Travelling Light Redux

13kg of luggage

What 13kg of luggage looks like… © Jo James

Earlier this summer I attempted to travel light on a six-week trip to Northwest China. On the day I left Hong Kong, my backpack weighed 9kg (20lb), and my camera bag weighed 4kg (9lb). Strictly speaking, I would not call this ‘light’, but I was able to carry everything and walk without staggering, which was all I really needed.

However, while in Tashkurgan in Xinjiang, I met a depressingly stylish French girl who was travelling with an even smaller bag, disproving my initial idea that travelling light and travelling in style were mutually exclusive. After interrogating her about the contents of her luggage and after my own experience on the trip, here are my conclusions about the Great Travelling Light Experiment:

  • You really don’t need much stuff in life, but you need even less when you’re travelling
  • Clothes that are easy to wash or that don’t show the dirt are wonderful
  • Sometimes you will find yourself wearing everything you have with you, but this does not matter
  • I need to get a lighter laptop
Fully-laden © Jo James

Fully-laden, still smiling © Jo James

I really enjoyed the freedom of having only a few things with me. It was easier to move, to unpack and re-pack, and I felt lighter and more carefree as a result. I’ll definitely try again, but next time I’m going to aim for an even lighter bag and a modicum of style – my too-short trousers had really started to annoy me by the end of the trip…

Anyone else out there tempted to give it a try?

* * *

The table below compares what my French friend and I had in our bags. A few things are missing from my list, while there is nothing missing from hers:

Stylish French Girl Me
1 pair of skinny jeans 1 pair of too-short green combat trousers
1 pair of too-big shorts
1 pair of leggings
1 vest top 1 vest top
1 t-shirt
1 long-sleeved top
1 thick Marinière jumper 1 hoodie
1 sleeveless down jacket
Underwear, presumably French Underwear, definitely English
1 enormous scarf 1 artificial silk scarf
iPhone Laptop
Biggish camera Bigger camera, with spare lense
Shampoo Miniatures of everything in my bathroom cupboard
A book
Converse sneakers Converse sneakers

9 responses to “Travelling Light Redux

  1. thank you for those two lists, very interesting! aren’t jeans not very practical for travel, as when they get wet they get heavy and dry slow? I never took jeans on a trip, always pants made of fast-drying, technical fabrics. the vest+hoodie combo works as well as a t-shirt (when you put the hoodie around your neck – it keeps your shoulders warm and covered and does not take space in your bag when it’s on you. so I never take t-shirts but take vests and supplement them with a hoodie on the top when I feel I need to look modest, or to feel warm. large scarf is a great travel companion, doubles up as a sarong, a dupatta/head cover (for Muslim countries) or a light blanket (for long bus/train journeys when you just want to cover yourself and curl up on your seat). must be natural material ie without static electricity, not slipppery and not easily flammable like artificial silk 🙂 here you are! my tips 😀

    • Thanks for sharing your tips! I have mixed thoughts on jeans for travelling – I agree that they get heavy when they’re wet, and dry very slowly, but when you’re travelling somewhere very dry (like Xinjiang or Tibet) then they’re pretty good – the fabric is tough, they don’t show dirt and (depending on the jeans) are really comfy too… My artificial silk scarf was an emergency purchase after I lost another scarf en route – never buying one again though, as it kept slipping off!

  2. I bet your laptop was the heaviest (friggin’) thing. 🙂 As a cyclist who has biked for several wks., sometimes camping, most of time in hotels, b’n’b’s, yes absolutely it is possible and necessary to travel light.

      • No, my partner brings his laptop.

        And now, my latest camera has a 32 gig memory that I can take several hundred photos and don’t have to offload to computer.

        As for checking emails, when we bike (or snowshoe in winter), we tend to stay at hotels that offer a common computer for guests. At least I can can check emails..and respond to blog comments. 🙂

        I don’t have an iPhone and have no need to be hooked to the Internet by a mobile device even in my home city.

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