Leaving distractions behind

Girl Reading in Cafe MajesticThe idea of packing light is nothing new. Henry David Thoreau famously explored simple living. Rick Steves advocates one 20-pound bag. Many airlines now penalize travelers with even one checked bag by imposing a baggage fee. And in this BootsnAll interview, Rolf suggests that a small pack keeps the traveler from being tempted to cram unnecessary stuff in there.

Every time I pack for a trip, even if it’s a short one, I ask myself if I really need everything I put in my bag. Over the years, that’s gotten me to pack lighter, but there’s something that still bugs me. Things like my iPod, books (or a Kindle, if you’re into e-books) and my laptop don’t take up too much room, and they certainly make long plane rides more tolerable. But once in my destination, my relying on them for entertainment gets in the way of being in the moment and seeing (and hearing) new things.

It’s not so much a problem with my laptop. I’ve never been a big Web surfer, and while I usually need it to work, I can easily turn it off and walk away. Books and music are harder for me to put down. I can’t count how many times I’ve relaxed in a café with a book. If I hadn’t had one, what would I do? People watch, listen to snippets of conversation, take in the scenery? Perhaps I would have met someone and learned something new about the destination and its people.

I’m not saying reading materials and music can’t be part of a positive travel experience—they just shouldn’t be a crutch to keep us in our at-home comfort zone. In my trips this year, I’m going to experiment with leaving more and more distractions at home (or leaving them in my bag once I arrive in my destination) and see how that changes my experience. How about you? Am I late to the game and everyone’s already ahead of me? Are there things you’re still packing that you can start leaving at home?

Posted by | Comments (2)  | February 12, 2010
Category: Lifestyle Design, On The Road, Simplicity, Travel Gear, Vagabonding Life

2 Responses to “Leaving distractions behind”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    When in doubt, leave it out! You can buy personal items when you travel. And, you don’t have to pack the entire closet. Buy clothing at markets like Chatuchak in Thailand — it will be cheaper.

    Select one item beside your laptop or netbook and leave the rest at home. You could be missing out on fabulous conversations and people watching. Who knows, you could have missed out on making new friends.

  2. Scott Kostolni Says:

    I was just discussing this topic when I posted my proposed packing-list for a one month trip to Egypt. I am really eager to travel as light and with as little as possible but electronics are somewhat of a sticking point. Though I am essentially traveling with one bag I think I am going to try to store my laptop and nook in a kiva bag and lock it up at my hostel first thing every morning. I hope this will keep me focused on where I am.