Literally and figuratively, what’s in the bag?

by Evans Yonson

Barcelona – Almost three years ago, I decided to change my blog’s name from Viajero del Mundo to The Light Traveller. I realized then that having a Spanish name for the blog may have been hip but it did not offer deeper understanding of what I am as traveller. The present name was conceived after my return to the Philippines, when I realized that I have been travelling lightly, literally and figuratively all these years.

What does it take really to be The Light Traveller? Literally, do I travel light? Or is it figuratively?

My first trip to Manila was in April 1990, a year after my university graduation. I took the boat from Cagayan de Oro and it took us more than 48 hours to reach Manila Bay. The intention was to find a job and make it big in the big city. It a was make or break thing for me that I brought a heavy load.  Literally and figuratively. I brought two big bags of clothes and documents. I left because I hated my father controlling my life, that’s what I felt then. After three months, destiny got in the way. My father died. We (my older brother and I) took the boat to go home to our grieving family. This time with a heavier load. Literally and figuratively.

In May 1993, I got a telegram (yes, Virigina! a telegram!) from the University of the Philippines, asking me to report for a personal interview for my admission to their Masters program. It was to be my first of my many flights to Manila. I was to be in Manila for three days only but I packed a lot of stuff that could last me three weeks in the state university.

When I finally moved to Manila to start a new life, I travelled with only a bagful of clothes and two folders of documents. This new adventure was the start of travelling lightly anywhere and everywhere I go. I have been to 14 of the 16 regions in the Philippines, thanks to my previous job in the government and the  union federation. I have been to several Asian and European countries and the US with the help of my Spanish sponsors and very dear friends. I have been packing lightly even more through the years.

How do you pack? Heavy? Or light? - International Train Station, Budapest, Hungary. Summer 2010.

So, what’s in the bag literally?

– one sarong (for towel and blanket purposes; can easily dry off)

– number of travel days divided by two = number of underwear (you have enough time to wash and dry soiled ones; used bath liquid soap)

– number of travel days = number of shirts (no washing required)

– one extra shirt for sleeping; this don’t get soiled easily in your sleep unless you start rolling on the floor in your sleep

– number of travel days = number of pairs of socks (depending on the season; more in winter; less or none in summer)

– one pair long/short pants or jeans (depending on the occasion)

– slippers (for hotel/hostels in winter and for walking in summer)

– toiletries in a separate vanity bag including medicines (some hotels have these stuff but it’s always better to have one handy)

– passport and other identification cards for international border checks

– plastic folder of all hotel/hostel instructions and destination city guides with a pen always

– electronic gadgets (like mobile phone, 1 DSLR with 3 lenses, 3 lomo cameras, iPod Touch (with internet) and chargers)

I went to Poland, Czech Republic and so on for 15 days. I brought 15 shirts and so on. Same things with my New York trip last year. All packed in my laptop backpack. All in a small backpack? Yes! The secret lies in the packing of your stuff. Roll all your clothes and pack. If you need to bring extra shoes, then go ahead and still fill your backpack. If you have to wear a jacket (thick or not), then wear it to the airport. Don’t pack it in.

Sometimes we travel so heavy that we fail to see all the beauty around us. Praga, Czech Republic. Summer 2010.

Figuratively, what’s in the bag?

Simple. An open mind. A mind that is ready to understand everything as it happens, where it happens. Your backpack is enough baggage to carry. Leave all your worries behind unless you’re travelling to solve your worries. Meeting new people along the way eases the burden of travelling. Sharing your experiences even more.

The problem with travelling lightly is when you go back home. You always go home a bit heavier than when you left. If you come back home light then you have not travelled at all, literally and figuratively.