15 April 2012

The Luggage Experience

This week, I was in the US for a business trip. For some reason, there are no direct flights from Paris to Las Vegas, so I had a 16 hour journey with one train and two flights ahead. I decided to put myself to a challenge in order to make this long trip as easy as possible: go with nothing but a small cabine luggage and a tiny pouch.

I was packing for 3 days, but I needed to take my work PC and some business papers with me, so fitting all the rest in this small cabin luggage was quite hard. If I wanted to win that challenge, I had to focus on what I would actually use.

I ended up with roughly this:
  • In my luggage: PC, charger, adapter, camera, business papers, 2 books and 2 magazines, a black shirt and T-Shirt, a spare pair of jeans, 4 days worth of underwear, a travel-size make-up box, a transparent pouch containing a  toothbrush, cream, small perfume bottle, deodorant and band-aid.
  • In my purse: Passport, a book, flight and train tickets, credit card and bus pass, nuts (in case of hunger attack), US visa for foreign visitors, trip schedule notebook, home keys, pen and mobile phone.
  • On me: clothes, belt, shoes, accessories, multi-purpose scarf (I'll talk about this great finding later), costume jacket.

How did the experience go?

First, I had to cut away a lot of extra stuff I wanted to bring, such as  an extra pair of shoes, evening clothes, a Nintendo DS... I ended up stripping away everything I "might need", and only kept what I "will need". It was a very good exercise because it made me realize how much - or how little -  stuff I really needed for a Tuesday to Saturday trip.

And, now that I am back, I must say that I used quite everything I brought (except for the extra book), and I had all I needed at hand, no shortage there.

Second, I experienced a unexpected anxiety over the few hours before I left. Leaving with so few things actually made me nervous about forgetting something. What if I need this, or that? Maybe bringing as much of our stuff along when we travel make us feel safe when we are away from home.

But only a few hours into the journey, anxiety was replaced by relief and freedom: I didn't have to check anything in, my small luggage wasn't any trouble to carry around (it has wheels, too). My stuff was also easier to get controlled at customs and unpacked at the hotel, and I didn't have any trouble choosing what to wear in the morning.

And, even better, on my way back, the fact that I didn't have any luggage checked in to retrieve allowed me to catch an earlier train back home, making me save 2 hours of waiting at the train station.

So, in the end, this small luggage experience was a huge success. I realized that I didn't need that much stuff around, and it also made me realize that I didn't need to buy anything either. For the first time in many travels abroad, I didn't purchase anything at the airport duty-free shops, nor anything on site (exept for food and casino chips).

Less stuff does mean more freedom, and more time.

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