Switch to German - Deutsch
Liberated Life

Hand Luggage Only - Key for Mobility

You think you need a lot to feel free and comfortable? Let me introduce you to a different lifestyle. For years now, I am just traveling and only living with hand luggage. When I look at my luggage during my trips there are two facts that amaze me over and over again.

Backpack, Hand Luggage only - Traveling without borders
All my belonging at the start of my trips

All my belonging at the start of my trips

An Amazing Insight

First, it amazes me with how less of material possessions one can live a good life. Second, it is a relaxing joy that I am allowed to bring all my possession as hand luggage into the airplane. Whoever plans to have ultimate mobility in his life should think about which unnecessary possessions he might get rid of.

Freedom by Releasing

Maybe you know what I am about to illustrate. You research something on the Internet and very quickly you have 30 websites opened in your browser. The titles of your webpages are already truncated because of the limited pixel number of your screen which let the many open tabs become smaller and smaller. If you furthermore work at an old netbook the performance of it will prostrate rapidly.

I believe that in our heads there are always things like a new tab opened when we committed ourselves to a new task or take responsibility for something additional. But how is this related to hand luggage and how much stuff we own? I am convinced that our belongings demand a lot from us as well and that we committed ourselves once more when we purchase yet another more item.

Our stuff demands attention. Our possessions want to be well-maintained and sometimes repaired or replaced. Depending on our personality they might even want to displayed and enjoyed. They need space. They might want to be paid off or be worth while using it frequently. Many things want to be protected and insured against damage or theft.

And furthermore, even some legislators like the German ones might say that property entails obligations. These are a lot of things for items which might just lay around waiting an eternity for contingencies and proper events of usage.

I have made the experience that letting go of things brings some advantages and breaks one's old chains.

Surely, absolute minimalism is difficult. It might be only implemented during a long process. And probably for many of us it would not be desirable that the whole world starts living minimalistic. Because our own individual minimalism is much easier realized when we sometimes can borrow or rent thing needed.

Therefore, we need other people which obviously do not live out minimalism as radically as we do. A good question for clearing out the dung might therefore be: "Does this particular item provide me more freedom than it binds me and makes me sluggish?"

The Advantages of a Life with Only a Backpack

The less I possess the easier life is going. The slimmer I design me life the more flexible I am. But also for you it can open some real new opportunities if you just would scale down a bit. Hasn't there been that job offer in Asia? Or didn't you have the idea of a sabbatical in Australia?

But what will happen to your fully stacked apartment? How do I get all the stuff abroad? Or: Who will pay the rent for this long period? Dad's garage is full of rubbish itself!

I have cleared out so much stuff within a year that I finally only had to sell my empty furniture to start living only with a backpack. I didn't even have to throw away so much stuff. The most stuff was good enough for classifieds in eBay or Facebook. Most of my books I gave away for free.

When I now travel the world, I don't even need to claim luggage but just walk through border control with my Pacsafe Venturesafe 45L and search my gate. One time it happened that I had to visit the check-in counter even though I already checked in online.

What Happens with Overweight? 

Even though I had about 12kg total weight (yes, I am still an amateur, many people travel only with the half weight) and therefore 5kg beyond maximum weight for hand luggage - I know because the airline employee scaled my stuff - nobody cared.

In the worst case I might have taken my netbook carry-bag as the free second hand luggage and I would have abused some heavy utilities as clothing. Generally I can recommend to wear some more stuff in the air-conditioned planes (see layered clothing). Otherwise there is a simple rule also for the gate area: Let your backpack hang casually over your shoulders and hide your relieving hip belts if possible. So, you will have no problems.

When you arrived at your destination or transit airport you can also just walk through border control and you don't have to wait for your luggage. And if I spontaneously decide to switch my location I don't have to think about what I might take with me. I just pack my few items into my backpack and know that I have everything with me.

And since my minimalism forces me not to buy random stuff I never have to worry about being subject to custom restrictions of the countries I visit.

But What if...

…the Things Taken Along are not Enough?

Even in developing countries there is always a possibility to buy urgently needed stuff in the worst case. Sometimes you get it there even much cheaper than in your home country. Also, pharmaceuticals are mostly everywhere available in an emergency case.

