Independent Travel: The Advantages of Traveling Light

I look in the rearview mirror as I spin slowly up another grade along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even with the low gearing and lightweight saddlebags, it still takes some effort to get my steel framed touring bicycle up the steep inclines along the scenic byway. Behind me, a gigantic Chevy Pickup truck crawls into view around a bend, moving just the slightest bit faster than I, dragging a “camper” the size of a modest home behind it.

I roll off to the side of the road and checkout the view of the valley below me while the behemoth groans passed, belching diesel smoke from its dual exhaust tips.

Less than a mile up the road I roll into a small turnout and meet a local contingent of birdwatchers scanning the skies for birds of prey during the annual hawk migration. We talk about the birds and their routes and shared a laugh when I mistakenly point at a turkey vulture and asked “what kind of hawk is that?” The people with the trailer? Nowhere to be seen, the turnout, and its expansive views of the valley below are far too small for their over-sized truck and trailer.

When you only have two wheels and are self-propelled traveling light is more necessity than luxury, but I have always found that the independent travel is nearly always easier and more interesting when you have less stuff to deal with. From getting where you are going to getting around once you get there, the rule of “have less / do more” holds true just about everywhere you want to go.

Traveling Light Makes Travel Faster

Most of the time, travel is more about the journey than the destination, but for some adventurers limited time means that the adventure doesn’t start when they leave the house but rather at some preplanned jumping off point along the way. In cases like that getting to the start of the adventure quickly and easily adds more time to actually enjoy the travel experience. And even for those on extended travels, getting through customs lines and airport queues quickly can add hours of time better spent enjoying the world around you. When you travel with only what you need – rather than with everything you think you need – your travel options expand quickly. Carrying a single small bag rather than multiple suitcases speeds up all forms of public transportation, from getting on planes and trains to going through customs. The less you have to deal with the faster everything moves.

Traveling Light Increases your Travel Flexibility

When you carry everything you need with you, you can take advantage of options as they arise, rentals cars can be quickly returned and spur of the moment side trips require simply walking off of one bus and onto another instead of hunting down baggage, ensuring that it gets on the right bus, dealing with added fees, etc.

Traveling Light is Cheaper

We live in the age of add-on fees. The more you bring the more it costs. More axles equal higher road tolls, and higher fees at campgrounds. Traveling with more luggage results in higher airline fees. Even when staying in a hotel, the lightweight traveler has the advantage of skipping up to their room while the fully prepared tourist has to spend time (and money) wrangling a bellhop, negotiating the hallways with the luggage cart, tipping, etc.

Traveling Light Lets You Bring More Home

I’m not talking about trinkets form the local gift shop here – will that “traditional handmade festival mask” really help you remember your trip better? Probably not, but the extra flexibility and options you gain by traveling light as well – as all the time and money you save – will help you see more, do more, experience more, and bring home more memories than you could ever gain if you were maxed out before you ever left the house.

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