Travelling Light

For as long as I can remember, I've enjoyed travelling while detesting luggage. If it were at all possible, I would try and have things set up so that I never had to carry more than could fit in a single medium-sized backpack, and ideally not even something that large. I don't like my hands being occupied holding things when I'm out an about, as it makes dealing with tickets, drinking coffee, and otherwise navigating the world more difficult. Things strapped to my body are just as bad, as they trap heat and generate awkwardness that leaves me feeling incredibly self-conscious as I try to weave between pedestrians while walking at my regular pace of 7.7km/h. It's for this reason that whenever I do need to travel, be it for business or fun, the goal is to travel as lightly as possible.

An N700-Series Shinkansen

While teaching I would generally have one bag that could hold anywhere between three and nine kilograms depending on the day. Textbooks are heavy, and travelling to companies to deliver lessons would require me to be prepared for several contingencies. Now that I am generally working in development and planning for the day job, a day trip to Tokyo requires no more than a slim bag carrying a small number of tools. Tomorrow I'll be attending almost 8 hours of meetings and travelling on the trains for almost five hours. This is what's packed in my bag:

  • lunch (two sandwiches, an orange, and a small snack)
  • my notebook (duh)
  • an Android tablet that acts as a hotspot
  • an A5-sized notepad
  • two pens
  • Bluetooth headphones
  • deodorant
  • a travel toothbrush set
  • a hand towel

In my shirt pocket I'll have my phone, and on my wrist is a watch. Nowhere will there be power cords, adapters, dongles, or other nuisances as there really is no need for these things anymore. The MacBook Pro can still deliver 8+ hours of battery life so long as I'm not using HDMI or USB ports for very long. The phone, an iPhone 6S, can deliver almost two days on a charge. The Lenovo tablet can give me almost five days as a hotspot before complaining of a low battery. Given that all of these devices are at least three years old and see quite a bit of usage every day — particularly the notebook and the phone — I cannot complain.

However, despite the lack of things that need to be carried for a day trip involving 700km of rail and bus travel, I look forward to a time in the near future when we need to carry even less. When a phone (or tablet) can do everything and "finally" replace my reliance on paper notes. When clothes have built-in anti-stink sensors to ensure that a person doesn't need to re-apply deodorant every five to six hours. When toothbrushes and toothpaste are available at office bathrooms to encourage some better oral hygiene for people who spend all day speaking in close proximity to others.

Travelling to the capital of the country or the other side of the planet with nothing more than a travel pack the size of a one-inch, A4-sized, 3-ringed binder is where I hope we can be in the next decade. The less we have, the less we have to worry about. Travelling light is really the best way to focus on the reason for travel rather than the annoyances.