready. Of course, not every trip is similar, but even if you are required to take a beautiful outfit for that night at the opera you have planned, that does not mean you’ll have to take your whole wardrobe and everything in the kitchen drawers, too! There will always be essential items, basics and extravagant extras; they should be dealt with in different ways:
The main point to keep in mind is this: you are on vacation! When you are home, all your stuff is at arm’s reach. ALL of it! Travelling means that you have a limited selection and that is truly a wonderful thing. Don’t worry about things you don’t have with you, but make things work with what you’ve got.
In the end, it’s – once again – all about being able to take decisions and stick with them. It’s really no different from decluttering. Being on vacation is an exceptional situation and should really be treated as such. Be a maverick: dare to dress badly! Make do with the rest of the toothpaste for three days! Wear the same shorts for a week!
If you think anyone will care, think again: the only one worried about this is you!
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.