“This is my backpack, there are many like it but this one is mine!”
If you are a “backpacker”, or some equivalent, then you have probably seen people lugging around those massive sacks on their backs that hold three weeks worth of clothes suitable for all weather conditions. Plus they have everything from mats to sleep on and 2 liter indestructable Nalgene bottles to full on suitcases big enough to crawl into.
I was once on of these people. I too set out with a new bag that went from above my head to below the backs of my knees. Inside, everything was new and some socks were still in the wrapping. I had a micro fibre towel that supposedly dried in an instant and I had enough over the counter drugs to put the corner pharmacy to shame. Included were many pairs of jeans that I liked very much and all of my favorite t-shirts. Of course I might need shoes for all different occasions and environments. You might be getting the point by now since you might have packed like this yourself even for a short weekend much less a round the world journey that would span at least four to five continents.
In case you are reading this to consider on how to plan for your trip and are wondering what to pack, let me just give you a few obvious (only to me now) pointers, and later I will give you the short story of how I changed my ways and reduced my luggage from the kind of thing armies train with to something more practical that will make you the envy of most people in the hostel, and everyone who has ever had their luggage lost by an airline company.
1. Pack light, really really light, as in less than airlines restrictions for carry-on luggage. There are a few trick around this like wearing your heaviest clothes, such as shoes and jeans, on travel days.
2. Most of the things you think you will need, you don’t. Sorry if it sounds rude but it is the cold truth that you should consider before you are carrying a coat around the tropics for three months.
3. Most of the things you will need, you can get them along the way and usually for cheaper and at a more useful time and place. There is no need to carry a bottle of asprin with 100 pills in it when every corner shop in every country carries them. Same goes for most clothes.
4. Clothes! This is the item that will take up most of the space in your bag. I can go on about this all day but just to highlight some of the big issues. If you carry two weeks worth of underwear then by the time you need to do laundry because you are out of undies, you will have nearly two weeks work of dirty laundry sitting beside you every night while you sleep. Now multiply the dirty underwear scenario out to a full two weeks worth of clothes rotting away on your back and stinking up the clean things that might still exist in your bag.
As I said before I once set off around the world with a round the world ticket in hand and it took me nearly five months of carrying it around before I got fed up and shipped it home full of things I was not using.
I had made my way through New Zealand, Australia, South East Asia, and was two weeks into India when I found my self on the side of a road somewhere about six hours north of Delhi and my sleeper bus had broken down. A few short hours and a bus that I swear I had seen being used as a local bus on the streets of Delhi showed up and picked us up to complete our journey north. Somewhere in the next fourteen hours of the bus ride with my massive backpack on my lap and another small backpack on my lap, I just snapped. I made a vow that when I returned to Delhi later that month I was getting rid of that burden. And I did. A few weeks later I was in Delhi and had my backpack wrapped in linen cloth, as they do, and sent it back home. From that day forth I have travelled out of the smaller bag, my thirty liter backpack.