My obsession with hand luggage started in 1993, as I climbed a hill in Hong Kong to reach the Hong Kong Youth Hostel weighed down by a large rucksack, a duffle bag and smaller ruck sack which was my hand luggage. These were the minimum amount of luggage and possessions I thought necessary for a 3 months backpacking trip round Australia and South East Asia. Now after 2 months, I had gained an extra duffle bag of “stuff”.
During my climb up to my bed for the evening, I was overtaken by an Australian. He was only carrying a plastic carrier bag. He slowed down and offered to help me up the steep climb.
As we climbed we chatted. He had been travelling around South East Asia for 18 months, and all his possessions for the trip fitted either on him or in his carrier bag. I couldn’t quite comprehend what he was saying. He had 18 months worth of stuff in a small tatty carrier bag. Was this guy nuts?
He explained his system. He had one change of clothes, which he carried in his bag. At the end of each day, he went for a shower or a wash if there were no showers available. He stepped into the shower with his clothes on and preceeded to wash his clothes whilst they were still on him. He would take his clothes off whilst still in the shower, rinsing them and then squeezing them out whilst he then continued to wash himself. He then hung his clothes out to dry before retiring for the night to sleep in his light cotton sleeping bag. By the next morning his clothes would be dry enough for him to pack them away and off he would go on his next part of his adventure. His other necessities consisted of soap, toothpaste and tooth brush, deoderant (all of which he bought locally so he didn’t have to lug them around too far – probably too much excess weight!!!) and his passport and travellers cheques.
I felt a mixture of sympathy and jealousy for this fellow backpacker. I thought “what happens if you see something nice to remind you of your travels or that you want to buy for somebody else? You’ve got nowhere to carry them”. I could carry anything I wanted because I had loads of space in my bags. But my bags were weighing me down and restricting where I could go and I suppose he could have just posted anything he wanted back home, continuing on with his happy and light journey.
This chance encounter, climbing up a steep hillside in Hong Kong set in motion a life long desire to travel as light as possible, one that has become an obsession.