Has "packing light" affected your life?

I'm 62 years old and have worked all my life and never went more than to the next state when 5 years ago my daughter stated that we we're going to take a "father/daughter" trip together. This is how it works: she picks where we go and how we travel and I get to pay for it all! Anyway after hiking Acadia in Maine and to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up she decided one year we needed to go to Europe and all I was allowed was a backpack. The trip was a revelation to me, we traveled easily, stayed in hostels and 2-star hotels, ate where the locals did and never enjoyed myself so much. The point of all this is that due to a divorce I had to sell my Estate home on 2 acres this year and I have decided to move into a small town home that has only the things I need, after 15+ pickups loads to Goodwill and the DAV I was shocked at how much "stuff" I had that I never used!! My daughter and my son are going with me to Austria next summer and that trip is more important to me than the estate I used to own. After four trips to Europe I feel more energized about life in general and I'm "packing light" both literally and emotionally!

Posted by Barry
San Diego, CA
625 posts

The Camino de Santiago taught me (and many many others) what little we need to get by everyday.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1759 posts

Packing light is the way we do it and have for some time. We're seventy-three and sixty-six.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
14100 posts

I don't know if it has been a big revolution for us. We done the packing light for years but recently side-size and realized that we do have too much junk that has been saved "just-in-case." We are also into the "Sons plan, Dad pays" trips. But they are great. We will be passing along more experiences and less cash in the end.

Posted by Lo
1680 posts

You might find this website of interest, Home Free Adventures, as in they no longer own a home at all. If my health were better and my husband didn't "need" a huge shop for his toys, we'd be home free, too.

Posted by Bets
3355 posts

Bravo. You go guy. I'm going to print out your post as a reminder of the good things in life.

Posted by Maryam
Washington, DC
766 posts

It was nice to read this post. I am always getting lovingly teased by my family because I routinely am downsizing. Part of it is that we live in a 1,000 sq ft home, and part of it is just my personality. I am glad you found a way to lighten the load, literally and emotionally.
You hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back. Waiting for the kids to get older to try it myself!

Posted by Carol
Santa Cruz
186 posts

What a great post, Donald. Thank you. Here's wishing you a wonderful trip to Austria with your kids.

Posted by kat
291 posts

Wow! All expenses paid to Europe?
I'm available for adoption!

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

Donald, I have realized that the more "stuff" we have around us, the more we seem to feel we Need. I also noticed the more we spend on stuff, the less $$$ we have for travelling! I'm with you on "packing light" as a lifestyle!

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3553 posts

I think it is a whole new way of looking at life and that is reinforced by traveling to Europe where the majority of people do not have 5,000 square foot homes on an acre and more stuff and toys than they know what to do with. I need to remember this as I go to clean out my closet one more time. I am constantly purging stuff, but still have more than I need. It is actually rather greedy to keep a bunch of stuff that you do not need, while there are so many needy people that could use those items. The more stuff I own, the more mental energy it uses just to take care of it... I once read that if you are keeping something 'because you might need it someday' that is the number one reason to get rid of it. You probably won't need it, and if you do you probably won't be able to find it, and its easier to just go buy a new one. Enjoy your new life!

Posted by Karen
508 posts

Living for a few weeks out of only one backpack does give me perspective on how little I actually need. I come home each time with a greater sense of how living simply is less stressful, and it helps me to stay downsized at home. So while the travel experiences themselves have changed me, the method/style of travel has been a part of understanding and shaping some of my priorities in life.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
3399 posts

I can easily travel 2 weeks out of a 21" rolling carryon bag. What's bad is that I could have traveled with 1/2 the stuff I took. Give me 5 golf shirts and 1 pair of starched jeans and one pair of starched khaki pants, I'm good to go. I just stay out of the mud. And as my wife says: "They'll never see you again." Just too bad I cannot live my home life without a full cabinet shop and so much "stuff". And to think that I haul truckloads to the dump constantly.
That's how it is after owning two large houses, and the parents and aunts died leaving us more furniture.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2313 posts

We go to Europe every summer for a month for the last 12 years and only take a 21" RS roller bag each. This has been a great education for us both as to how to 'Pack light' as we have refined out packing list from originally taking way too much stuff to now having the just amount of stuff necessary to get along for the month. If we have forgotten something or if we need something new, we can always buy it in Europe. Happy travels

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
1487 posts

George Carlin's skit on "Stuff" changed my life - it's spot on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac On the most superficial level, packing light has saved me a lot on baggage fees. It's also saved my back from having to carry things I don't need. It's saved me lots of time from going through everything to find something. It's saved me from foul moods. It's allowed me to be independent and nimble. But by far the best thing is the spillover to everything else - living simply, not accumulating things I don't need, and (oddly enough) being a lot happier in general. I totally agree, the emotional benefits of traveling/living light are enormous. I live in 650 square feet and everything's gotta fit - there's no room to negotiate.

