Lighten Your Load & Pack Less!

I’ve now been living abroad for almost 6 years, it took the first two years of those to learn how carrying one’s life on their shoulders literally did weigh a person down. I use to only realize the toll it took on my body but looking back, I now see how much it affected me internally.

Stay tuned for Friday’s post on how minimizing in your day to day life can help clear space within yourself and allow you to concentrate your focus where it needs to be. For today, I’m reflecting back on a moment when I was heading home to Canada for the first time in two years. My overnight Madrid airport experience was  I’d say anything but unexciting. After this moment in my travels, I began focusing on the importance of downsizing and lightening my load. Let’s look back 4 years to see what started it all.

Madrid, Spain

Thursday, November 13, 2014

So as it seems I’ve gotten myself into another pickle. Thank goodness I’m in a country where I can more or less communicate my basic needs. The major mistake made this time was relying on my previous travel experiences and trusting a little too much in my poor Spanish.

Mistake #1 – No matter how much you travel, you’re not a pro! Always pay attention!

Mistake #2 – Be realistic with your language skills.  If you don’t understand or are unsure of something someone has said, don’t just shake your head like you understand when you really don’t. Always double check and ask people to repeat, especially when your travel is time sensitive and your Spanish is as iffy as mine.

So the story goes like this, I was travelling from Santander to Madrid airport to catch my flight back to Canada and instead of asking the bus driver which terminals he stopped at, I simply assumed he would stop at all, that was Mistake #3. Yes it’s true I heard the man say Madrid Barajas terminal 3 and 4 and although I did think about asking for a second about the other stop, there was little time before he jumped back on the bus and since he didn’t call out ‘Solo Parada en Barajas’ (only stop in Barajas) I assumed the bus would terminate at the last terminal. Due to my inflated sense of believing I was oo so smart and well travelled (clearly not right now hahah) that I didn’t need to double check with the driver about the stop, I am now sitting in the main bus terminal of Madrid waiting, luckily for the same driver of my bus to hop back on and return in the direction I just came. I have roughly and hour and a half to wait just to get back to the airport which we had passed thirty min ago. Amateur mistake I know, lesson learned…never assume, knowledge acquired in past experiences won’t necessarily help you in the same situation in another place, and lastly…don’t think you know it all.

Anyways, so it’s back to T4 I go and then to transfer to yet another bus to get to terminal 2, Ahhhhhhhhh! Madrid has got to be the worst airport yet, there’s many reasons why but I’d rather not get into them all; wouldn’t want to turn anyone off of travelling through here. Let me just say don’t come last minute to catch a flight because you probably won’t be able to find where you need to be and secondly don’t arrive hungry or thirsty. Big Big Mistake! Ok so back to the pickles….

Before I get into it, you’re probably asking why am I referring to these little mishaps in my travels as pickles? Well, for many, pickles are a sour accompaniment to a dish that often make you pucker your cheeks at first but later leave you with a lasting satisfaction. I am referring to my ‘unpleasant’ experiences as pickles because although they may be sour and unappetising at first bite, the more you get into them the more satisfaction they bring. Travel woes at first aren’t desirables but as you learn to navigate through them, you begin to discover they are great accompaniments for learning valuable life lessons.

It’s hard enough dealing with pickles while travelling with a companion; at least you have someone to lean on, discuss options, and calm each other, but when alone a simple task can become virtually impossible. Spending two years abroad means you acquire a few more things than when you left and being the anti shopper I am I’m lucky because I’ve managed to not let my possessions get too out of hand. In saying this, I’m looking at my bags and feeling the pains in my back and thinking why the heck do I have so much stuff! My objective on this venture home was to gather as much of my life from Europe and transport it back to Canada in order to begin lightening my load. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but today has proven that it’s a lot harder than I thought. With 50lbs on my back, another 20lbs of carry on plus around 10lbs of extras ( ie. purse, toiletries, food), I strain to do the simplest of tasks. I’ll elaborate further with some examples in a bit but first I need to declare that I will NEVER and I sincerely mean never travel with so much luggage again.

