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Entries in New York (1)


Minimalist Travel

Eight years ago, as I was preparing for my first trip across the Atlantic, I bought a large beige Samsonite suitcase. I packed several kilos of batteries, cables and adapters, 12 books and 22 full changes of clothing. This turned out to be quite sufficient for the three weeks I was to spend in the United States. While having pretty much my entire wardrobe and library at my disposal every second of the trip did bring me considerable happiness, it also had its drawbacks. Even before taking off, I had to distract the check-in girl with loud tongue-clicking noises while she weighed the suitcase just to avoid overweight fees sufficient to compromise my long-term financial stability. Lugging around that much stuff made every hotel change not unlike moving apartments. I was also disheartened to find out that, for all practical purposes, wheeled suitcases become entirely un-wheeled as soon as the floor isn't perfectly flat, i.e. the second you step outside the airport.

Despite these gripes, I still own that suitcase. Four years ago I filled it with every piece of clothing I had worn since puberty, plus every utensil in my kitchen, shut the lid and moved to Switzerland carrying little else. On shorter trips though, I quickly switched to a hiking backpack, although at first without packing significantly less. It made the wheels problem disappear and motivated me to stay reasonably fit. However, from trip to trip I became increasingly disinclined to carry, well, much of anything.

Yesterday I packed for two weeks in New York, Boston and Paris, and here's everything I'm taking:

So basically five sets of underwear, two pairs of trousers, two long-sleeved t-shirts, two dress shirts, one suit jacket and an embarrassingly bright Scooby-Doo tie. (There's a formal event planned.) A couple cameras, memory cards, hard drive, spare batteries. Cell phone, iPad, and laptop. (A very small laptop.) That's it.

All of these fit comfortably in a Deuter Futura 28 backpack with room to spare. This mid-sized hiking daypack is very comfortable to wear, even fully loaded when it's hot and damp, and also fits perfectly under the seat of most airliners. I'm also carrying a ScotteVest tropical jacket, for additional capacity, although it is at present largely empty.

Obviously I'll have to hit the cleaners a couple times per week, and I won't impress anyone with my incredibly varied and creative wardrobe, but on the other hand I'll never have to wait for bags at the airport, nor store luggage at the hotel and make detours to get it back, nor indeed lose any time at all in the morning trying to decide what to wear. All things considered, it makes for a much more comfortable trip.