No Luggage: What Everyone Can Learn From Luggage-Free Travel

I spent last week on the road with nothing but a BlackBerry Torch and some essential toiletries for No Luggage Week — an experience that proved both liberating and productive. Few people would ever duplicate the exact experience, but it does have plenty of lessons for anyone who travels regularly for work.

Like many of my Lifehacker projects, No Luggage Week was deliberately extreme: every work task had to be completed on my BlackBerry, I couldn't take any change of clothes, toiletries were kept to the absolute bare minimum, I didn't stay in expensive hotels, and I changed cities every single day. The point is that if I could survive and thrive for a week under those circumstances, almost anyone should be able to shrink down their luggage and technology requirements when travelling.

Luggage and laundry lessons

Spending a week travelling through Australia's major airports proves one point: Aussie travellers are addicted to luggage. There was a constant battle to claim overhead space on board, and many people had two on-board bags plus a computer case. Even if those people didn't have any checked baggage, they were taking a lot of stuff. Not being one of their number felt really liberating. Even when I took trains, I was amazed at how much stuff people were routinely lugging around. I've been in that category in the past (I've transported mattresses via public transport before), but I know which side of the fence I'd rather be on.

Managing laundry was a more interesting challenge. Having just one outfit to wear is, in truth, pretty restrictive, even though the outfit itself held up extremely well. If I had taken just one other change of clothes, I'd still have needed to wash every night, but I'd have something to wear while that outfit was drying. Getting a serviced apartment with a washer and dryer would make that process more accessible, but also more expensive; the apartment in Brisbane I had cost twice as much as anywhere else I stayed.

For future trips, I can easily see myself packing perhaps two main sets of clothing, and some PJs to lounge around in otherwise. That's not something I could stuff entirely in my pockets, but it would still all easily go in a very small shoulder bag that I'd never need to fight for space on a plane — especially if I didn't lug a notebook PC and other gadgets with me.

Technology lessons

Everyone knows that modern smartphones are powerful, but few people take the step of relying on them exclusively. What surprised me a little was just how possible it was to switch from using a PC — something I've been doing in my day job for close on two decades — to only using the BlackBerry. Yes, there were moments when I found myself wishing I could type faster, but they were pretty few and far between, and my work processes didn't have to undergo massive changes.

As with any undertaking designed to improve productivity, advance planning is the key. Having the right set of apps on-board made a big difference, as did knowing the main shortcuts for navigating around the device.

Obviously, the extent to which you could do this depends on your own job. However, for short-haul trips, I find it hard to imagine that many people couldn't organise their time so that any tasks which did require a PC (or any other office equipment) weren't required to be completed in that particular period.

What would I do differently? For long days on the go, I'd definitely pack a spare battery — I never actually ran out of power, but I did have to make sure I got to a charger every so often. BlackBerry batteries are small, so I could easily have thrown a spare in my pocket. And I might pay more attention to picking hotels with a Wi-Fi option (even a paid one), so that I'd have something to use if the 3G provider had an unexpected glitch.

I don't know that I'll ever entirely forsake luggage to this extreme again. But I can absolutely see myself going for a very minimal shoulder bag of items for brief trips, and dumping even my low-weight netbook in favour of the BlackBerry.

For the No Luggage experiment, Angus Kidman did his normal job while travelling Australia for a week with not much more than a BlackBerry. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker


Comments

    In my last semester of uni while everyone else had their MacBooks out I was typing away on my N97 Mini, using a bluetooth keyboard. Same keyboard works for my PS3 and would probably work for other handsets too! Touch-typing > thumb-pecking any day of the week.

    I went to Fiji with a pair of board shorts, three shirts, basic toiletries and my phone, plus the clothes I wore on the plane. Nothing to check in. It made the holiday all the more relaxing and I was inconspicuous, like a person on a day walk. Other resort guests arrived stressed, lugging huge suitcases and laptops.

    I did 5 weeks in Canada on a small back pack a few years ago. 1 x long trousers, 1 x board shorts, 2 x t-shirts, 2 x long-sleeve shirts, 1 x blazer / jacket. 4 x pairs sock and 4 x underpants. That works in summer. In winter? I bought a big jacket and boots while there and left them in a clothing donation box when I left.

    For me, the important realisation is that we're travelling in civilisation, not the wilderness. It's unlikely that anything will go wrong. If it does, you have a million options - buy warmer clothes if you need them, go to a pharmacy if you get some minor ailment. So unless you're really broke, you just don't need to be prepared for every contingency. Your wallet is all the preparation you need.

    dear hacker,could you please not make the screen black with pale white writting i can only read the highlighted words.thanking you helene

      @Helene -- black on white text is pretty standard on the web . . . which browser are you using?

    As a gadgets man myself, good effort. I take my hat off to you.
    cheers :)

    Angus,
    Interesting experiment and write up - a bit like the Scottevest No Bag challenge.

    Did you get paid by Blackberry to do this?

    Thanks and hope you try this international next...

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