When I was planning my trip, I came across an intriguing article about an OkCupid “date” where a pair traveled for three weeks without any stuff. I thought it was such a cool idea. I had packed light before when I studied abroad and wanted to do so again for my South America trip, but this made me challenge myself.
After a bit of tweaking, I created a list that I felt was just enough.
I took a gander at my old Kelty backpack and it looked eager for the job. It all fit with plenty of room to spare. (I quickly ditched the Spanish dictionary for spontaenous practice.)
For the most part, this list hasn’t changed. I swapped out the fleece for an alpaca sweater in Peru (a great buy) and occasionally picked up a small item with temporary utility (a cheap pair wool gloves, say). I’ve been everywhere from beaches to snow-tipped mountains and have been able to layer up or strip down to match the climate. At first, I thought having such a small pack for so long would be a challenge but not once have I thought, “I wish I brought X”. We underestimate our ability to adapt and find what we need.
In truth, the lightness has been a blessing. I’ve found that packing light has kept my mental space pretty light. When all your possessions (at least for a three month stretch) fit in a daypack, the cognitive weight of stuff really disappears. There’s not really anything for you to worry about. Just grab your pack and go find adventure. Even in my previous experience packing light, I couldn’t really do that. Going from two bags to one really does make a difference.
It’s almost hard to explain the freedom that it can bring you. I touched on it briefly in the past. I can only encourage you to try it out. When you hop off a bus and hit the road while everyone waits for the cargo hold to unload, you’ll know. When you have to hitchhike and then hop into a flatbed filled with people and can toss your pack to someone for a hot second as you jump in, you’ll know. When you decide to walk two hours from the bus station through the city, you’ll know. When you move quickly through a crowd, you’ll know.
Pack light, go fast.