Travel Minimalism

I’m not a minimalist, but I pretend to be one when I travel.

In preparation for our ten day European trip, I thought about our prior two trips to Ireland. We had taken large rolling duffels and then I wore a satchel as a day bag. My shoulders were sore and the bag was inconvenient. The second trip in particular was rough because we were caught in the middle of an epic snowstorm. When buses were stuck, we ended up hauling our duffels through snow drifts for what felt like miles to get to our destination. Well, we knew we wouldn’t hit snow this time, but I was not going to be an over packed American. I made rules that I was unsure that we could follow, and they are as follows:

10 Day strict packing list:

  • Carry-on suitcase each; only 1/3 full
  • Rucksack each; nearly empty
  • Money pouch (neck/waist-type)
  • Five pairs each; socks, underwear, tee shirts
  • One pair sneakers; worn there, not packed (I cheated with a pair of sandals too)
  • Two pairs of jeans each, wear one there
  • Two pair each either shorts or capris
  • One quart size bag of liquid toiletries each, each with a 3oz bottle of detergent
  • Small bag of shared necessities; nail clippers, tweezers, band aids, razor, bobby pins, etc.
  • Glasses/belts and other random requirements
  • Ipad, two cameras, eReader (Nook), chargers and spare memory cards
  • One 4-socket power converter.  Charged all electronics in one swoop each night.
  • A long cord aka clothesline

Score one for us. It was the easiest travel trip ever. Since we nearly missed our plane to Brussels, one of the key begging points in allowing us to board was that we had no luggage to check. We were able to fit both our bags in the same train luggage locker at each city we went to, saving time and money when we were unable to check into our room too. Halfway through the trip, we washed our clothes in our sink, hung them up on the cord we cleverly tied across one side of our bedroom and off we went the next morning, fresh, clean and with far less luggage then the over packed tourists who could barely lift the bags up and onto the train.

Laundry in Berlin

The worst would be seeing the retired couples with the elderly men hauling multiple enormous pieces of luggage behind his wife on crowded public transportation.  I gave my husband the go-ahead then and there to berate me if I ever got that bad.  I may not wash our clothes in the sink forever, but maybe one day if we’re fancy we’ll just pay to get them laundered instead.  Who am I kidding?  We’ll never be fancy.

Back to the packing list; for those who may question the possible excessive electronic choices, let me explain.

Ipad, a wonderful gift from our parents saved my shoulders in a big way rather than toting the heavy laptop as we did in years past. But, since there is not Wi-Fi everywhere and we found many Europeans do not offer it for free, the Nook was a great backup to access tour books, maps and translators that were pre-downloaded, thus eliminating the need for the internet and heavy travel books during the travel. In cities like Brussels, where we were limited on time, we used the Nook to do our own walking tour per Rick Steves, saving both time and money. When you have the opportunity though, I do suggest taking a real tour, Rick is wise, but he doesn’t know every nuance.

And there you have it. We came home with smiles, souvenirs that fit in our existing bags (including a real cuckoo clock) and never had to check a bag or pop a painkiller. This my friends, comes in handy when you’re sharing a six person sleeping compartment on a train.

Many stories to follow.

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Book Reader vs. E-Reader; The Inner Battle

Books and Nook

I live close to a Simon & Schuster distribution center, which likely has people hauling boxes of books and loading tractor trailers so books can reach the shelves for our grubby hands.  Still, I had thought how romantic it would be to work for a big publisher, plus I could probably ride my bike there.

I also want to stop carrying my Mary Poppins purse.  It’s more like luggage these days and I could probably help an army of people survive an epic catastrophe with its contents.  One of the mainstays of my bag is a book, usually just one, but sometimes two.  The weight of this thing is wreaking havoc on my shoulders, so I’ve been seriously considering getting the Nook.

I like the idea of the Nook better than the Kindle because I can borrow from the library still or purchase books at different stores, rather than being stuck to Amazon.com with the Kindle.  I like the idea of having something light and portable, and let’s face it; I could become a greedy American and shout “More is better!”.  Why I would need to carry 1,000 books is beyond me, but maybe it would be cool to read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and without hauling a pallet of books in tow.

Like most things in life, I’m torn between my appreciation for the old-fashioned or traditional ways but also for how technology can make things so easy.  I certainly don’t want to put Simon & Schuster employees out of work but I also want to keep my shoulders from separating from the rest of my body.  In all honesty, I don’t care if I had one book at a time on the darned thing but new shiny things can be appealing too.  I take that back, it is not shiny; its matte screen is anti-glare for reading in the sun.

Another factor seems to be that it seems easier to find eBooks by our favorite authors online than in print.  Publishers are pushing us toward eBooks because their overhead is drastically minimized from the print options.  They also have the ability to use the force of technology to push additional advertising and multimedia on us with the click of the mouse.

We will see what happens.  For avid readers, there is something special about holding a book and the musty library scent or the fresh smell of printing ink.  If only the Nook was made in America, this decision would feel a heck of a lot easier.