Underwear, Chapstick, Passport: The Long Journey to Travel Minimalism

All ready for the weekend trip!

All ready for the weekend trip!

My backpack was slowly boring a hole into my coccyx.

I was nineteen and had borrowed a 50 litre green Osprey from my uncle to prepare for my Eurotrip. I stitched a Canadian patch across the crest for everyone to see, as seemed necessary at the time. I purchased a compass and some maps and an industrial-sized container of sun-screen. I looked upon my rental pack, considered its dimensions, and decided that its depth and girth were challenges issued to me by the universe. Could I fill it to the brim and manage to cart it around most of western Europe with me?

In hindsight I probably didn’t need all of the button-down shirts, nor the full bottle of shampoo, nor the half-dozen books, nor the array of sweaters, nor the comically large number of socks. The bottle of Windex was probably a little overzealous. The full Dutch-Mandarin dictionary may have been ancillary. Several dozen packets of clean, type B positive blood in vacuum sealed were probably unnecessary preparation for a trip that was very unlikely to include grievous bodily wounds nor encounters with eastern European vampires.

I was young and had never travelled alone before. Previously accompanied by parents, there was always an advisor looming over my suitcase, scrutinizing my choices and declaring when I had packed enough. I would stand before my trunk, stuffing shirts and underwear and socks and books and toothbrushes and then packets of saltines and X-Men action figures and 1980s commemorative mugs featuring Peanuts characters until an adult would tell me to stop. Someone would seal my bag with a travel lock, remove the key from sight, and cart my possessions around for me.

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