Almost 2000 years ago, the Roman poet Juvenal advised his readers to "travel light", and uncounted generations of travel experts have been doing the same ever since. Not that many people seem to be listening, though, as a quick glance around most modern airports will tell you. Why not? Why do so many travellers -- both business and leisure -- believe that moving about the world requires hauling so much stuff that one needs wheeled containers to do so?
Perhaps it's simply that they've never learned how to travel lightly, though the skill is well within the capabilities of most people (visit OneBag.com to learn). But my guess is that they've never really considered the benefits that come along with efficient travel. Certainly, with the advent of checked baggage fees, most now know that it can save them money. But that's only one of the many ways that this classic travel admonition can make your journeys more enjoyable.
Saving money is one, for sure, though there's more to that than avoiding checked baggage charges (which Juvenal had never heard of). You also escape the many porters and others who want to carry (and store) stuff for you in airports, train stations, and hotels. And those not bogged down with baggage can take inexpensive public transportation instead of taxis and limos, also bringing them into more intimate (hence rewarding) contact with the people and places that they have come to visit.
Not checking your luggage also makes it less likely that you will lose your belongings to theft, damage, or misrouting. Or that your bags will be among the fifty million that are "mishandled" annually. And those folks looking to find convenient conveyors of contraband goods will have to find another victim.
Less stuff also makes you more mobile, giving you more travel options. You needn't arrive at airports as early. You can board trains, trams, and coaches with alacrity. You can more easily deal with delayed transportation and missed connections (because you can choose alternatives without worrying about what will happen to your belongings). You can switch to earlier flights when space is available. You will be among the first to leave the airport, while others wait for baggage delivery and long customs inspection queues. You won't feel compelled to take the first hotel room offered: you can comfortably walk down the street should the ambience be unsuitable or the price unreasonable. You can even sell your airplane seat (by volunteering to be "bumped") on full flights.
Doing anything "light" helps the planet, and travel is no exception. Less stuff means less to manufacture, less use of vehicles to haul it about, less use of fuel, less greenhouse gas production. And less guilt.
But the most important benefits of all are the ones most difficult to convey to those who've never experienced them. Less hassle. More time. Less wasted energy. Knowing that you have everything you need, nothing has been forgotten, and you know where everything is. Being truly prepared for exigencies, even in foreign environments. Serenity.
Doug Dyment is a speaker and writer of travel skills. Called the "go light guru" by Time Magazine. His website http://www.onebag.com/ features a vast resource on travelling light and the skills required.