This is the second post in the series entitled “Mind Your Verbs.” We are exploring tasks that are common to all of us, yet they are not commonly considered beyond the superficial level required for their completion. In the last post we established the idea of giving our menial tasks more meaning by mindfully considering the way we perform them.
It is important to realize that there is no one right way to mindfully approach a task. It is not important exactly how you perform the task, just that you get more involved with the process. By considering the your actions in such a way, they will seem far less meaningless and wasteful, and you will achieve your goals more quickly. The first common-place task we will explore is travel.
Businesses spend thousands of dollars every year sending their employees all over the country and world in the name of furthering the business. While many individuals would agree that traveling an be a very enjoyable experience, most would also agree that business travel does not usually fall into this category. Sure, your first business trip as a newly hired employee might be exhilarating, but living in a sterile Marriott hotel room and eating out for every meal wears you down quickly. Soon, the business traveler find him or herself coasting through these excursions like a zombie.
Early drive to the airport, wait in security lines, wait in security lines more, barely make it to the gate, sit in a cramped seat for a few hours, stare at the luggage carrousel, take a cab to the meeting, try not to sleep through the meeting, dinner in the hotel bar, sleep on hard white sheets, early drive to the airport.
Unfortunately, there is not much we can do about the smelly cab and the sterile hotel room, but we can attempt to augment the overarching travel experience. By carefully considering the steps that make a trip like this into a productive (or not) endeavor, we can streamline the process, cut down on wait times, enjoy the destination more and stress less.
Whether it is a 2 day trip to Albuquerque for a business meeting or a two month Italian adventure, let’s perfect the process. A process that has been given forethought and careful consideration, becomes less torturous because successfully implementing the plan and seeing the work pay of is an achievement. It will make you want to get better with time. You will give the action meaning through your consideration.
Again, I am going to present one method for augmenting this process to give it meaning, but this is by no means the only way to mindfully approach your travel experience. It just happens to be how I approach travel and it has made traveling one of my favorite activities because I am meeting personal goals and testing new ideas each time I hit the road or skys.
By all means, choose something that works for you.
Many travelers have already discovered the freedom and joy that comes with one-bag travel. I have been a dedicated one-bag traveler for over two years now and it has really changed the way I think about the whole affair.
As you might have already guessed, I travel with one bag and nothing else. Think about that for a second. If you are the person that brings along a small closet when your travel, this might seem ludicrous to you. Maybe you already travel with a wheeled carryon bag, but you also bring your briefcase along. Sorry, thats too much stuff.
The idea is to pick one carryon bag that meets international carryon limits (9″ x 21″ x 14″; 10 kilograms) and travel with nothing but what you can fit into that bag, regardless of how long you will be traveling, and regardless of what you will be doing at your destination. Now, you might have to make an exception if you need to bring your golf clubs or something, but there are usually alternatives to any situation (like renting clubs rather than dragging yours through security).
The Principles of One-Bag Travel (Why Go Light?)
Since I obviously didn’t invent this concept, it is time to give credit where it is due. The guru of light travel is none other than Doug Dyment. He is the one who really put this idea on the map and spawned somewhat of an industry and devout community of people looking to simplify the way they travel.
I am going to borrow from him in explaining the reasons you should consider traveling light in the following few paragraphs.
1. It’s More Secure
Since you brought just one carry-on sized bag and it is either on your back (yes no wheels unless you must – more on this later) or it is secured in your hotel room or locker somewhere, you have less to manage and less to keep safe. Since you don’t have to check your bag, you are less likely to have it misplaced along the way. Overall, this approach ensures that you are in more control of your personal belongings than if you were juggling multiple bags through bag check.
1. It’s Cheaper
One-bagging is the more economical way to travel. Most airlines are struggling more than ever and they are find new and interesting way to make money off of their customers. A recent trend is a more expensive price tag for checking your bags. Some airlines charge more than $100 per bag. It is outrageous but you can avoid the whole problem because your bag will be traveling securely over your head.
Not only does it save you at the airport, but you will easily be able to take advantage of public transport because your bag will be hanging out on your back making you a mobile machine. In fact, if the hotel isn’t too far, why not walk?
3. It’s more flexible.
Having fewer things with you means you are free to seize opportunities as they present themselves along the way. You can arrive later to catch you flight and you will be one of the first on the plane to leave the airport rather than standing in line to retrieve you luggage (assuming it would have made it at all). Once free of the confines of the TSA you will have little trouble jumping onto and off of trains, subways, buses and whatever other transportation method best suits you needs.
What to Pack
Have I sold you yet? I hope you are at least interested in the prospect of traveling light. I have to be honest, though. One-bag travel is not without its drawbacks. Namely, since you have space, you have to be selective regarding what you will bring, and in some cases, leave behind items you really wanted with you. However, with the right mindset and the right gear, these negatives can be minimized and outweighed by all of the positives. The secret is to carefully consider everything you “need” for the trip. Analyze each item. If you can’t justify carrying it around on you back or shoulder for the entirety of your trip, leave it. Rick Steves (European travel guru) suggests that you pack everything up in your bag and then go downtown and window show for a couple of hours. If by the end you are gasping for air an drenched with sweat, go home, lay everything out on the floor and start considering each item. Be ruthless.
