Have you ever seen travelers with huge, overstuffed suitcases heading off for a week or two at a vacation resort? Of course you have.
So who are these people who have to bring most of their worldly possessions along every time they go on a trip? They're stuff worshippers. They need their stuff. They rarely, if ever, use all of the stuff they bring, but it gives them comfort to have their stuff with them at all times. If they didn't have their stuff they'd feel diminished, possibly even worthless.
The perfect therapy for anyone obsessed with materialism, which is the need to have a lot of stuff, is to travel for an extended period of time. It's surprising how quickly valuable stuff morphs into junk that needs to be hauled around. A couple of weeks vacation is not enough, especially when it's a case of boarding a plane or ship and then packing everything up to return home. What's needed to break the emotional dependency on stuff is to actually travel, to get on and off planes and trains, to carry your backpack or luggage for blocks, or to have to tie your belongings down on a bicycle each morning and then untie everything that night again to truly appreciate what it is to pack light.
I was once a traveler with the need to have a lot of stuff. However, I quickly became a traveler who loathed my stuff. It represented a ball and chain that held me back, slowed me down, and caused me to waste time and effort packing and unpacking.
On the journey that I decided to converted from stuff obsessed vacationer to true travel enthusiast, it was done with flare. I bought a backpack and carefully analysed every item I placed in it. What was left over I packed into two suitcases. They were full of good quality stuff that I'd lugged around for over a week and never wore. I took my backpack and the suitcases to the Bucharest train station. However, I boarded the train carrying only my backpack. I knew the apparently forgotten suitcases would be gone in no time and I wished whoever picked them up all the happiness in the world for ridding me of a curse. The weight that had been literally lifted from my shoulders paled by comparison to the mental weight that was lifted off me as the train pulled away from the station. Since that day I've never brought more than a single bag on a trip, regardless of how long the journey.
I now set out on a journey of months and fit everything I need into a single piece of luggage or backpack. Plus, whatever bag I bring fits inside the overhead luggage compartment of a plane.
I pack what I'll need immediately, a couple of changes of clothes and toiletries, maybe a camera and/or a laptop. Where I go in world it will ether be so remote I could go naked and no one would notice. On the other hand, if my destination is populated there will be local stores where I can buy whatever else I need. Carrying something with me on the off chance I might need it at some point is no longer an option.
I was seated on a train beneath Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport watching a woman struggling down the escalator with a luggage cart. Based on the attire she wasn't European. Most likely American or Canadian.
She had with her two large suitcases, her purse slung across her shoulders, and a shoulder bag that I assumed was her carry-on. She made it to the platform where she had to lift everything up off the cart onto the train, then haul it down the narrow aisle one bag at a time. I helped her lift the two suitcases up to place them onto the overhead storage. They were as heavy as they looked.
We got to talking and I learned that she was only taking the train as far as Amsterdam to meet up with friends. I explained that I had purchased a Eurorail ticket and was going to take the train through the Benelux countries, and then south to Vienna. I said that I hoped by then any jet lag would have passed and I'd have acclimatized and culturally adjusted to being in Europe again. At that point I would decide where to go next. Mary, the woman asked to be called, asked the predicable small talk question, "How long was I going to be in Europe?" The truth was I had no idea, but to say so would sound crazy to someone who obviously lived and worked to a schedule.
I had to change trains in Amsterdam so I offered to help her off the train. She was very appreciative, probably because she was dreading having to offload all of her luggage. Amsterdam's central train station is one of the busiest train stations in Europe, making getting hold of an available luggage cart akin to winning a lottery.
We got the luggage off the train, piling it up on the platform. I pulled the handles out of her suitcases so they could be wheeled along and asked, "Are you being picked up, or do you need a taxi? The exits are different depending on which it is."
Mary then suggested I'd forgotten my own luggage on the train. I slapped the shoulder bag I had with me and replied, "No, I have it." As she looked from my small bag to her collection of luggage, her expression and speechlessness captured exactly the vast void there is between lifestyle and vacation travelers who need to have as much of their stuff as possible with them.
Author: Len Bowcott, aka The Vagabond, has been traveling since he was a teenager, with the longest non-stop journey abroad lasting longer than two decades. Having already visited 69 countries, it's Len's goal to visit all 196 countries on the planet.
This website, plus Vagabond Travel - Endless Wanderer website are extentions of Len's love for travel and adventure.