Traveling with No Luggage: An Experiment

By03-05-2019

A while back, I tried a bold experiment: traveling to a new country with no luggage. And I mean, actually no luggage, just the clothes I was wearing and the things in my pockets.

The Experiment

We’ve all heard the benefits of packing light. And it seems you can always pack lighter. I thought I’d push it to the extreme and see what I was actually wishing I had brought. I figured if I could survive a trip with no luggage, whenever I would pack in the future, I would never again fret about “forgetting something,” the worst case scenario was already understood.

The Trip

I was going to Hong Kong for a weekend. 2 nights would make for a great experiment in case anything actually did go wrong. It was April so I was expecting moderate weather, nothing extreme to pack for. On the agenda I had a few things I wanted to do like meeting up with a couple friends and hitting some new sights. I didn’t speak any Kantonese except for “Gong Hay Fat Choy” which means “Happy New Years” and was not relevant during this time. It would be just me, a stranger in a strange land, wandering around looking for adventure.

Preparation

When thinking about the worst that could happen, I realized how much I’d be relying on my phone as well as my senses (particularly my lens-dependent vision!). What I absolutely couldn’t go without was a phone charger and exta battery, and several pairs of daily contact lenses. With that, and the constraint of only being able to bring what fits in my pockets, I made the list of things I’d bring:

  • iPhone — this would be a substitute for so many other things like books (via the kindle app), travel guides, maps, camera, etc.
  • Phone charger and small, pocket size external battery.
  • Contact lenses, 3 pairs of daily lenses (no case or solution needed). I skipped brining my glasses.
  • Hair styling cream — A ziplock bag with a couple pinches — definitely the least necessary thing I brought but I wanted to prove I could still be my normal self even without my luggage.
  • Tiny toothbrush, less than half the size of a typical travel toothbrush.
  • Clothing — I would wear all of it. This included jeans, brown leather boots, socks, underwear, an undershirt, and a button down shirt. This would allow me to be ready for any occasion (hiking, hitting the nightlife, etc).
  • Yes, I only brought one pair of underwear, but this was strategic too: I brought Ex Officio underwear which don’t collect odor and are fast-drying. I could wash them (and other clothes) in the sink and dry them overnight if necessary.

Arriving to Hong Kong

Arriving was the best part. When I arrived to the airport, I almost instinctively looked up directions to my hotel.

Then I realized, there was now zero reason to go to my hotel. I didn’t have to drop off my stuff.

I could brush my teeth and freshen up at the airport if I needed to. I laughed at the thought of what I would even do if I went to the hotel.

Instead, I looked at the list of things I had for Hong Kong. The first on the list was heading over to Macau and checking out the unique architecture and vibe there. I went straight from the airport to catch a boat over to Macau. The feeling I had was priceless: nothing on my back, complete freedom to bounce around to wherever I wanted to go. It was so empowering.

Calling it a Night

I wandered around for a few hours, and even hit some nightlife before deciding I had my adventure fix for the day. It felt a bit weird to not have already been to my hotel, but again, I had no reason to except to sleep. After all that, I headed to the hotel and checked in. They asked if I had any luggage, and I said with a big smile “no”. I got my key card and headed to my room. After removing my contacts and brushing my teeth, I just had to plug my phone in and crawl peacefully into bed.

The Downsides

This was an incredible trip, and I navigated Hong Kong really without any issues and with so much freedom. So the question is, would I want to travel without luggage regularly? NoI did feel inconvenienced at times, particularly with limited clothes, heavy pockets, and the inability to bring a few little items like sunglasses, a proper sized toothbrush, my kindle, etc. A backpack that isn’t too heavy would give me almost the same freedom to bounce around yet without the limitations.

The Upsides

I cannot emphasize enough the freedom gained from not being dependent on my hotel as a storage unit for my stuff. Going straight from the airport to Macau, then all around the city, and finally to the nightlife probably gave me 25% of my time back. Time is usually the most scarce resource when it comes to traveling and “no luggage” made me time-rich.

Decision making also was a lot easier. I never had to decide which clothes to wear or what I should bring out with me for the day. Decision-making fatigue is a real thing, and this kept me sharp all day.

Lastly, I pretty much squashed any future anxiety when it comes to packing. I’ll never again stress about forgetting something as I’ve proven you usually don’t need what you think you need (and you can usually buy anything you do really want wherever you go).

The World of Minimalism

I’m a big fan of the minimalism ideology catching on. It’s the pursuit of experiences instead of things, and simplifying our lives in a world that tries to tell us we need more. To me, this means empowerment, and being able to travel around a city in a breeze without luggage is an embodiment of that.

Bounce

This is why we’re building Bounce — to empower people to live more minimalistic lives, to have more freedom in their day to day whether traveling or coming from work, and to never again be held back by their things. Bounce is your “locker in the cloud” where you can store your things temporarily while you go about your day. We’re still building the product, but you can join our movement and follow along here.

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