When travelling with luggage, we often pack way more than we should with stuff that we thought we would need but don’t end up using. This extra stuff takes up space and adds weight that is a burden to carry for the trip (especially if your luggage is a backpack that you actually have to carry with you, and is not on wheels). Similarly, in our everyday lives we often buy things that we rarely use, but do take up space and often create a future burden (i.e. debt) that we have to carry around with us. In both cases, the extra “weight” limits our freedom.
Let’s dig into this idea a little deeper…
My Original Backpack
In July and August of 2015, I spend just over two months travelling Southeast Asia.
64 days living out of one backpack. This thought was a bit overwhelming. How many pairs of shoes should I bring? What about shorts? T-shirts? Dress shirts? Sweaters? Pants? Bathing suits? Underwear? Socks? Hats? Toiletries? Medicine? Sunscreen? Surely I wouldn’t want to forget anything important.
Needless to say, I tried to bring everything. Big mistake. Despite going to locations where the climate was very hot, I still packed a couple pairs of pants and sweaters “just in case”. I ended up wearing pants and a sweater once, when I did an overnight hike of Mount Rinjani in Indonesia. But because of the space these items took up, I bought a bigger backpack than I should have. IT WAS WAY TOO BIG. And it weighed 32 pounds. As soon as I started the trip, I hated carrying it around!
Yes, my pig of a backpack was a pain to have on my back, but one of the biggest inconveniences that I did not foresee was that it was too large to take as a carry on for flights. For the discount airline flights I was taking, it may cost $50 for the flight, but then they charge an additional $40 to check in a bag. My extra stuff was a burden in the form of additional weight and also extra baggage fees.
So I bought a new backpack in Indonesia. A much smaller one. It cost me $30, and was extremely low quality. But it lasted the rest of my trip and was well worth the small investment. I definitely saved a couple hundred dollars by not having to pay further airline baggage fees. So I saved money and made by backpack lighter by getting rid of clothing (like my sweaters and pants) that I was not using. Downsizing was fantastic!
Looking back, I should have set a constraint by buying a smaller backpack first, then packing accordingly, as opposed to deciding what I wanted to bring and then buying a backpack that would fit everything.
The Backpack Metaphor
More stuff = more space = bigger luggage. The same idea applies to our possessions. The more stuff we have, the more space we need in our house or apartment or shed or garage or storage unit or any other place we use to store our possessions.
And in addition to taking up more space, these things can often create a future financial burden. Let’s use the example of buying things with credit cards, which can lead to interest owed for late payments. Having credit card debt is like have extra weight in our backpack. The more weight we have, the more of a burden it is to carry around. I tried to fit as much as possible into my already large backpack before leaving, without thinking of the future consequences of actually having to carry this beast for a long period of time. Similarly, we often make purchases without considering the long term burden of the interest payments we end up paying to own these things.
I also noticed that I buy way less material things when travelling. Why? Because it is a pain in the ass to carry stuff around for the rest of the trip. The burden of having to carry these things is greater than the value of of owning them. These purchases likely would have provided short term joy. But after getting past the excitement of purchase, I would immediately have the burden of adding extra weight in my backpack. Can we apply this mindset to our everyday habits of buying things?
Imagine that we are permanently carrying our possessions with us in a backpack. What we really need in our backpack is our essentials – some clothes, hygiene products, medical products, etc. If we are adding other things, they should be providing enough value or happiness to justify the extra weight. Anything else is just a burden we have to carry around with us. Before making a purchase, ask:
Is this something worth carrying around?