in Travel

Living out of a backpack

Two days ago I got back from a month-long backpacking trip around Eastern and Central Europe. We started out in Budapest, before moving on to Bratislava and Vienna and then heading north to Prague and Berlin. From there we headed almost in a straight line down to Munich, Innsbruck and Verona (with Venice as a trip from there) and finally we headed across the top of Italy to get to Genoa.

I didn’t take much, as I wrote about whilst I was planning the trip; in the end I had one 25l backpack and my trusty satchel. The picture below shows everything that was in those bags:

All my stuff for a month

So two relatively small bags for a month.

Yet, almost immediately I had this feeling of man I have too much stuff. My friend James who I was travelling with had a single 20l bag, meaning whenever we had all our stuff with us moving on to a new city, there was no problem carrying everything around all day — cause everything didn’t amount to much.

Me? We’d arrive in our exciting new destination and I’d want to make a three or four hour round trip to the hostel we were staying in (which was inevitably waay outside the city centre), which is kinda a problem when you’re only staying in a single place for twenty four hours.

So I decided I definitely had too much stuff.

To prove my point I even didn’t really use a couple of the bulkier items from my bag. My jumper? Wore it once. Rain jacket? A friend of mine we met up with in Prague used it more than I did. Don’t get me started on the sleeping bag liner I thought it’d be a really good idea to bring.

To further prove my point I even repacked my bag entirely at midnight after getting home, taking out all of the “stuff” I didn’t use/didn’t need and demonstrating to myself how everything could have fitted in one bag.

It did actually fit in one bag and I could’ve gotten away with just having that bag.

So let’s recap. I’ve got a single bag and inside that bag I’ve got everything I need to live with. Clothes, towel, toiletries, tech, books etc. The lot.

As one does on a trip, I came home at the end.

I then had a whole room full of stuff. There was all this paper everywhere and all this stuff and man I have so much stuff or something. I have too much stuff or something.

I’ve long at least attempted to try and embrace the whole minimalism thing, but clearly I’ve just not been very good at it. Obviously in a home one somewhat needs more stuff, but stuff and minimalism don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

I’m going to have a massive clearout. I’m actually going to try and legit properly go paperless (bar one or two trusty Moleskines, obviously).

I’ve been using a relatively dumb smartphone for the last month and after getting my Nexus back my immediate thoughts were this is so big and why the hell do I have so many apps on this thing. I’m not planning on circlejerk minimalising and getting rid of my phone, but I’ll at least have a clear out of apps.

Basically, having too much stuff is annoying. It’s taken travelling around Europe for a month to prompt me to realise how much stuff I have, but if you can have the same eureka moment without spending a month in hostels, it’s probably just a little bit easier.

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  1. I’ve been slowly cutting down on belongings for a long time.

    As for travel, after taking a 75 L pack around a trip in the USA, I learned to massively minimise what I take. I’m often questioned by friends as to where my luggage is whilst travelling, and they seem very confused when I point to the pack on my back.

    I’ve only ever travelled by air with checked in baggage a small number of times. This mostly prevents lost luggage being a problem, speeds up travel and allows for much easier transport at the other end, not to mention the obvious benefits when you go super light of being able to waltz around all day with your luggage and not feel like off-loading it.

    I’m also very skeptical of security systems in hostels, hotels and whatnot. I hate dropping off bags or sticking them in some half baked poorly built locker, or trusting hotel cleaning staff not to pinch my things, so I like to carry everything with me at all times whenever possible.

    • I’d love to be able to do the same. On the flight on the way back fellow passengers were fighting for overhead locker space but I was able to just dump my bag under the seat in front. I’d booked checked bags before I set off thinking I’d need them, but definitely not going to be repeating that one again.


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