But here you should be a little bit careful of course. Fortunately, pharmacist and physicians count to the most educated people in any country and therefore their English is usually over average.

…I Want to Do a Trip Which Requires Special Equipment?

Usually I always stay in civilization. But if I really would one day decide to climb the Mt. Everest then I will make sure I get the necessary equipment to do so. Until then I surely won't carry all that stuff with me just in case. Normally you can get everything you need at the place, where its needed. 

…Spare Clothes Run Out?

Until now I always had cheap or even free laundry opportunities. You don't ned to wash everyday if you have wind and a line. For real emergencies, a sink and soap will do the job. Unfortunately, I am still very afraid in this area so that I carry clothes for at least one week with dust and sweat. But I want to reduce this in the future!

…I Didn't Prepare for Every Weather?

Currently I am planning only for a summer life anyway. But who knows... maybe when I am able to get rid of more clothes I might even have space left for a pullover and can visit Germany during winter time :-) For emergencies here the layered clothing principle applies as well.

…Not Everything Fits in the Backpack?

With the right technique clothes can be compressed so much that everything always fits into the backpack (see packing tutorials). Weight is sometimes a bigger problem than space.

…One Buys More Space Consuming Things Abroad?

You really have to watch your space. One rule I set for myself is: If I buy one new thing one old thing must leave the luggage. I also challenge myself to get rid of one more item before every flight.

…I Get Robbed Abroad?

That would be really bothering because in the worst case all my possessions would be gone. But with some preparations the worst consequences can be cushioned. But more information on that I provide in another article.

My Packing List

Let's talk about the "substance" – what do I take with me on my trips? Or differently asked: What do I still possess?

Electronics - The Foundation of my Work

  • Macbook Air (including accessories)
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+ Dual-SIM
  • Samsung Speed-USB-Charger (I use this also for other devices. So, I don't need double wires.)
  • Samsung Ear Buds Bluetooth Headset
  • screen cleansing tissue
  • Computer carry bag
  • SKROSS world adapter
  • Anker PowerBank
  • plugbar
  • USB flash drive

Clothing - In Warm Countries Rather Subsidiary

  • 1 plastic belt with secret compartment for emergency currency and a copy of my passport
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 pair of sport shoes
  • 1 cap
  • 1 packing cube
  • net for laundry
  • 1 bag for dirty shoes
  • 9 underpants (Update: Yeah, I am already down to 8 pieces)
  • 6 pairs of small socks (Update: 2! How could I… I only need them anyway when I wear my sport shoes)
  • 7 pairs of socks (Update: 3 are enough, even for Germany. Otherwise I might wash them in them quickly in a basin!)
  • 3 short pants (Update: 1 is enough. I also have my swimming shorts anyway and my sport pants are very thin as well)
  • 6 t-shirts (Update: 3. Tendency: Switch them again more well-ventilated shirts)
  • 3 sport pants (Update: 2 work as well)
  • 1 long pants (Update: None. Sport pants are enough. I am basically a tourist and not a model on the catwalk)
  • 1 zip off pants (Update: Uncomfortable. Away with it!)
  • 1 zipper hoody
  • 1 swimming pants

Cosmetics - Probably the Biggest Risk at Airport Control

  • toothpaste
  • toothbrush + case
  • nail clipper
  • comb
  • deo
  • bodywash/shampoo
  • hair gel (Update: I now have only very short hair. Everything else is to warm)
  • plaster
  • q-tips
  • pincette
  • Sea To Summit toiletry bag
  • shaver
  • transparent bag for airport control in Europe
  • mini towel
  • tall microfiber tower (Maybe I will get rid of that big and uncomfortable spectacle cloth. I get towels everywhere anyway and for emergency cases I still have my multifunction sarong)
  • earplugs (Update: I grew up in the city. Actually no noise bothers me!)

Utilities - Everything Else One Needs

Let's see what I can get rid of at my next flights. The next switch of my location will surely come. When? That's totally up to my current mood!

Read, how you can protect yourself from theft, computer viruses and war!

What would you do if you could carry all your possessions on your shoulders? Why don't you write below in the comments?