FEATURE 02 January 2010

Learn how to Lighten your Load

Why Travel Light?
Of all the travel skills you might acquire, travelling light is the one most likely to result in an enjoyable, productive, stress-free travel experience. For two thousand years, seasoned travellers have written of its many benefits, including ...

With a greatly reduced need to check baggage (or otherwise entrust it to the care of others), you are much less likely to lose your belongings to theft, damage, or misrouting. Similarly, you foil those who would enlist your unsuspecting aid as a conveyor of contraband goods. Achieving peace of mind is rarely this easy!

You don't have to pay porters and others to carry and store stuff for you. You eliminate extra baggage charges (and many airlines now charge for all checked baggage). You are more able to take public transportation (even from airports, just like airport personnel and flight crews), rather than taxis and limos. You can even walk. All of which also bring you into more intimate (hence rewarding) contact with the people and places that you have come to visit.

Less stuff means greater mobility, which gives you more travel options. You needn't arrive at airports as early. You can board trains, trams, and coaches with alacrity. You can more easily deal with delayed transportation and missed connections (because you can choose alternatives without worrying about what will happen to your belongings); you can also switch to earlier flights when space is available. You can sell your seat (by volunteering to be "bumped") on full flights. You can travel as an air courier. You will be among the first to leave the airport, while others wait for baggage delivery and long customs inspection queues. And you won't feel compelled to take the first hotel room offered: you can comfortably walk down the street should the ambience be unsuitable or the price unreasonable.

If there is a bottom line, it's that travelling light is simply a better, more hassle-free way to go. You have more time, because packing takes little. You waste less energy hauling stuff. You know what you have, and where everything is (as you pack your bag the same way every time). We've all seen those hapless folks at the airport, with too much baggage and panicked expressions, worried that they have lost track of something, or left something behind. Foreign travel in particular can be challenging because it is unfamiliar and unpredictable, but the one-bag traveller copes by operating from a solid, familiar foundation, with fewer unnecessary things to worry about.

Ecology: All of the above are concerned with short-term benefits to you. But travelling light also yields long-term benefits to the planet. Less stuff to manufacture. Less use of vehicles and other machinery to move things (including you) around. Less fuel for the vehicles that do move you. Less greenhouse gas production. Less damage to our celestial home. Greater likelihood of upcoming generations being around to do some travelling of their own.

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