Living Out of a Carry-On For 2 weeks

I’m a recovering over-packer.

Like, I’m sure I’ll need these 5 pairs of shoes and binoculars at some point, right?

Even if I packed a huge check-in bag and brought a carry-on, I would still sneak a few extra things into my purse. Ironically, having more options didn’t make me feel more prepared. It only made me more anxious. It was never enough!

I thought I would have a never-ending feeling of leaving something behind with such a small suitcase. Instead I found that having fewer choices during the trip saved money, luggage space, and mental space. I could focus more on what to do rather than what to wear.

The first time I traveled with only a carry-on was on a two-week trip to Europe, but it was more of a financial necessity than a choice at the time. Traveling with discount airlines comes with it’s own price: very strict carry-on rules. What was really essential?

I had to cut so many items from my packing list, and came up with these quick solutions:

  • Neutrals are in for a reason – they look good with almost anything and are simple to mix and match. If it’s not going to be worn more than once then it probably shouldn’t come along for the journey. (Sorry, red pants, but you’re more of a one-time statement piece, you know?)
  • What about the walking situation? Should I take comfortable sneakers that aren’t very cute or cute sneakers that aren’t very comfortable? I took the soles out of my comfortable sneakers and put them inside the cute ones #problemsolver.  
  • I was beginning to embrace my curly hair at that time, so I had a few travel-size versions of my favorite curly hair products. Everything else can probably be bought after landing. (Other people wash their hair too!)
  • If underwear is not essential I don’t know what is. I brought plenty of it, but swapped out a few of my regular bras for sports bras and bralettes. I initially did it because they saved space when folded, but then I figured out they also minimize underboob sweat. (You’re welcome!)

None of this is really about clothes or luggage, is it? For me, overpacking was another way I created an illusion of control. More options were more ways to control unexpected situations.

If this, then I’ll be prepared with that.

It’s impossible to anticipate everything about a trip. Being worried about whether we’re prepared for what might happen tomorrow is an illusion; a distraction from what’s actually happening today.

Sometimes we have to be ok with knowing that we don’t know everything. But isn’t that why we travel? To grow comfortable with the unknown, not the expected.

Here’s to traveling light and living light.

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