How to travel the world on hand luggage only

By Anna Brech

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Too much choice weighs us down in life – and in travel, this burden is literal. We’d all like to be that person who flies easy and light, zipping through the baggage carousel area before hopping on a Vespa into town. Not for them a frantic last-minute tussle to rearrange their backpack weight. Nor do they ever require the services of an unwieldy airport trolley. But how to combine this fantasy with the very real demands of a global adventure?

Australian author Sarah Wilson has done exactly that, and she’s here to spread the knowledge. The 42-year-old writer recently travelled the world on just 8kg of flight essentials in hand luggage. Her four-month foray took her from LA to London and Eastern Europe, and covered activities such as hiking, work presentations and even a 50th fancy dress bash. Yet, as she documents in a fresh blog post, she survived on one bag “happy and easily”. Here’s how:

1. Wear the same clothes every day

Just like Barack Obama, Sarah chooses to eliminate wardrobe hassle by wearing the same outfit every day. Of course, this varies a little bit depending on where she is, but the basics (leggings, linen shirt, silk skirt and white tee) remain constant.

“I gave into wearing the same thing every day, as I do here in Australia,” Sarah explains. “I honestly don’t think people notice or care. I have a signature look, is how I see it… I only wear things I love and that make me feel comfortable.”

Read more: Solo travel fuels this major happiness habit

There is something undeniably freeing about this concept. Not only do you have less clothes to lug around, you’re also unhampered by constantly having to rifle through your backpack in a mild rage for those shorts you swore you had somewhere… Best of all, you completely nix the daily quandary of wondering what to wear.

Sarah made the most of her minimal clothes by washing and recycling. “I handwashed smalls in the shower at night, so only carried two pairs of undies for the trip,” she says. Also, “I wear things out. My good white shirt became my hiking shirt by month three.”

2. Source your backpack wisely

With only one piece of hand luggage to see you through weeks on the road, your backpack is the star of the show.

“I researched the lightest and simplest multi-day pack (light enough to be a day-pack, too) on the market,” Sarah says. “The reviews revealed the Southwest Ultralight backpack was the one to go for. And so I went for it. It’s also the most waterproof and has the least number of added bits.”

3. Rotate your books

If you’re a Kindle convert, this part won’t apply. You can obviously download as many books as you want to for your trip. But for those who prefer physical books, follow Sarah’s lead and choose one at a time.

“I always have a book with me,” the author says. “When I’ve read it, I give it away before buying another.”

Again this is a clever move that derives from less choice. If you have just one novel with you, you’re pretty much bound to read it – rather than bouncing around if the first two pages don’t immediately grab you.

Read more: Kondo or Commando? Choose your packing style with these tips from the pros

Plus, there’s an element of spontaneity to the whole thing that is very pleasing to die-hard bookworms. You enjoy your book, before passing it on for others to do the same. Then, you pick up another novel; and what it is depends very much on where you happen to be at any one time.

Read more about Sarah’s hand luggage adventures and see a snap of her admirably concise packing list on her blog. Three cheers for minimal travel…

Photos: Shutterstock and Instagram @_sarahwilson_

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