Travel works best with a minimum of baggage

“Unaccustomed to direct experience, we can come to fear it. We don’t want to read a book or see a museum show until we’ve read the reviews so that we know what to think. We lose the confidence to perceive ourselves. We want to know the meaning of an experience before we have it. We become frightened of direct experience, and we will go to elaborate lengths to avoid it.

“I found I liked to travel, because it got me out of my routines and my familiar patterns. The more traveling I did, the more organized I became. I kept adding things I liked to have with me on my trips. Naturally I took books to read. Then I’d take my Walkman and the tapes I liked to listen to. Pretty soon I’d also take notebooks with colored pens for drawing. Then a portable computer for writing. Then magazines for the airplane trip. And a sweater in case it got cold on the airplane. And hand cream for dry skin.

“Before long traveling became a lot less fun, because now I was staggering onto airplanes, loaded down with all this stuff that I felt I had to take with me. I had made a new routine instead of escaping the old one. I wasn’t getting away from the office any more: I was just carrying most of the contents of my desk on my shoulders.

“So one day I decided I would get on the plane and carry nothing at all. Nothing to entertain me, nothing to save me from boredom. I stepped on the plan in a state of panic — none of my familiar stuff! What was I going to do?

“It turned out I had a fine time. I read the magazines that were on the plane. I talked to people. I stared out the window. I thought about things.

“It turned out I didn’t need any of that stuff I thought I needed. In fact, I felt a lot more alive without it.”

–Michael Crichton, Travels (1988)

Posted by | Comments (4)  | September 13, 2004
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

4 Responses to “Travel works best with a minimum of baggage”

  1. Kyle Says:

    Rolf- Any idea when the new book will be ready & on the shelves??…I look forward to it!…Are still down in SD?…I up here in OC…If your ever my up my way or when I’m down your way…I would love to grab a beer or a bite to eat…Have you had a chance to do any camping in Joshua Tree or backpacking in Southern Cal yet??


  2. Kevin Rains Says:


    I loved this quote! It reminded me of my ATW trip 3 years ago (10 days after 911)… it was a short trip, just under a month but i decided i was only going to take what i could fit into a fanny pack. That simple decision gave the trip an immediacy that could not have been acheived if i over prepared or over packed. I knew i was going to have to trust that some of what i needed to make it throught the trip would have to be discovered en route.

    i say this not to brag (there’s nothing in this brag-worthy really) but just to point people to a simple decision that can restore the sense of adventure to any trip…. the planned practice of underpacking

  3. Rolf Says:

    Hey, Kyle. I hope to have news on the new book before the end of the year. Stay tuned. I am down in SD, and will give you a holler if I head up to the OC anytime soon (you let me know if you get this far south). In the meantime, I’ve recently been spending some time down in Baja…

    And Kevin, I think it’s amazing that you made it around the world with only what you carried in your fanny pack! If you ever blog at greater length about that experience, I’d love to read about (and link) it!

  4. Nicole Zimmerman Says:

    When I was traveling in the northland of New Zealand a couple years ago, I first set out attached to a bus ticket and a heavy load on my back – leaving me staggering under the weight. Both proved unnecessary. While waiting for a bus the first week, I met a Japanese hitchhiker who had just emerged from a 10-day zen meditation. He took one look at me and laughed, “More baggage, more fear!” After that I hitched around instead of being dependent on bus schedules, and when I got to the next post office promptly sent a large shipment home! Of course, all of this is learned in the travels – we reassess what we think we ‘need’. I’ve learned that we will fill whatever space we have – a house, a car, a storage locker, a backpack – and hey, even a fannypack! Peace Pilgrim walked thousands of miles with nothing but pamphlets and letters in her pockets.