The Lightness of Packing

On a long journey even a straw weighs heavy. – Spanish Proverb

Excess baggage is a symptom of something we are missing on the inside – a fear that what we bring into this world, except for ourselves, won’t be enough. I learned the hard way that if I didn’t unpack my excess baggage that it would eventually become deadweight. Also, when I packed, I brought too much of everything just in case. Well, the “just in cases” and deadweight tethered me to the ground and left me with the task of finding someone else to carry my bags. It was time for me to lighten my load and enjoy the lightness of packing.

Our planned trip to Greece would be the perfect opportunity for me to learn the lightness of packing. I spent months planning our journey through Greece from airlines both domestic and international, to accommodations, to trains, buses, and ferry schedules, to lists of places we wanted to explore. We are ready….except for packing.

Our REI luggage has been with us on our journeys for years. They are carry on size with a detachable daypack and they can be converted to backpacks, although with the rollers we never used the backpack straps. They are similar to Osprey luggage and I know that our lightweight, easy to pull luggage will probably outlast us.

Along with our luggage, we pack one empty carry on bag each that will return to our home loaded with gifts and inexpensive items we find along our travels. We recently bought packing cubes and used them for all of our car camping adventures because they could be squished between the seats. We always roll our clothes to save room, so the packing cubes will be useful inside our luggage, too.

Notice one of my travel walls in the background? I am going to write a post about how I display the unusual items and photos I take throughout the world. Have you ever seen llama toenails used as a musical instrument? Stay tuned.

Oh, and I think I can remove the Canadian luggage tag from my suitcase, now. Politically, for the last four years of our travels, I identified myself as an adopted Canadian. I am kind of embarrassed to admit it, but it made our travels so much easier.

I read an article by NPR, “15 Things Folks Can’t Live Without In A Pandemic, From Ants To Holy Water”, in which people from around the world took photos of 15 things they couldn’t live without in a pandemic. I thought it would be interesting to take a photo of 15 things I can’t travel without on international trips.

  1. Anti theft purse
    I used to have a small Travelon anti theft purse, but it was too small to hold my iPad, so I bought a Pacsafe purse. It is spacious, and offers RFID protection, plus it has two compartments for a water bottle and a travel size umbrella. And my iPad fits in it comfortably.

  2. Electronics
    I can’t imagine traveling without an iPad and an iPhone. They make traveling so much easier. I download music, movies, and games for long flights. I use Google maps on my phone for directions, both walking and driving. I have many apps for editing digital photos and the WordPress app for writing my blog.
  3. Business cards
    When I visited Japan on a Fulbright Scholarship, everyone handed out business cards. They even had beautiful fabric cases to hold business cards. I bought one, but it remained empty for years, until I found it recently. Now, I have business cards for my blog and can hand out my cards to all of the new friends we make along our paths.

  4. Converter, power strip, chargers, and cords.
    We usually stay in Airbnbs and there are always few wall sockets in the apartments and houses. So, I take a power strip and a converter so I can charge all of our electronics at the same time.
  5. Passports, vaccination cards, and maybe an International Driver’s card
    Of course, our passports must not expire within 6 months before our trips, and there must be blank pages in the passports. Then, we have Yellow Fever vaccination cards, and now CDC vaccination cards for our Pfizer shots. I wish we had electronic vaccination cards to show upon entrance to other countries because it is getting easier to make fake vaccination cards and they are not accepted everywhere. The USA is behind Europe in that respect.
  6. A long scarf
    My scarf is handy for many different things. I can use it as a shawl or light blanket on a long flight. I can wrap and tie it around the tray table and use it as a hammock for my feet so they stay elevated. It can be a head scarf, a beach blanket, or a neck warmer.
  7. Laundry sheets
    Who knew these could be so handy? I used to take liquid pods, but lightweight laundry sheets are much, much better.
  8. Flashlights
    I have several flashlights I take on our travels. I have a rechargeable headlamp, an app flashlight on my phone, and a pen light in my purse.
  9. Compression socks
    You probably think that compression socks are for old people, but we’re old and we are here to tell you they are wonderful for long flights and can even be lifesavers. On an overnight flight to Brazil, my ankles swelled so big that I couldn’t walk.

