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Minimalist travel

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By Tony Samson

IN TERMS of packing efficiency for travel, no category of tourists beats the backpackers. These travelers seem to hew to the doctrine of minimalism, that less is more. They are able to pack clothes and essential needs in luggage strapped on their backs. Thus are they considered the quintessence of economy and efficiency. Suitcase on wheels? How do you drag this through potholed streets in search of cheap rooms or perch it on a park bench?

There are principles backpackers can teach even upscale travelers who stay in hotels with pools and expensive laundry service in how to travel light.

Forget just-in-case attire. What if you are invited to a formal hometown reunion in San Diego — what do you wear? How probable is such a predicament? Such over-preparedness is bound to bulk up traveling bags. Sure, suitcases are now lighter and easy to push around with four wheels in any direction. But packing them to bulging is sure to require a fitness regime to bulk up upper body strength to hoist them out of carousels or into undercarriages of buses.

Recycling allows smaller quantities. Who ever made the rule that clothes should only be worn once and then replaced? Attire is designed to be worn repeatedly, especially if they are plain in color and design. Caution: satyrs chasing nymphs through the woods as a design for shirts will look too obvious at the buffet breakfast three days in a row. The satyrs may even start to look tired.

Consider laundry. There are laundromats to be found in major cities, or certain rental rooms that include washing machines. There is too the bathtub at the hotel. Underwear can be washed while worn in the bathing process. Laundering apparel reduces the number of clothes to pack. Be sure to dry them off first.

Of course, weather determines the volume of packing needed. Summer allows for lighter clothes. But even winter does not require a different sweater for every day of the week. Layering can may make one look like a gift-wrapped puppet but combinations can extend the utility of the various pieces.

The forgetful packer also travels light. She justifies shopping as a way to offset amnesia. This careless approach can be costly requiring the purchases of toiletries and varied missed items like trousers. It promotes the illusion of a spacious suitcase, until she packs for the return trip.

The word for baggage in Latin is “impedimenta” which pertained to all the paraphernalia of food, clothing, wash basins, cooking pans, and even traveling companions following the Roman army going to war. It’s not surprising that this Latin term for baggage became the English word for a burden or hurdle. Guerrilla warfare involves minimal logistics, supply chains and the weight of luggage to speed up the attack, or retreat.

Companies that don’t have much legacy baggage can be first to market. They are called “nimble”, determined to focus on fewer goals and pounce on new technology, unburdened by past investments and supplier commitments.

For TV interviews, the guest, who comes unattended by lawyers and resource persons, projects competence and mastery of his subject. The very absence of thick folders and visual aids demonstrates familiarity with details that can be organized in few and simple declarative sentences.

If traveling light is a virtue, what about dispensing with impedimenta altogether and just live off the land (or relatives) and be open to getting what one needs or can rent from the place to be visited? This minimalist option of choosing not to be weighed down by concerns and extra boots may be the future for travel. Instead of packing, what if the necessities (razors, slippers, paper underwear, and umbrellas) are all provided by the hotel, allowing one to board trains, boats, planes with just a small carry-on bag for a few clothes?

We travel through life even when not needing passports. So our impedimenta of imagined slights, prejudices, and artificial limits of what we can achieve should be disposed of, as they are sure to slow us down. Even memories, especially bad and recurring ones, need to be jettisoned to lighten the mental baggage.

Traveling minimally can be liberating. It allows faster moves and the ability to carry only what you really need, even for rude awakenings. Just go back to sleep.


Tony Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda

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