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Garry Knight

Minimalism on the Road

By Joanna McBride

The perils of luggage separation anxiety­—and learning to let go. 

If there is one thing about travel that really has the ability to stress me out, it’s the fear of losing my luggage. As soon as I see my bag hit the conveyer belt and roll away beyond my reach, the dread begins. 

All I can think is: “It’s gone—forever.”

It’s not necessarily an abnormal fear. I’ve read many articles about travellers losing their luggage and bizarre statistics claim something along the lines of every third or fourth traveller could suffer this devastation. That seems abnormally high to me, but I guess that’s more of a reason to exercise precaution. Whether it’s true or not, luggage can disappear. It happens. It’s happened to me. 

People often comment on how brave I am as I head off on my solo adventures, but I think the real courage stems from the confidence to bid adieu to your suitcase before you board. For anyone suffering through multiple layovers, it’s terrifying. In regards to airlines, airports, luggage retrieval and baggage carousels, I’ll admit I’ve experienced a little bit of both the good, the bad and the ugly.

Usually, my bag will eventually come bounding down the slide, but it’s only after I’ve had a complete meltdown.

I’ve been the girl at the carousel, ecstatic that my bag is the first one off. I’ve also been the last one standing, watching an empty conveyer belt repeatedly roll past me. This waiting game has the power to collapse even the strongest of travellers. Usually, my bag will eventually come bounding down the slide, but it’s only after I’ve had a complete meltdown, calculating each thing of value I might have lost and also the hassle I am set to endure.

My pack has been riffled through.

My pack has arrived soaking wet.

It’s been beaten and battered and bruised.

No more.

I really thought long and hard about how to eliminate this stress. Whenever or whenever I sought the answer, most advice came to me in the usual form of "simplify" and "declutter." The key to travelling successfully while eliminating unnecessary airline baggage stress was simply to minimize. The answer was definitely "carry on."

For my last trip, I decided to test the theory. The idea of skipping abnormally long check-in lines and avoiding expensive luggage fees was definitely appealing. Most airlines have approximately the same flight carry-on dimensions, so it’s important to teeter on the smaller scale or you’ll be marching right back to the check-in desk. Smaller scale packs can be difficult considering most of us love to pack excessively. I’m a sucker for bringing bulky items, hauling along clothes I never wear at home and packing outfits that are not entirely versatile. I really had to cut "just in case" out of my packing. I cut down significantly on my wardrobe, which was challenging considering every piece of clothing seemed like a fabulous idea. I started rolling my clothes, using packing cubes and ensuring there was absolutely no negative space.

In doing so, I discovered that if I took older clothes that I wasn’t necessarily attached to, it made it easier to leave items behind when I purchased new items

Any stress I had about toiletries and liquids evaporated when I realized that there is always a wee shop and there is almost always a mall somewhere nearby. I’m not an advocate for unnecessary shopping, but if it saves me the hassle of airport security liquid checks, I’m all over it. The great thing about hotels? Most of them provide complimentary shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and soap.

You can do it—and you won’t regret it. As the saying goes, "If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light."

At 50, Joanna quit her job to travel and volunteer around Africa. She currently blogs for Verge Magazine.

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