why do we bring so much stuff when we travel?


In the first in an ongoing series of posts chronicling our innate human need to surround ourselves with more stuff than we will actually ever need, I give you my thoughts on the nexus of travel and minimalism, and how this nexus is one key to a better travel experience.

Conventional “clean out your closet” wisdom dictates that if you haven’t worn something for six months – to the thrift store it should go. Maybe not the expensive tuxedo or simple formal black dress, but things like the grunge-era tattered-at-the-bottom flannel shirt, the parachute pant, your Emo-wear, or the “she’s a maniac” off-the-shoulder-sweatshirt that you won’t even wear to yoga. You get the idea.

Similarly, when we begin to think of our clothing travel checklist we tend to try to envision every possible scenario that we could encounter on the road and bring every combination of clothing and accessories possible to meet those possibilities. It is time for a reality check.

Despite your being in London there is little chance you will be having tea with the Queen. You will not be asked to correspond from the Red Carpet during the Oscars in Los Angeles because you happened to be noticed at the local In-N-Out Burger by a talent scout, and the Sultan of Brunei will not be whisking you away to one of his private islands while you sip champagne on his private jet.

Likewise, you are not travelling to the first and only colony on Mars where there are no stores whatsoever. So if you forget something, fret not, you can buy it somewhere. If you have medicine or something else that is specific to you that is one thing, but if you are worried about having enough toothpaste – really? If you haven’t noticed, most every person in every country around the globe has teeth.

While it is admirable that you want to be prepared, the odds of your first pair of sneakers getting ruined or stolen by a kangaroo are so low that it does not warrant you taking a second pair just in case. Further, just like with the above example of teeth, the large majority of the 22 million people in Australia have feet, and therefore, shoes are in fact sold there.

Despite how excited you may get when seeing something iconic like the Eiffel Tower for the first time and the resulting possibilities from that excitement, you probably don’t need more underwear than the number of days you are away. In fact, there are things called sinks and something called detergent to assist you along the way. If you are not a sink and detergent kind of person, hotels always have laundry services and will turn your undies around in one day. In the unlikely event that an underwear bandit breaks into your suitcase and steals all of your skivvies, I believe the French do underwear pretty well [think Moulin Rouge or Dominique Strauss-Kahn].

Ok so I know the satire is pretty obvious, but the point is being illustrated here. Just because you are away from your own closet does not mean that you need to bring your entire closet with you. Despite closets full of clothing, when people are dressed casually away from work they usually wear the same two or three things every day.

Why should it be any different when we travel?