Traveling Light by Kelly Klein

Traveling is an excellent opportunity to explore our attachment to things and how, with a little faith and flexibility, we can travel with very little and yet have everything we need. The art of traveling, in my humble opinion, is to go as light as possible. Any traveler can tell you that the greatest hassle in moving from place to place is dealing with luggage and weight. So simplify before you leave. You will never regret it. It is our human nature to accumulate more than we need and also take more than we need. It is often difficult to let it go. 

I prefer to travel light and acquire new things along the way as needed.  Last winter I traveled in six different countries, starting on a sailboat in Indonesia with hot weather clothes and then arriving in New Zealand needing cold weather clothes. I stopped in a second-hand shop or two and gave away the hot clothes and replaced them with merino wool pants and tops, wool socks, scarf, and hat, fleece, etc. For $10 USD, I was able to get a new wardrobe and everything I needed. The small expense is well worth the freedom of movement and ease, both physically and spiritually.

Each time I travel I learn a little more about what to take and not. Leaving Ladakh in October, I packed a backpack with less than 7 kilos (15 pounds) for four months of living and traveling. This includes clothing, toiletries, a phone, kindle, a travel camera, cords and my wallet. I previously traveled with my laptop too, but am considering an ipad next time for typing stories and research. 

One winter it was a month in Morocco after housesitting for nearly two months in Portugal and three weeks in Spain. Last winter it was Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. This winter I am starting in Turkey and visiting friends in Serbia where I volunteered with refugees a few years ago, friends in Romania, and then exploring Croatia down to Greece, and visiting another friend in Tunisia before making my way home again. It doesn’t matter where or go or for how long, any trip can be done with less than 7 kilos, which is standard carry-on limit in most countries.

Traveling and living is so much easier. My bag is light weight and small, can sit on my lap in a Moroccan taxi with seven people and can be thrown over one shoulder moving about. Letting go of what we think we might need is a great release. Outside of perhaps specific medicine, anything I need is available pretty much anywhere in the world. Every culture bathes and brushes, washes clothes, wears clothing appropriate to their climate, etc.


 In general, my pack contains the following. Depending on what climate I am starting in or planning to travel in, the items will vary, but not the amount.

- a tank top and sports bra
-  two to three short sleeve tees
- one long sleeve Henley
- thin cotton long sleeve dressier shirt
- long sleeve button-up silk shirt (dress  and warmth)
- a fleece vest (or down jacket depending on travel plans)
- a pullover rain jacket/wind breaker
- 2 - 3 pants, fleece and cotton, (never jeans – too heavy and too hard to hand wash),
- one scarf (for neck, sun, warmth, dress-up)
- one sarong – super important for me (see below)
- two to three underwear
- two socks (one wool, one cotton)
- one pair Chaco sandals.

I layer for cold and can add the wool socks with sandals if needed. I have enough to wear something while I wash the other clothes. The panya (sarong) is an invaluable item. It serves as a towel, top or bottom sheet, skirt, shawl, and I use if for carrying items for small day trips (water bottle, camera, food) rolled up and tie around my waist, for shade, and more as needed.

With such few items you will definatley get bored with the same clothes and seeing yourself in pictures repeatedly with the same clothes for months, but the payoff and freedom is so worth it. And I can always give an item away when I am tired of it and replace it with something from another country, making it more meaningful and memorable. 

When traveling light, the trick is to wash clothes certainly each time you bathe, like a pair of underwear and a t-shirt in the shower/bucket bath with you. The other times I will use the sink or a trash can for a wash bin. So washing out a pair of underwear a day and maybe a shirt is nothing and ready in the morning for repacking. I highly discourage jeans as they are a major pain to hand wash and wring alone and are heavy.

Toiletries, Traveling Light
 Toiletries easily fit into a small bag or the pockets. I never carry shampoo or conditioner but buy small packet samples from local corner stores in most countries, as needed.  Lately, I carry a shampoo bar I use for hair and body. With time, my hair is now happy and healthy with washing only once a week. I always carry one small travel size toothpaste which, used sparingly, can easily last me a month. I can refill my travel size by holding against and squeezing from a larger tube and giving the rest of the large tube to someone else.

Additionally, I carry a comb, natural bristle brush, sometimes a nail clipper and file, a couple safety pins, a travel size deodorant crystal, a couple clothes pins, dental floss (always handy as a clothes line, making shelter with a sarong, or for your teeth of course), a Steripen (ultraviolet light water filter), refillable water bottle, a bamboo fork, knife, and spoon, and a headlamp.

One trick for packing light is to pack your bag a couple weeks ahead of time and then live out of it for the next two weeks before you go. You will get a really good sense of what you need and what you don’t. You will then know what you can leave behind or what you may have forgotten.

I also roll my clothes as it seems to pack much tighter. 

Additionally, despite your natural instincts, do not take your favorite clothes. This way, while traveling, you can give things away when you realize you have too much. You can always pick up new and unique things as needed along the way. No matter what I take with me, I learn that I can pare down even more. It is so much easier to pack and travel light and give and take things as needed. Wherever you go, people wear clothes and have the basic items needed for daily life. It is just a matter of letting go a bit and adapting to each place. When I travel with my Buddhist monk friends, they go with just a shoulder bag. It always impresses me.

Always have money and credit cards and passport copies in a variety of places so you never lose everything in case of disaster (robbery, boat flipping over, car crash, or forgetfulness – leaving your bag at the train station).

Let go! Don’t worry about the hows and what ifs?

Expect and trust in the goodness of all others you meet and your own karma.

Smile, smile, smile!

Learn a few words, at least, to show effort and respect to the local culture (I recommend: hello, thank you, please, no problem, goodbye, and always fun to know and give the blessing for a sneeze).



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