Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.
- Ray Bradbury
Bradbury’s words ring true. In our depths we have that knowledge: the world is so much more exquisite than anything that can be bought or sold. Pre-packaged dreams are no match for the the human capacity for wonder.
We speak of living the dream, as if there were only one. This is the dominate story of our time, a myth promulgated by consumerism. These are the factories of which Bradbury speaks.
I believe that travel can teach us a lot about consumerism. Not only that, but travel can help us move from a consumer culture to a connection culture. When we travel we can find a space where dreaming is doing. We can learn to be happy with what we have.
Over the last year I have challenged myself to live only out of my carry-on bag. That’s 10 kgs (22 lbs) of stuff. Ultimately, this perceived limitation has been an expansive experience: it has opened me up and widened my worldview.
Here are five lessons that I have picked up over the last year.
1.) Spontaneity Is Priceless
Travelling light gives you a freedom that is more valuable than anything that you could have packed in a bag. It gives you the opportunity to say yes to more things: getting on the back of a motor bike or camping in the woods. Your suitcase can weigh you down in more ways than one.
A friend once asked me to join him walking the Camino trail through Spain. I had to say no, I had too much stuff to carry and nowhere to keep it. Since then, I have made sure that would never happen again.
2.) Spend Less To Live More
I don’t buy souvenirs. I simply have no room for them in my bag. This has been such a liberation. I no longer spend precious time trawling for keepsakes. I now focus on making moments to remember, rather than buying something to remember them by. More than this, I have discovered the obvious: when I spend less I can travel further.
This lesson is one souvenir worth taking home. Prioritize the things that get your pulse racing. Focus on what makes you feel wild and free. Think of all the time and money you save. Then devote them to something you love.
3.) Never Pack Something Just In Case
We tend to buy and pack so much stuff just in case. The truth is, if you really need something, in all likeliness you will be able to find it when you get there. The money you save traveling light is more than enough for these one-off emergencies.
Once, when I travelled to Paris for fashion weekend, I forgot to pack (or wear) a bra. Another time, I arrived to winter in Poland with a suitcase full of summer clothes. In both cases, it wasn’t really a problem. I found what I needed. I moved on to the important stuff.
4.) Travel Doesn’t Have To Be Stressful
Travel is full of the kind of mishaps that are conspicuously missing from your Instagram feed. The worst parts of travel: delayed flights, missed connections, sleeping in transit, pickpockets and scams. Traveling light will not spare you from these experiences. It will, however, make them a whole lot less stressful. You don’t have to worry about losing your bag or having something precious stolen. This is a weight off your shoulders and off your mind.
5.) True Value Is Not Measured In Dollars
Travel creates a distance between your self and your norm. With distance comes perspective. You see new things - skylines, mountaintops, coral reefs - and you can’t help but see the old things differently.
From a distance, you can figure out what truly holds value to you. You may feel homesick for places or people, but it is rare to feel the same pull toward your things. Our relationships have a gravity that keeps us in orbit. We will always come back around to them. Even if that orbit is an around the world trip.
One year on, and now I am looking forward to putting down roots in a new place. My space will expand from a carry on bag to an apartment. Even so, don’t expect me to race out to Ikea. For the most part, I plan to decorate that apartment with memories of my travels. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and travel has given me a new way of seeing the world. This has been the most important lesson of the past year. Don’t stuff your suitcase. Stuff your eyes with wonder.