What to Take....

Travel Well... but Travel Light

I am constantly surprised by how little I really need to live comfortably and to function as a business traveler. The really strange aspect of this is that the longer I will be away from home, the less I tend to pack! That is because if I am going out for a week, I want to stuff sufficient clothes in to last for the entire trip. If I am going out for a month... I take three sets of clothes and plan on doing laundry... I have also learned the relative value of items to the traveler, that is what you NEED vs. what you WANT (think you need).

So, here is what I NEED:
Business Items - composition book for notes, a pen and a pencil, my lap-top computer, power pack and plug adapter for my computer, business cards.
Personal items - sponge, sink stopper, body chamois (pack towel), one change of clothes (except shoes), a hat, a windbreaker, a wool shirt, my prescription medications, biological filter bottle, nail clippers, swiss army knife, airline tickets,one credit card, passport & other travel documents. I would also Like to have a folding umbrella, a toothbrush, an MP3 player, and an empty rice bag. All this will fit into a small day pack! This is my usual carry on bag. I can and have lived comfortably from the contents of this bag for days at a time (when my checked luggage disappears). Note - current airport security restrictions have eliminated the knife and nail clippers from my carry-on bag.

Traveling light is simple if you do three things:
1] Consider replaceability - you can buy a toothbrush almost anywhere but try to find a sink stopper in Nairobi that will actually work in the hotel sink! Give priority to necessary and to hard to replace items.
2] Plan on doing laundry as you go rather than taking clean clothes out and dirty clothes home. Take some silk or synthetic fiber clothes that dry more readily than cotton or wool. What I do is to get my small bottle of woollight or other unscented liquid soap and a rubber sink stopper, fill the sink full of cold water, put in a shirt or set of underwear or 2 pairs of socks, add a little soap, let everything soak for 10 minutes, then splash things around for a bit, rinse twice and wring out all the water that I can. The moist clothes are then placed upon my hotel bath towel, the towel is folded over them and I walk on it to force moisture out of the clothes and into the towel.The almost dry clothes can now be hung up to finish drying. Things washed in the early evening are usually dry enough to be packed or worn the following morning. Since I used my towel to dry the clothes, I use my body chamois to dry myself after bathing.
3] Take things that multi-task - Taking a thick coat is not as versatile as taking a heavy wool shirt and a light windbreaker. The shirt can be worn as a shirt or as a light coat over a shirt and the windbreaker added as needed to give extra protection. The windbreaker works well as a raincoat. Likewise, light colored undershirts with a picture or logo on them can be worn as an undershirt or worn alone for very hot weather.

Travel Light Tips...
Take a Sponge, it is the ultimate multi-tasker. You can use your sponge to: mop up water if the shower curtain in your hotel room leaks, clean spots off your clothes, clean your shoes, wash yourself if there is no water pressure in your room, and even wipe your butt. I know that this is indelicate - however, when you have serious diarrhea, wiping with a sponge is a LOT more comfortable than being sandpapered off with cheap toilet paper. I also tend to visit places that do not have toilet paper at all. They offer a bucket of water to clean yourself - definitely sponge country. The Roman legion issued a sponge to each two soldiers. They used it for everything from cleaning their armor to washing their butts. If it is good enough for the armies that conquered most of the known world, it is good enough for me! I carry a natural sponge which is about 3x4 inches and about 1 inch thick in a zip lock baggie. It goes everywhere that I go...

Carry a Biological Filter bottle, it is a quick and inexpensive way to always have safe and good tasting water to drink. If you travel only in developed areas, you could substitute a cheaper water filter bottle. These will make your water taste better but will not remove disease agents such as bacteria. Only a biological filter bottle can do this. I carry my filter bottle empty through airport security, then go to the bathroom and fill it up from the sink for water in airports. The general rule in international travel is that bulk drinking water provided in your hotel room (such as a pitcher or thermos of water), is a signal that tap water is unsafe to drink. I generally filter even this drinking water through my biological bottle. I once found dead mosquito larvae from hotel "drinking water" in its outer coarse filter when I got home from East Africa....

Take an empty seed sack or rice bag. These bags are made from a very tough and flexible woven plastic fabric. They make wonderful laundry bags or general carry all bags. I often check one piece of luggage. If I buy a lot of things to bring home, I put my dirty clothes in the feed sack, tie it shut with string, then check it as airline luggage. This frees up space in my suitcase for more valuable or fragile purchases. I like to use an empty rice bad as a soft briefcase. It is wonderful because it takes up little space when folded up, yet easily holds a water bottle, extra clothes, business materials, or what ever else needs to be with you. 

Always make copies of your critical documents (passport, credit cards, travelers checks) . I scan them into my laptop computer, then encrypt the file.