Traveling Lighter

Within the past year’s worth of traveling I have started traveling lighter, paring down the amount of stuff I take, and it has really improved the travel experience! Rewind to last year’s trip to Japan – I took my North Face backpack. It’s large enough that I had no trouble fitting in the proverbial kitchen sink. My thinking at the time is that I wanted a backpack that I could take anywhere. And that could fit my DSLR camera, lenses, and other electronics. My backpack would be a constant companion which I would take everywhere. Here’s a list of stuff I took in the backpack:

  • Tablet
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Kindle
  • Sony A77 DSLR
  • 16-50mm lens
  • 10-20mm lens
  • 100-200mm lens
  • 35mm lens
  • Spare battery
  • Cellphone
  • 2 Chargers
  • Extra cellphone battery
  • Assorted cables and card readers
  • Notebook
  • Pens and pencils
  • 2DS and 3 games
  • Earbuds and MP3 player
  • Water bottle
  • Small bag with medicine, bandaids, lipbalm, gum, etc.

The backpack was large, but handled all that gear with ease. The main problem was that it was HEAVY. Also, my camera gear was stuffed into the main compartment which meant that is wasn’t easy to take out and use. Plus, walking around in the summer heat in the city just wasn’t so practical. I still thought I wanted to bring all my stuff with me, but what a hassle it was!

I remember a previous trip to Japan. That trip I decided to just take a waterproof point-and-shoot camera. That was actually a super-fun vacation! And the small camera was a big part of it. Sure, the picture quality wasn’t close to my DSLR, but I enjoyed my trip quite a bit more. I didn’t have to worry about the weight or how to carry all my gear. I just put the camera in my pocket and was all set! Thinking back to that trip, I wonder why I didn’t connect my enjoyment of that trip and the small camera.

In April, I went on a business trip to Stockholm, Sweden. Because I thought this might be my one chance to go there, I should take my DSLR kit and big backpack again. I thought that I didn’t want to miss a great shot. I also took a small Fujifilm X-F1 compact camera as a backup. As you can probably see, camera gear is an important part of my travel kit…

This was a trip where I learned a lot about what kind of traveling I wanted to do in the future. Once again, the backpack was heavy and I rarely used the big camera rig. It was just too much of a hassle to keep at-the-ready. My compact camera was my camera of choice for most of the trip. In fact, the DSLR stayed in the hotel safe! And I have to say, I was happy with the results I got from the Fujifilm X-F1. The photos were more than “good enough”. And I didn’t have to worry about where to put my backpack when we went out for dinners. I left it at the hotel.

My next trip was a solo trip to California to visit my folks and see a concert. I was catching on to this “travel light” concept by this time! I decided to leave the backpack at home and just bring my small Patagonia bag and my Fujifilm X-F1. Also, I took my Kindle, Tablet, keyboard, various cables, card readers and chargers. Traveling lighter was definitely something I was starting to enjoy! And the photos turned out great! Hey, I don’t need the DSLR and all the lenses to enjoy photography!

On my last trip, I went to Stockholm again on business. This time I pared down even more. I left my tablet/keyboard at home. My camera was now my Fujifilm X100T. I also didn’t take a water bottle… why do I need that when there is water available wherever I went? I only needed one small USB cable and plug. My only personal computing device was my cellphone. (I did take a work laptop, but that was used exclusively for business) Here’s what was in my bag:

  • Fujifilm X100T
  • USB cable/plug
  • Spare battery
  • Pen
  • Notebook
  • Kindle
  • Earbuds
  • Cellphone
  • Cellphone battery
  • Small bag with medicine, bandaids, lipbalm, gum, etc.
  • Work laptop

My carry-on bag (the Patagonia Minimass) was so light! And when I was on my day off in Stockholm, I didn’t even carry my bag. Just the camera across my body, cellphone, and extra camera battery in my pants’ coin pocket. It was great not having a bag! And I enjoyed myself even more. My shoulders didn’t hurt, I didn’t have to worry about a bag in small shops or crowded museums. I’ve come to realize that having more stuff just gets in the way of having better experiences. It’s not only the distraction of the extra weight, but the distraction of extra things to think about. The less I have, the less I have to worry about. And that means more time and mental energy to spend on simply enjoying where I am. If you haven’t done so, try traveling lighter. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that you can get by with so little!

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