This is part 1 out of 5 tips I will be releasing over the next week. They will be short, to the point, and accompanied with a funny story or tidbit from my own travel mishaps, basically giving you a reasoning and first-hand experience to why I included each tip as essential.
Tip #1 Travel Light!
Even if your a fashionista, travel light! First, you start out with one suitcase, throw in shoes, bathing suits, jeans, and all your makeup essentials and all of a sudden your out of room and overweight, and there is still a large pile of items next to you waiting to be packed. Next thing you know, your traveling through Italy by train with two bags, a purse, and all the unnecessary clothes and shoes you brought, that you thought you needed, but didn’t end up wearing. I can promise that, although us girls love “options” we don’t end up wearing half of the things we bring with us. Don’t ruin your trip stressing over the lag that multiple bags comes with. Sure, if you have a limousine bringing you to and from your hotels and destinations, and don’t plan on using any trains or public transportation, than feel free to bring your entire closet with you. But, if your like any young traveler who is traveling on a budget or knowingly going to be training it throughout Europe, than the lighter the better.
Seriously, choose the things you know you wear most and will actually wear or get use. Don’t bring a million pairs of this or that, stick to a few of each and know that a laundry mat is available basically anywhere you go, so you can always wash and re-wear along the trip. Also, if it is summer, don’t bring a million sweaters or jackets, be realistic about the season and what you will actually need. Same thing, in winter don’t bring a bunch of short sleeve tees or shorts in hopes of catching a ray or two of sun. You won’t even break into it slightly, and being realistic about the location or season can help keep the stress of overpacking down. Bring a bag that you can easily lift by yourself on and off train platforms, metro’s buses and so forth, because anything more than 50 lbs or more than one or two bags, can become too much to handle and you could injure yourself during the process.
Why Travel light you ask?
Well, well , well, I’m glad you asked! There is nothing WORSE than the stress of having multiple bags or to top that, extremely heavy bags, whilst trekking on your own through Europe or any destination. Here I am in Paris, France, winter of 2013 as an au-pair(nanny) for a french family. I had embarked on a year long stay in France to be a nanny to four french children, in hopes of improving my french and to meet new friends. Packing for this adventure, which required 4 different seasons and basically the necessity to bring everything I could and would use over the year, I ended up with 5 bags (as shown above)! Repeating over and over to my skeptical mother telling me it was too much, that “…it’s fine! I just need to get it all there and I’d figure out at the end of the year how to get it all back.” Fast-forward to three weeks in, when the seemingly lovely french family I had chosen and been picked to stay with, wasn’t so seemingly nice as I had once thought. To put it briefly, after being overworked and underpaid, with many different situations that went against the legal government contract I had signed with the family, and after discussing and coming to no resolve, chose to leave the family and this idea of a year long stay, to travel for a few months and then go back home. But, this also meant I now had 5 bags to drag around with me–in the winter– in snow in many cases– throughout Europe (mostly Eastern Europe). Now, clearly I would have never packed 5 bags if I had known I would be leaving after such a short time, but I don’t think most of you understand the concept of how heavy and how difficult it is for one girl to try and navigate 5 bags, nonetheless in Europe, nonetheless in the dead of winter. Did I mention I’m from California?! So here’s Europe, the land where you have to watch your every move with seasoned pick-pocketers, follow the trust-no-one guide, and the lack of foreign language skills and this becomes a heavy feat.
I started with 5 bags, headed to Spain by train, where I had help loading all the bags from an au pair friend. Got yelled at by train staff, due to my extra bags (thankfully they let me board it all), that was fun! From there, I thankfully had my best friend who I was visiting in Madrid and staying with for a few weeks to help when I arrived at the train station, because I literally had to chuck all 5 bags out the train car, as they almost left with me still on the train, due to the short 5 minute window to board and un-board. I had to literally park myself because I physically had no way of moving these on my own. While in Spain, I shipped two bags home, mostly consisting of summer clothes, leaving me with three left (thought this would be light enough). Turns out, while in Munich (a story I will be getting into in another tip), I realized that traveling in the snow, in dead of winter with three bags wasn’t going to work either, so I was going to have to ship another bag home ASAP.
The hard part was that it was winter, so I needed all of the heavy items like coats, scarves, long sleeves, jeans, boots and so on so forth. How to choose what to drop, when it was frickin freeeeeezing! After my largest suitcase that attached to the smaller one, allowing me to actually pull both suitcases together at one time snapped off in Munich, I knew I had a problem. With the help of a trusty au pair friend who i met up with in Amsterdam, I luckily got around fine and was able to ship home another box/bag of clothing, while in Prague.
So, now i’m down to two bags and yet still getting odd looks from basically every city I traveled in. Clearly they travel light in Europe, and I must have been noticeably out of place. Two bags was still difficult because at this point, after having to drag up stairs, running from place to place trying to chuck my heavy bags to make a train or bus, and so on so forth, I had a fractured foot. You would think it would be getting easier by month three backpacking without anything on my back, but no. Stress followed me and all because of my need to overpack and bring everything I could think of with me. In Vienna, Austria, my final pink medium size bag gave way to the weight and again, the handle snapped. I had no choices, and low on money–couldn’t spare to send one more thing home or to even buy a new bag. I was forced to develop a “lean back” stance wherever I went, essentially bending over backwards in an attempt to pull the small pink suitcase with the fabric handle, while i kicked/pushed my 4-wheeled travel suitcase along in front of me. Trust me, this would have made for HILARIOUS t.v., but no it was just my crazy life! I was unable to really relax and fully enjoy these places I visited over a four month period, because my constant concern and anxiety was always thinking about how difficult the next destination would be just trying to maneuver my bags. I had many men attempt to help me up metro steps, sweet spanish women running to ticket counters to check me in because I refused to leave any of my bags (accompanied by my macbook computer) unattended or in the watchful eyes of strangers and potential gypsies. Needless to stay, if my story doesn’t make you want to reach for a simple backpack as your travel bag, i don’t know what story could convince of the necessity to travel light. This summer, I still brought a lot, but managed to stick to one large suitcase (4-wheeler rollers this time because it makes no sense without it these days), and still have plenty of room in my suitcase. I don’t wish to recreate any of those mishaps from last year in the slightest, but appreciate the knowledge I now have from some pretty stressful, physically painful bag experiences. Travel light my friends…travel light.
Stay tuned for Tip #2 of my essential tips for travel!!