Live out of less than a suitcase... forever (how to)

15/09/2012 18:14

Almost everything that you've packed in your suitcase you can do without. Start by swapping your large suitcase for one no more than half the size. Don't buy a new smaller one, someone will be happy to swap their small one for your larger case, since people have that tendency to overpack. A small and light, old Paddington-style handheld case without wheels is best, if not essential. This kind of modern antique is one that many people will have buried in their loft, and would probably donate it happily if you give them a reason to dig it out. Wheels and telescopic handle mechanisms alone make for unecessary suitcase weight; lift an empty modern suitcase and carry it for a while – you'll realise. Plus, wheels will only break under weight, and their illusory convenience encourages you to pack more than you would in a handheld. So wheels knock out a poor psychology. Those evil little wheels! Do without a mainstream case and insist on lightweight luggage simplicity, be it clean or dishevelled.


If you're already on the move and have too many things, shed them! Or, keep all the junk and find someone to lug your suitcase around for you (and don't read on... that's no fun). Get rid of the miscellanous so-called useful items that you've already assured yourself that you'll use, but in reality, when travelling, you won't. Sell them in second hand shops, on free-to-advertise websites, using local signs, by word of mouth with the people you meet, flog them on the street, swap them for food and things you actually need where you are. Your watch, spare jumper, hairdryer, that book you never read, second pair of shoes... you'll be glad when they cease to exist. My method of super-light packing comes from experience. I learned the hard way – carrying a large wheeled suitcase containing formal and casual gentleman's wardrobe, small library of books and large hardback English dictionary. As a writer it was shedding the dictionary that was the most difficult. But, as Henry Miller wrote: The better the man the more easily he will part with his most cherished possessions. Keep those words swimming around your mind.


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Minimal packing technique: If you're going to a hottish country then pack a pair of light shorts, and one pair of trousers if there's a strong possibility that you'll be attending formal occasions (wear these on your journey to avoid carrying them). Wear one shirt and carry a spare. Three lots of underwear, six single socks in total. Handwash regularly – these items will dry quickly if the sun is out or the air where you are is warm. String/cord tied between two chairs/trees makes a washing line. Wear your only pair of shoes and your only hat if you suit one. Take the one book that you couldn't live without and would happily read at least five times – learn it by heart, word for word, then give it to someone who'll appreciate its content. Don't take a jumper or a jacket if it's likely to be mild or warmer where your going – you can pick one up cheaply once you're there if desperate, something functional and plain – even better borrow one! Take a laptop if this is an essential for your livelihood, i.e. you work on the go, but choose a relatively light model with a screen no bigger than 12" to save valuable space. Some people might also take a tiny lightweight sleeping bag, depending on the kind of journey you anticipate (e.g. if sleeping outdoors).


Follow this advice and avoid your heart punching through your chest wall whilst your throbbing forearms drag 30kgs of stuff over endless metres of uneven pavement (impeded by a broken wheel of course). And remember the general rule – if you have to get a taxi you've taken too much. You should be able to carry your case for two miles without a problem; without it noticeably slowing you from a quick walking pace. If it does then drop some things into a litter bin. Or forget the bin and entrust them permanently to a rough sleeper; trust me, you won't remember these things in a few days anyhow. Finally, if your suitcase gets stolen then try to think yourself lucky you've been unburdened – and resist that hoarding urge to buy another and fill it up again. Do without, and you'll learn to relish borrowing, swapping, improvising.... you'll meet new people and your mind will be kept sharp.


Now swing your old suitcase as you breeze through the world with a spring in your step.... Traveller, you're free!



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