Today is a travel day.
I’m heading out in a moment to catch a flight to Japan for 10 days. A few days in Sapporo for a conference and then to Tokyo for a Safecast hackathon. I’m bringing one small suitcase that fits in the overhead compartment of the smallest airplanes and a very thin backpack. This is almost identical to the baggage I had with me while we spent December in Europe. Truth is, packing for one or two days is difficult, for anything over 4 days is easy. In fact, I never pack clothes for more than 4 days. I do laundry in my hotel room every night so at any given moment on my trip I have the clothes I’m wearing, a set of clothes drying in the shower, and one or two sets in the closet ready to go. You never need more than that. For this trip, I might even have more gadgets than clothes.
Checking luggage is one of the biggest headaches in air travel. It costs more, you have to wait around for ever to get it, you have to deal with dragging extra bags all over the place, lost or delayed luggage is common and throws giant wrenches into your plans. It’s not worth it. When you have carry on only, checking in is a breeze. Getting out of the airport is lightning fast. Getting from the airport to wherever you are staying is painless. Carry on only is the way to go.
I’ve been preaching this gospel for years and I’m still confronted with people who scratch their heads in awe of how someone could travel without bringing their entire wardrobe with them. The worst thing you can do when you travel is bring too much stuff. If you get home and there is something in your bag that you didn’t use that is a fail. If you are traveling to any kind of a city, chances are you can default to bringing less stuff and in the worst case you can buy something there if you really need it. Think closely about everything you pack – is this something you are going to use every day on your trip, or just once – maybe? If I can avoid it I never pack a “maybe” item. A mental game you can play is to threaten yourself – if you pack something and you don’t end up using it, you aren’t allowed to bring it back. With stakes like that getting choosy is a little easier.
I put 90% of my stuff in my suitcase, and keep a very small bag for under the seat. In that bag the only I have is my laptop and power cord (in case I’m lucky enough to get a seat with an outlet), my kindle, my camera, an eyeshade, earphones, ear plugs, my geiger counter (for logging in flight) and a flashlight. Maybe a snack bar. That’s pretty much everything I could need. Jackets never got in suitcases – just shove them in the overhead.
As nailed as I have my travel set up, my real life is a disaster compared to that. Boxes of stuff in the closet, in the garage. Mental clutter. I think about how painless and awesome my approach to travel makes my life, and try to take those lessons and apply them elsewhere. I’m not quite as good at that, but I think it’s a worthwhile goal. We need the stuff to get through today and tomorrow. Worrying about next week doesn’t help at all. It’s all about today. It’s all about right now.