Why I Travel Baggage Free

Waiting for my train.

That’s me waiting for my train to New Orleans. A five day trip, and all I brought there and back fit in that one bag.

Back when I lived in San Mateo, I used to ride the bus into San Francisco five days a week. Everyday, twice a day, the bus would make its route around the airport. I loved it! Going to SFO all the time, I dreamt of the day I’d just step off the bus and onto a plane, with nothing but my bag. My passport was on me all the time… just in case.

It wasn’t just my lack of funds and time that stopped me from having random impromptu adventures. It was all my STUFF. Even going in to the city for a day required me to bring a bag much larger than the one pictured above. I had books, my lunch, extra snacks, a water bottle, an extra jacket (because SF has four seasons in a day), electronics, and way too many receipts and random crap that sunk to the bottom of my bag to be forgotten. If I needed all that for 12 hours, then going away for longer required a sturdy piece of luggage for all the things I’d need for days. My flight go-to was always a TSA-approved carry-on roller bag. It was never large, but like a bento box, I was very good at packing a lot into a small space. My bag needed wheels because it was heavy!

I have since become much better at traveling light. These days, I almost never carry a handbag. Going about my day hands-free is wonderful! Many budget airlines now give no allowance for carry-ons and charge for anything besides your personal bag. For this past trip to New Orleans, I took the train down, but flew a budget airline back. With nothing more than my small bag, I avoided baggage fees and the flight was actually cheaper than my train ride. Another plus of having no baggage: Arriving to your destination without having to first go to your accommodation to drop off stuff. You save a lot of time! Let the exploration begin. Like life; the lighter you are, the freer you are. I want to feel as free as possible, which is why I prefer to bring as little baggage as possible.

I have four rules for traveling light:

1: Be clear on your intention when you travel. This will keep you from bringing all the extra things for activities you “hope you’ll get to squeeze in.”

2: Just put that thing down. Even if you do squeeze in that hopeful activity, you probably don’t need it.

3: Travel Undies. Our unmentionables traditionally take up a lot of space. We take a pair of everything for every day we are away from home. Suddenly, half of your bag is underwear. Forget that hassle and invest in travel undies. Hi-tech textiles mean they dry fast and are super comfy. You can wash them when you shower, and by morning they are dry. One pair is all you need, but I take two, because I am not a committed minimalist (yet).

4: (only for the sisters) A menstrual cup. This little invention has COMPLETELY CHANGED MY LIFE. It has made my periods so manageable, and I never need to carry around feminine care products, which would’ve taken up space in my bag and later, space in a landfill. For all the ladies out there, I highly recommend this product.

Other than those packing guidelines, my other thought is that we should all just slow down and be present. So often we think we can utilize the hours spent in transit in a busy way. We either bring a lot of wires and batteries for our electronics so we can catch up on movies and entertainment, or a laptop and files so we can finish some spreadsheet for work. Relax. Refer back to rule #2. Look around. Chat to a stranger. Learn something new. Or just let yourself hear your own thoughts. If you need to do work, try to get it done before the trip or make time to do it after, because work stress is a whole different kind of baggage that you shouldn’t be carrying around. After all, you’re going away to get away.

I will leave you with some Amtrak scenes. Train travel is an awesome way to see whatever country you’re in. Let’s do more of it.

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