You won’t find any of these items on the TSA’s banned list, but they should always be on yours.
Packing light is always important for the independent traveler, especially the way the airlines will reach into your pocket if you don’t. But there are more reasons for packing light than saving money on baggage fees. Here’s my own list of items that you should always leave at home:
You have them. I have them. We’ve all “heard” this and that about this country or “those people.” The French are like this. The Japanese are like that. These folks are racists. Those people smell. They all carry knives. You get the picture.
It’s burdensome lugging all that stuff with you. It weighs you down. Worse, it colors your views of places you haven’t been and people you haven’t met yet. Travel is for ridding yourself of stereotypes, not reinforcing them.
Bring instead: An open mind. It fits in the smallest suitcase — and it’s a lot lighter. Let a place, or a people, reveal themselves to your on their own terms.
In some ways, the act of traveling means volunteering to feal with all the things that potentially can go wrong. And that’s a long list, starting at the airport. On second thought, don’t even get me started about airports!
It’s how you choose to respond to the unforeseen calamity that will decide the fate of your trip. If you’re the type who goes from Zero to Attitude in 2.7 seconds, you might be better off staying home.
Bring instead: Patience, + a good sense of humor. Stuff happens. Be patient. Speak up for yourself when it’s needed, but without going ballistic. Nobody’s conspiring to give you a bad time. Show some understanding. Find a reason to smile and even laugh at the difficulty.
Your blood pressure will be lower, and your esteem among your fellow travelers will be higher.
Whether they admit it or not, fear is a major reason why a lot of folks don’t travel. Simply put, they’re afraid of everything.
They’re afraid of paying too much. They’re afraid someone will pick their pocket or snatch their purse, or steal their luggage. Afraid they’ll miss a connecting flight or their cruise ship’s departure. Afraid they didn’t pack enough, or packed too much of the wrong thing. Afraid of terrorists. Afraid of bad weather. Afraid strangers will think they look funny, that they’ll be treated differently because they’re black, or hated on because they’re American.
The list of people’s fears when it comes to travel could fill a blog. They weigh down your consciousness. They distort every moment of your experience — and ultimately ruin it.
Bring instead: A little courage and a lot of optimism. The world is neither perfect nor perfectly safe, but neither is it a great blue booby trap floating in space, waiting to ensnare you in its clutches and swallow you whole.
Most of the human beings with whom you share this world are basically decent people. They have families. They like to laugh and smile and have a good time. Thery’re proud of their home,their community, their country, are too happy to help a visitor who shows respect for it, and for them.
I’ve had strangers in London walk up and offer me their transit passes; they were leaving the city and didn’t need them anymore. I’ve had tram operators in Amsterdam let us ride for free. I’ve had a bunch of kids in Tokyo take us by the arm and lead us to a jumpin’ jazz club in the Ginza that’s not found in anybody’s tour guide and that we never would’ve found on our own.
None of them knew me from Adam.
Give the world, and yourself, a chance. You just might be amazed.
See how much better your travels can be when you pack light?