    When you’re on a long flight (5 hours or more), chances are, you’re not going to move around much during that time. When you’re cramped in a small space and not moving around, circulation between your heart and legs slows down. When circulation slows down, you may experience swelling, tingling, and numbness. The reduced circulation can also put you at risk for pulmonary embolisms and blood clots.
  10. First Aid Kit
    A small bag with bandaids, liquid skin, and ointments for cuts and abrasions. I also have athletic tape for sprains and strains, and Tylenol for pain.
  11. Extra Eye Wear
    I don’t wear glasses, but my husband does. So, we pack extra glasses, and I take extra reading glasses.
  12. Delta Travel Pack
    We are loyal Delta customers. Usually, when we board, we are given a travel pack with ear buds, eye masks, and other little things to make our flight comfortable. I add a few personal things like travel tooth brushes and hand cream.
  13. Portable phone charger.
    I never want to be caught with a low battery and no way to charge it. We use our phones for Google Maps while walking or driving, so I always want to have a charge.
  14. Sims Cards
    Our iPhones are unlocked. When we travel to Europe, we buy Sims cards with unlimited text and calls and usually with 15 GB of data for 30 days. We have used the companies Three and Orange for our Sims cards and both have been easy to set up and use.
  15. Prescription Medicines
    I take vitamins, but my husband has a prescription medicine. He always fills a three month prescription before we travel, because you never know what kinds of delays you may encounter before you travel home.

    The lightness of packing gives me a profound sense of satisfaction. No longer will someone have to carry my excess baggage. No longer tethered to the ground, I think I have a new sense of freedom. And I like it!

    What travel items can you not live without in your travels?

9 thoughts on “The Lightness of Packing

  1. This has been a topic for quite a while now for us, too: what do we really “need”. The less luggage the easier to travel – obviously!
    Since having been stuck in Europe for 1/2 a year in 2020, where my mom cooked homecooked meals e-v-e-r-y day, I changed my perspective. Instead of always eating out, I try to prepare most of my food now myself. That way I know what I am eating, and who I am supporting when buying my food, too.
    During my last trip – 1 month in Panama – I packed aside of the typical essentials (money, passport, pocket-knife, phone, 3 shirts, 1 pair of shoes, 2 pants, 1 underwear, mosquito-stuff, hat, glasses), also, a rice-cooker, a pressure cooker, a decent little kitchen-knife (fixwell, in case that means something to you), and a wooden cooking spoon. Yes, don’t laugh! Two cooking pots!!!
    I don’t want to be in a situation where I have to use non-stick stuff, rice is an easy side-dish to almost anything (I sometimes eat left-over good jasmine or basmati rice all by itself, cold, straight out of the fridge), and I love potatoes (which you can get anywhere) and with the pressure cooker it takes only 10 minutes to cook them.
    Next long time trip, I also want to bring a decent wooden cutting board. I might even bring a scale, too, so I can bake my bread, like I do while at home, or bake some cake or such…

    Yes, yes, yes… different folks, different approaches, different 15+ essentials… 🙂

    Great topic! Thank you!

    • Wow, Thomas! Your packing essentials certainly revolve around food…something I never considered. You packed a pressure cooker? I wrote a post once, on my Nicaraguan blog, about what we brought to Nicaragua that we considered essentials for living. Many of the items were food related. A good knife is imperative! I always find it interesting to see what people pack…even for short trips. We are going to Iceland in November and we have been warned to never, ever eat out in a restaurant because the meals are outrageously expensive. So, we are packing our coffee and buying liquor at the duty free shop at the airport, and shopping at Costco in Iceland for our food.
      I really enjoyed your array of unique items. Thanks.

      • Ha ha ha! You are right! But, hey, food is something we all need 2, 3 times a day. And as you know, the local Central American food is mostly meat, often fried. When i go to India no food item is coming with me. A suitcase full of spices is coming back, though… never noticed that food is such a topic for me! But, apparently it is! 😝😇🤪

      • Definitely — And, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this blog on Travel Light — My definite Must Have essential is a small travel neck pillow – -allows me a comfortable night’s sleep no matter how stiff, hard, non-existent a hotel pillow may be. Also — as I call it: My all-purpose sarong. It’s a large, non-wrinkly one from my trip to Bali. Used for nearly everything in addition to being a sarong — emergency sheet (in case the hotel sheets are so thin you can see through them), quick-dry towel, pillow, shawl, rain cover….

        • Yes! Definitely a travel pillow. I forgot to add that when we were in Uruguay, the pillow in our Airbnb felt like a rock, so I bought a small pillow and case for traveling. I take it with me everywhere. Your suggestions are once again, perfect for globe trotting travelers. Thanks, Mary.

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