Why Lighten Your Load

Here are some reasons, particularly from today as to why I will never bring as much stuff with me again…

AWKWARD TO CARRY & HEAVY – Ok this is obvious and up until this point I’ve been managing fine everywhere I go. Struggling yes, but by travelling smart and planning ahead, I’ve been able to reduce the amount of time actually carrying the bags I bring. After today, I’ve learned a valuable lesson that is definitely going to leave a lasting impression on my future decisions of how much luggage to take and that is… Not everything will always go to plan; very rarely actually it will. With that said, if something happens that causes you to miss a bus, get lost or whatever it is, you may be carrying those bags a heck of a lot longer than you thought before.

Luggage Advice: If you can’t carry your bags for hours then don’t bring them. Who knows how far you’ll have to walk to get to your terminal, maybe the bus to the airport will break down and you’ll need to carry your things to another place, or maybe you want to do something simple like I did today which was PEE but this task is incredibly difficult because not only can you not leave your bags unattended, it’s almost physically impossible to haul the mother fuckers in with you when you need to use the bathroom.

After arriving to the airport, again not being able to connect to any internet, having no phone minutes, and desperately needing to use the washroom, I head over in search of the facilites which by the way are fricken difficult to find because of the crap signage; anyways, I finally make my way there only to have the cleaning lady tell me these washrooms were unavailable and I was to use the others, roughly 150 m away. Sounds like it’s not much but let me remind you the combined 80 lbs I’m carrying and as I’m walking to the bathroom I can’t help but think that my hip disks are going to snap in half, I kid you not, the feeling was nothing like I’ve felt before.



So, I say this because when spending the night in the airport you aren’t able to check in your bags the night before in almost all cases therefor they must be kept with you. Since the areas of the airport before security are obviously open to anyone, it’s often difficult to find a semi ideal space to crash for the night. Some airports aren’t even desirable to sleep in with little baggage let alone 80 lbs worth.  Terminal 2 of Madrid Barajas is a prime example. I thought JFK was bad but Terminal 2 in Madrid has come out on top as the #1 worst airport to sleep in. As I right this, I’ve finally found an ok place to hunker down for a few hours, I get ‘comfortable’ as much as that’s possible and get ready to close my eyes. Literally in the same second I settle into a somewhat comfy position with my bags, the excitement begins…

Just when I think there’s nothing else that can play as an interruption to my airport experience, I start to see a bunch of people dressed in business wear enter the terminal, there begins to be a lot of noise and I’m thinking, SERIOUSLY what is going on? There are no more flights for the evening and I really doubt all of these people are sleeping in the airport waiting to catch their morning flight. I was right, they weren’t passengers, they were a movie crew, setting up for a filming. Are you kidding me I think?! What luck today! For the past four hours I’ve had the full movie crew and extras filming right in front of where I’m parked, let me remind you it’s now 3AM! So on top of not being able to move because there really is no where to go, I’ve been basically jailed here by my mega bags and have been forced to watch 8 takes of the same shyt.

IT’S A PAIN IN THE ASS, PLAIN & SIMPLE – Does there need to be any other reasons for not bringing so much luggage on your next trip?

It’s experiences like this that I find incredibly humorous to look back on. Since that trip, I’ve begun downsizing my bags and for the past few years have only ever travelled with 1 small carry (even on trips of three months, it’s all you need). My most recent trip to Canada this past January, was a true test of my minimalist practices and my packing skills. Attempting to pack for -30 weather for 1 month in a tiny bag, two years ago would have seemed impossible, now I’ve done it with ease!  Although I am no packing expert, I’ve learned that by downsizing your luggage on trips it not only saves your back but it frees your mind. The less I take with me, the more liberated I am, It’s an incredible feeling.

So, I challenge all of you, the next time you go somewhere, whether it be in your own province, country or across the world, pack only a carry on! I promise that even though the idea may seem hard to grasp at first, you’ll quickly realize that lightening your load will benefit you both physically and mentally!

If you´d like to connect and share your travel luggage pickles, you can find me on IG @soul_essential_travel

Would love to hear from you!

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