Tammy Strobel 2/5

How to Travel Lightly 

Tammy Strobel is a writer, photographer, and teacher. She created her blog in late 2007 to improve her writing and to share her story. In her second blog she shares her story about how to travel lightly.

You’ll never meet a traveler who, after five trips, brags: “Every year I pack heavier.” The measure of a good traveler is how light he or she travels.

— Rick Steves

On September 24, 2014, I boarded a plane to Salt Lake City, Utah to visit my friend Courtney Carver. On the plane, my seatmate and I started talking about where we lived and our respective trips. She lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas and was flying back home. She’d taken time off from work to visit her son and grandchildren in Etna, California. I smiled and explained that I lived outside of Yreka, which isn’t too far from Etna. We both remarked how small the world is. Our commonalities led to a discussion about traveling lightly. My seatmate boarded the plane with a small, flowered backpack and a tiny purse. I had a small backpack and a purse, too.

She laughed when I told her about the things I traveled with in the past. In my early 20s, I didn’t travel lightly. I was the girl at the airport who had two carry-on bags stuffed to the max, as well as a huge piece of luggage that I checked at the counter. I usually had a big duffel bag stuffed with clothes, a laptop case, and a big purse. It was too much stuff to handle, and when I arrived at my destination, the majority of my clothes, books, and gadgets sat untouched for most of my journey. Or, I’d waste an inordinate amount of time fretting over what outfit I wanted to wear to dinner.

Now, I travel lightly. Before I leave for any type of trip, I ask myself two questions:
1. What will I be doing?
2. What type of climate will I be in?

Today, I want to share the specific belongings I carry on my trips. It will give you an idea that it is possible to travel lightly.

Let’s get started!

1. The backpack. I use a lightweight, frameless, black backpack called the REI Flash18. The bag is 16 x 9.5 x 8 inches, and it has one main compartment. The bag weighs less than 12 ounces, and it’s perfect for extended trips or for day hikes near my home. Plus, it has an internal sleeve and my notebook computer slips easily into the sleeve.

2. The purse. In addition to my backpack, I also carry a blue purse. It’s handy because the straps are adjustable, so it also doubles as a backpack. It’s big enough (12 x 11 inches) to hold extra belongings, like my water, and extra clothing in case I get cold. My purse is the just the right size to carry my essentials when I’m exploring a new city.

3. Clothing. Before I leave for a trip, I check the weather forecast. For instance, my trip to Salt Lake City lasted four full days, and the forecast indicated it would be warming during the day, and the evenings would be cool. To prepare for the varying weather conditions, I packed:

  • three dresses
  • two t-shirts
  • two long-sleeved shirts
  • one pair of leggings
  • undergarments
  • a vest
  • one pair of walking shoes
  • one pair of sandals

When it was warm during the day, I wore my dress, and if I got chilly, I slipped on my leggings, a long-sleeved shirt, and my vest. Packing clothing that I can layer is a smart strategy when the weather is variable.

4. Work gear. For the last few years, I’ve been using my iPhone camera exclusively for travel photography. Also, I write and edit photos on my notebook computer. In addition, my Midori Traveler’s Notebook—which doubles as my journal and wallet—is essential to my travel set-up, especially when I’m working on the road. And last but not least, I love to read, so I either bring my Kindle or one book.

5. Toiletries. I have a small 5 x 7-inch blue pouch that I use for toiletries such as deodorant, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a comb, and clips for my hair. I don’t wear make-up or blow dry my hair often, so that decreases the number of items I carry on trips. Also, I leave my shampoo and conditioner at home because I use what is provided at a hotel or at a friends abode.

Parting words …
When I travel, I no longer fret about my stuff. Instead, I focus on the people and places I’m visiting. I love to travel, and traveling lightly has helped me free my attention to notice the beautiful sites that surround me. When I traveled with bags and bags of stuff, it was difficult to enjoy my trip.