Posted by Grier
Carmel, IN
1185 posts

This may be my favorite post of all time. Thanks, Donald!

Posted by Thomas
Snyder, Texas
504 posts

What a great post. Thank you. Most of us journey through life accumulating stuff as we go. It's good to be reminded how liberating it is to let go.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
2645 posts

It IS liberating! I started with packing light, which got my mind into that frame of mind. Then I did a program called 333 where you pare down your wardrobe to 33 items for a 3 month period. Then came the event some alluded to upthread...having to clean out a parental home. Yikes! Dad was not really a hoarder but he had boxes within boxes within boxes then we would get down to the center and find it contained a tiny screw in the middle. We've purged a houseful of stuff and now have started on our own. Packing light now is actually a pleasure!

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8186 posts

The biggest difference for me is the ability to go quickly and easily wherever you want. If there's a decent place to visit as a day-stop off a train, I'm not encumbered by "stuff". If there's no locker to store my bag, I can carry it with me.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
4033 posts

Another thank you for your post Donald.. I loved reading it.. so uplifting. We travel very light, learned over time.. one 21" carry-on for up to 2 mos traveling in Europe.. so freeing.

Posted by Donald
Wichita, KS, United States
265 posts

I would like to thank everyone for the kind responses, I enjoy learning from the travelers helpline. One of these days when I win the lottery, I'll take all of you on a custom Rick Steves trip from London to Istanbul following the old Orient Express route!!

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3553 posts

Donald... just plan the trip, have everyone pay their own way and see how many takers you have! Don't wait for the lottery:))

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1525 posts

I'm glad packing light was a revelation to you. Your story made me smile. But to be honest, my experience was the other way around. I pack light on trips because I wish I could pack light in life. I would if it was just me, but I have a family around me that does not really share my enthusiasm for simplicity. So when we go on trips we pack light out of necessity and I FINALLY get to feel the burden of too much stuff in my life lifted from my shoulders. There is nothing wrong with having a lot of stuff if you somehow manage to use it - like the person who has a big wood shop because they love the craft. But there is something a little off-putting about the desire to collect material goods just for the sake of having them (100 pairs of shoes). As someone else said, the more stuff I have the more mental energy I have to spend keeping track of it. I don't want to spend my energy that way.

Posted by Crash
Vance, Alabama
146 posts

Great post!! Good on ya' mate! It's just material stuff. Think of the memories gained with your family and friends on your trips. Worth a heck of a lot more than just stuff. And Randy, Lee Trevino the golfer, has one pair of dress shoes, twelve years old, and two pair of casual shoes. That's it. He says he can only wear one pair at a time, why does he need any more?
A good way of thinking.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3553 posts

One of my very best friends who I have traveled with on many incredible trips to France, Mexico, Costa Rica and an amazing experience at Carnavale a few years ago is losing her battle with cancer and we will lose her shortly. While we loved shopping for a few things on our trips the only thing that matters to her now are family and the memories of the wonderful experiences with our photographer friends and the pictures that we have from those trips... in the end it is never about the stuff that we have acquired, it is about the memories we have made with our family and friends. I am so sad but so grateful for all those trips.

Posted by Beth
Boulder, Colorado, USA
215 posts

Great discussion! For most of my life, I have preferred spending money on experiences rather than on things. Traveling in the US - mostly camping, we traveled light, took the kids llama backpacking; three weeks in Tetons/ Yellowstone area; hiked the Grand when they were 10 & 13; etc. - you just cannot take much extra stuff on those trips. Now the kids are independent and we have taken three trips to Europe in each of the last three years and each trip we take less! If we take a winter or spring ski trip we will not continue that trend, but skiing in Europe :-) what an experience! Hopefully we will cherish the memories for a long time; stuff gets lost, broken, stolen. Spend time and money on what is important to you! Travel light and enjoy the trip!

