Organizer (2) ー How to minimize your travel luggage

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The world became smaller and smaller and travelling is more accesible and/or necesary than ever (e.g. while 100 years ago (1914) traveling from London to New York took 5-10 days, nowadays it takes no more than 8 hours (interesting comparative map)

In other words, there are many people who have to think about what to bring in their trip. Although so many things can stay at home (that’s why people tend to clutter), in terms of travelling, we have to make a decision on luggage items and limit them, which is quite difficult, especially when you travel to somehwere you have never been.

Based on my experience as a backpacker (travelled more than 50 countries), I learned so many things including what (not) to take.

In that sense, as one of the ways to organize life, in this entry I would like to share some tips on how to decide what to take in a trip.

Why travel?

First of all, let’s see why we travel. While there are many different reasons, generally speaking there are 3 types of trips: obligation, choice and in between.

(1) 100% Obligation 

Sometimes, there is no other way but travel. In ancient human history, for example, humans had to hunt and escape from predetors so they had to travel to survive. There are also refugees and Internally displaced persons who had to change the place of living for incontrolable reasons.

(* For my work, I had an opportunity to meet refugees. Despite unfortunate fact that the situation of protracted refugee at global level last 26 years on average (UNHCR 2015), and that the life in the refugee camp is quite difficult, people I met were not giving up the hope for better life and exploit their potential).

(2) Mixture of obligation and choice

For a job mission, sometimes one has to travel. Howevre, in comparison to the situation mentioend above, there is certain space to refuse to travel. On the ohter hand, to this date there are still many nomadic people who travel throughout their life.

(*Fortunately, I could meet nomadic people in Mongolia and Mauritania. Although some people I met prefered that lifestyle, due to the loss of their animals, they decided to move to cities to find a job).

(3) 100% choice

On the other hand, there are people who chose to travel, be it for entertainment, learning, work or study.

In this entry, I will touch upon how to organize things to take in a trip, which apply in the case of (2) and (3) (especially the latter), since there is no space for (1) to choose items calmly.

Why organize and limit luggage

The principal benefit of organizing your luggage is to have better agility. Unlike daily life in which you can leave your stuff at home, traveller has to take luggage all the time (with some exception). Imagine if you add 2kg of stuff, it is as if you gained 2kg of weight, and in the same vein if you get rid of 2kg of luggage, you lost the same amount of weight during the trip.

In addition to thinking about the agility, there can be an access problem. For example, sometimes you are not allowed to put your suitcase in shared mini-bus (e.g. Latin America). The risk of stuff getting stolen will increse as you might have to put it somewhere else. Also if you travel by flight, you have to limit your stuff (e.g. 23kg to check in).

Decide the destination and objective of the trip

This is the first step of organizing. If it is for job mission and you need a laptop, you need to carry with a charger (if your destination is other country where they use different outlet, you need converter), which add heavy weight.

On the other hand, if it’s holiday trip, you don’t need to take them (actualy you need to keep anything related to work away to relax). If the objective is very specific (e.g. scuber diving), you need to analyze what to carry.

Of course, sometimes you do not have any specific objective, in which case try to reduce as much stuff as possible (e.g. when I travelled 7 European countries in 2 weeks, I just wanted to know a bit about Europa, and there was no need to carry something special).

The way to travel

Once your travel objecitve is clarified, you can see how to arrive, depending on which you need ot adjust what you carry.

For example, if you travel by a car, it will be relatively easy to carry things as it has more spaces. For flight trip, however, I will recommend to take nothing but a backpack without suitcase. Although you can leave your luggage through check-in, it is not a good choice unless you have to take some kind of liquid or you can leave it in a stable place (locker, hotel, etc.). Having to carry a suitcase during all the trajectory of trip is a big headache.

So the main point is limit your luggage to one backpack. The longer you stay away, the more it becomes difficult to do so, but it is still possible.

Analyze the destination

Then you need to analyze well the destination vis-a-vis your objective. For example, you need to know the weather and temperature during your trip (to know which cloths to take). If the objective is to do something specific (again, like scuba-diving) you need to clarify if you can rent the equipment over there or not (in general yes). If you will stay in a hotel, you might not need a towel, and you could also wash your cloth at hotel. If the hygienes and sanitation condition is not favorable, probably you’d better take some medicines.

Considering those, you also have to decide how much money you need to carry.

Analyze yourself

This is the important step, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach for all. You need to know what you like and/or what you need to do. For example, I have a chronic back pain, so I need to carry an air pillow (which gets smaller when I don’t need it). I also like taking photos, so the destination has something worth taking photos (which is generally the criteria of my trip), I carry my camera (if not, my phone is enough).

Some reference for analysis:
Things to do in MoroccoーBullet TravelーVisit 5 main cities in 4.5 days
 Learning from personal tripーChina and Thailand

Organize and limit luggage

After deciding the objective, analyzing the destination and yourself, you need to choose what you really need to carry. In general, in my trip case (1-2 weeks), I take the following things by category:

  1. Passport (if destination is abroad) and money (analyzed adequate amount) in small purse
  2. REALLY essential cloth in vacuum pack (for 4-5 days regardless of the duration of the trip, considering that I can wash over there)
  3. Travel kit (eye mask, ear plug, air pillow, small teeth brush, some essential medicine)
  4. Charger and phone (and it is important to download map of the destination via, and some information of the site)
  5. Camera (depending on the destination)

That is it, and I carry nothing but a normal backpack (25L) and always leave extra space to put things inside (e.g. food in the destination), as is shown in the third person in the cover image.

Do you find it difficult?

Of course when I started traveling by myself (18 years old, when I was still a materialist), I had no idea about what to carry, so I just followed the list of Japanese guide book (which suggests many things for the security of  Japanese standard). Frankly speaking, it was quite heavy and difficult to move, which demotivated me to walk and get to know different places (which was the whole objective of the trip).

If you have to carry other things, what’s important is to start with essential stuff, and leave some space for souvenir (knowing what kind of souvenir you like to buy is something important). In my case, all I care about now is a magnet of each country I visit.

The lighter your backpack is, the easier to move, and  the agility makes your trip more interesting (at least in my case).

The best way to learn how to organize your stuff is to travel as much as possible and analyze what you need based on the previous trips. Although I managed to understand my essential stuff, I still feel anxious of not carrying other stuff. In that sense, it is a good life-long practice to let go things.

Attention and value added

Pay attention: there are some persons who are minimalists for their trip, whereas they are so much materialists when they don’t travel. So some tips in this entry is one way of organizing things in some specific case (trip).

In the previous entry, (5 conditions to be a materialist), I mentioned that there are at least 5 conditions which make us materialist, including the environment in which one grows up. In the same vein, one can try to be a minimalist in terms of traveling, with some practice.

And as a value added, organizing stuff can be useful not only for the agility but also for the quality of trip with focus, as the same rule applies: you need to analyze the resource (time, money) opportunity (what is available in the destination) and your need to concentrate on what you want to do.

The learning of this time 

To organize and limit luggage of the trip, you need to clarify the objective, analyze the destination and yourself, and then learn with practice what your essential stuff are, which will provide you some agility and concentration during the trip.

Thank you for reading. If you like it, please don’t forget to subscribe. If you have any comment/question, please feel free to leave. Have a great learning!



One thought on “Organizer (2) ー How to minimize your travel luggage

  1. Kanika Bakshi

    You are helping people save money they spend on extra luggage they carry great tips shared by you really appreciate the time and pain you took to write such a wonderful article would really help me to minimise my luggage as I am the one who almost pays extra for the luggage.


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