Mindful packing/unpacking

When traveling, does the idea of packing your possessions into a transportable case to then later unpack conjure feelings of burden or anxiety? Do you hold off the task because it feels like a chore, or perhaps get triggered with impending queues and security checks at airports? Well, it needn’t be this way.

If you approach the repetitive task with practical sensibility, reduction, and some mindfulness — there’s an inherent calm it can offer. And with unknowns along a journey surely guaranteed, sometimes this calm could be an anchor in a trip marred by unexpected twists.

Having traveled extensively over the past decade, both through work and for leisure, I’ve noticed in that time I actually need less. Therefore, simply packing less has been the key for me to reduce stress that comes with travel. Whether it’s a quick overnight business trip to a nearby outpost or an extended pilgrimage to a far-flung corner, each itinerary offers you an opportunity to think about possessions, ownership, and what is excess.

The fact that you cannot logistically take every item you own with you calls for a routine audit of your possessions, reassessing their intrinsic value, and evaluating their relevance to the whole. With the whole referring to your identity (more on that later). But for all the possibilities travel bestows, you’ll likely fall back to a finite set of possessions which covers your basic needs. These finite possessions are something you should intimately get to know, so that you don’t need to rely on memory, packing lists, or even apps.

My finite set of possessions — or travel field kit — is one I can depend upon for almost two-to-three weeks at a time, before I’ll need access to proper facilities like washing or to make replenishments. They’re more or less my life essentials distilled further into the most functional and compact. As an aside though, if you don’t leave room or pack an item or two for the serendipity or unexpected that comes with travel you may not be accounting for the whole. So, for me that’s bringing an additional camera lens (85mm) and a (casual) suit — you never know. Lastly the final possession, and in my opinion an investment, should be a travel case* (wheeled or not) befitting of the stories it will adorn over the years through scuffs, tears and dents — almost wabi-sabi like.

Life essentials stowed in my carry-on

My travel field kit inventory looks a little like this (excluding items worn) currently:

  • Clothing – staples, jacket, suit, shoes (2x), laundry kit
  • Connection – laptop, phone, global sim, watch, peripherals
  • Curiosity – camera, lenses (2x), books or magazines
  • Digital – podcasts, apps, music, books
  • Prerequisites – passport, visas, currency, notepad, pen, herbs, vitamins, spare tote
  • Well-being – toiletries, skincare, running gear and shoes

Having traveled extensively over the past decade or so, I no longer need to think about my inventory, plus or minus an item or two, as it’s usually always the same set of items I pack and replenish (I haven’t strayed away from too many brands I like). Once you’ve fine-tuned your inventory, packing starts to become monotonous thus serving as a gentle meditation each time you prepare your kit for an upcoming itinerary or decompress having arrived from one.

30

I turned thirty this year, and weirdly I’m not that terrified about the prospect of leaving this coming-of-age — as they say — decade. Hindsight is 20/20. I did a lot in my twenties, definitely made mistakes, but learned a lot about me — my passions, my values, and my weaknesses. I entered the decade as a junior at university (I studied mechanical engineering and finance), and ended the decade living in New York City having worked for several startups. In between, I did random things like launch a fashion brand, or travel to cities across three continents (Europe, Asia, and North America). Though, looking back, it’s the lifelong friends I made during each year of my twenties that I look forward to carrying with me into the next decade.