Here are some good guidelines to follow when deciding what to bring.
1. Plan for the best case scenario and pick up things along the way when trouble presents itself. Sure, an umbrella seems like a good idea but save the space and if rain does present itself, pick up a $5 umbrella from Walgreens.
2. If you haven’t used an item on the last two trips where it was with you, leave it, even if you always take it along.
3. If an article of clothing isn’t versatile, meaning it can’t be worn with almost everything else you packed, trade it out for something that can or cut it all together.
4. Consolidate as many functions into single items as possible. Smart phones are a great example of how to consolidate many functions into one item that takes up hardly any space. Another example is the kind of jacket you pack. Find a jacket that will keep you warm, dry and presentable all at the same time. I prefer the Alchemy jacket (aff. link) from Mountain Hardwear for this purpose.
There are so many ways to get you materials into your bag it will make your head spin. Many One-baggers have their own way of organizing and securing their items that they will swear by. I personally subscribe to the bundling method. The principle is that you wrap your clothes around a core and in a specific order to minimize wrinkling. Here is a PDF that explains this further.
I usually take my bundles and put them in the proper sized packing squares. The packing cubes are more for organization and compartmentalization than anything else, especially if you have already bundled. Some leave these out entirely if they have already formed their bundles.
For many, the part of converting to one-bag travel that is the most fun is the research and selection of the best gear to meet these new travel needs. This part can be relatively inexpensive or you can spend a small fortune depending on what brands and quality of travel wares you are in the market for.
I try to stay on the frugal side of things without sacrificing too much in the quality department. The main item you will purchase, and the one that will likely cost the most is your bag. You may consider packing cubes, a day bag, and other travel accessories (clothes line, hanging toiletry kit) to facilitate this type of travel, but the bag is the key.
The first decision is whether you will get a wheeled bag or not. I would highly recommend that if you are still physically able to carry your bag that you do so. Rolling bags loose interior space due to the mechanical components. These components also add weight and rigidity that can be a problem for checked bags. Also, wheeled bags are fine on the tiles floor at the airport, but get them on a cobblestone road in Europe and see how those wheels hold up. Even though it seems every businessperson who is power walking through the terminal pulls a wheelie bag with his or her briefcase on top, resist the temptation to mirror those folks and get a bag you can carry.
If you have settled on a carry bag (congratulations!), you need to decide if you will get a bag that converts to a backpack. These are my personal favorite. While I tend not to use the backpack function when I am making short jaunts with my stuff, if I am walking 5 miles from a train station to my hotel in some European town, the ability to quickly convert my shoulder bag into a backpack with support straps makes a world of difference.
I am not going to go too deep into the bag frontier here, although I would like to post some reviews of bags I have used for this purpose in the future. I will say that my personal bag is the eBags TLC Motherlode Weekender Convertible (with a Patagonia Lightweight Courier for a day bag). Also RedOxx makes what seems to be the consensus “best bag” for this purpose, the Sky Train (but it is expensive). Also, if you want another convertible option, Rick Steves convertible (aff. link) is a great option (I lived out of this bag for two months once) and usually cheaper than the eBags model.
Brandon’s Packing List
It’s hard to know just how much a bag like this can hold, or what 20 pounds of materials looks like. Rather than trying to explain this, I figured the best way would be to just show you my packing list. I have a base list that I always start with and then I modify it depending on what I will be doing while away. It usually comes in sub 20 pounds, which is under that 10kg. (22 pound) restriction.
This list has been modified for a 3 week trip taking me to Chicago, Wichita, Sacramento and Cabo. This is a diverse set of requirements, so this list took some thought. Also, there are plenty of things that I cut out that I would normally take along were I going to Europe as a tourist or some 3rd world country for medical outreach (such as materials for doing laundry, money-belt, etc.) It’s all about finding the right balance for the anticipated circumstances and then picking things up along the way if needed.
Tls motherlode bag
Charger for MacBook
Charger for iPhone
Charger for iPad
2 Khaki Shorts
1 toe socks (black)
3 white socks
3 casual socks
2 undershirt light
2 polo shirts
1 dress shirt
1 knit tie (casual)
1 swim trunks
1 athletic short
1 flip-flops (havianas white)
1 leather slip-on loafers
1 501s jeans
1 chino pant
1 sport coat
1 mhw jacket
Wear on the plane (these items are included above):
Leather Dopp kit
3-1-1 bag (with liquids, gels)
Body powder in a baggie
Wet shaving kit
Stain remover stick
Mind Your Verbs
Remember that the whole point of traveling this way (aside from the short and long term benefits for your travel experience) was to offer up a way to be more mindful of a menial task in your life. Own the way you travel, and it becomes a skill rather than a boring and tiresome task. Acquire different skills like these over time, and you will be living and acting more purposefully and mindfully. This is what separates you from the average Joe who hasn’t given an ounce of thought to something as fundamental as travel practice.
By going above and beyond in you everyday life you move one step closer to becoming a superhuman.