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

Agnes, I just watched the George Carlin skit. It is Hilarious!! (and true)

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
6706 posts

After reading your post, last weekend I packed a truckload of stuff (incl. boxes with dozens of books) and donated everything to Goodwill. My house looks so much better without all that useless clutter saved "just in case". Thank you.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2030 posts

Despite traveling primarily by train and budget airline allowing only a carry on, I'm sure my packing habits would appall most hardcore RSers. (I have a wheeled carry on! And it's not fancy and light! And I bring lots of toiletries and a few pairs of shoes! gasp horror) That said, I agree in general, and actually care more about having less stuff in my house than I do about rigorous packing-light-ism. In 2005 I moved three times. It was a huge revelation to get rid of junk. Then in my move to Europe we got rid of a ton of stuff as well. Still have more than I like. Switching to electronic books was another huge relevation. While I treasure my collection of physical books (and that makes up the bulk of our moving boxes, scary) I almost never buy them now, and that's awesome. When traveling we also go very light on sovuiners. I'm a postcard junky, but those take up almost no space. A magnet once in a while. We only allow ourselves anything beyond that once in a while - items that are very special, like a small handworked copper pot in Bosnia. Love your outlook on life! I want to send your post to my dad, he hasn't traveled much and he's your age, and he has too much "stuff". Maybe it would inspire him!

Posted by Diane
Westford, MA, USA
370 posts

It has definitely influenced my understanding of what I need and want within my life. Some of it I can change and some I accept as is because it involves other people's lives. In 2000 my DH and I traveled to Italy for 3 weeks with 2 suitcases, a shoulder bag and a boarding tote each equaling 4 pcs-pp equaling 8 pieces! European lifestyle was a complete eye opener for me. Today, I have an organized space in my closet for my travel clothes, accessories, and toiletry bag and my 21" rolling bag is always ready to go. I love the feeling of freedom it brings. From there I slowly began simplifying other parts of our home and my life. But I hit continued walls of procrastination because I am busy discovering the "light" life. My challenges are I like to read paper versus electronic. I love travel guide books, all books and magazines. I have too many photos of all parts of life. I often make small or medium photo books from our travels. I have accumulated tons of inherited items from my in-laws and there's still stuff our (3) kids left behind still in the attic. Then there's our own stuff that sits on shelves or in boxes and is never used. I need to finish organizing 30 years of marriage and all the stuff!
It's like driving to work on a foggy morning and ending up in the wrong parking lot. I want the stuff to just be gone when the fog lifts. I admire what you have done. I feel the energy, too, and want more of it. I enjoy the time I have to work part-time, volunteer, spend quality time with family and friends, and the time to travel. Four years ago I began to travel solo in addition to traveling with DH. That's another subject for a different post. People either get the solo concept or they just plain do not. Great post. Best wishes on continuing to enjoy the "light" in your life.

Posted by Frank II
4845 posts

Some people like to spend their money on stuff. Others like to spend their money on experiences. I'm the latter. I looked around my house a few months ago and realized I wasn't happy. I had too much stuff and I felt weighed down, I felt trapped. I felt as if I couldn't get up and go because I had too much stuff. (And compared to most people I know, I actually have very little.) That's when I decided I needed a change. I went through my entire house and decided to make a list of things I really needed. The list was very short. Short enough to only halfway fill a small storage unit. (15 sq feet.) I decided to sell all the items I didn't need to keep, put the rest into storage, move out of my house, and travel full time. When I need a break, I'll move into either an extended stay hotel or a turn key apartmentboth of which I lived in at some point in my life. Even with these, all I'll need to bring are my clothes, toiletries and my favorite travel gadgets. I gave myself one year to make the transition and I'm halfway there. So far, the hardest decision I'm finding is where to travel to first.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2395 posts

In my house (where I currently live alone, sometime next 5 years I'll get married) I don't have that much stuff. I'm not a big fan of collecting tons of stuff and I generally don't buy things out of impulse. However, I do pack above-average when travelling (for RS standards). I cannot travel with a carry-on only, except for very short trips. I like my essential combo of gadgets (DLSR camera with decent lenses, tablet w/ GPS, smartphone at least - independent GPS unit if trip involves trails + all the mess of cables that go along). I also don't like to dress in a "no one-knows-me-here-who-cares-how-I-dress" manner. I like to take some waterproof jacket + pants + boot, but then these are not suitable for dining in restaurants or attending certain events.