As I returned after a 9 day trip to Poland and passed through the passport check point at Chicago ORD, the customs agent boomed to me: “Where is your luggage, Sir?”. I pointed to my backpack, the usual one that I take to GWU. He wasn’t convinced – “That’s fine. You do have your carry-on baggage, but where is your checked baggage? You need to collect *both* before clearing customs”.
Again, I pointed smugly to the backpack and said that is all I have. He was quite clear second time – look, I understand that is all you have for carry on, but where is your checked luggage.
So, are we to believe that backpacking is much more common in Europe than in USA? Quite nearly 90% of other travellers that I met in Poland were backpackers. Very very few had the “light roll on suitcase” (which, as we all know, may be very light, but weighs you down like any other suitcase).
I must confess. This was my first time as well, traveling that light. Last year, 2006, when I travelled to China, I had a light roll on suitcase (which I could carry on as well). This time I decided to take it one notch higher and have no suitcase at all. What fits on my shoulders, is what went with me. One of the main places of improvement was not taking the laptop. With the BlackBerry, I really did not miss it at all. I can check my email, check the calendar, use the computer in a cafe if I need to, and take notes using pen and paper.
As Rick Steves said in a video – there are only two kinds of people. Those who travel light, and those who wish they travel light. I am glad I made the leap to the first category, if only for a little while. Must say – that is the best way to travel.
Oh, and one of the neat things I saw was a neck bag for passport. If I had that, my life would become a bit simpler. One of the guys I met on the train had this pouch, and I presume he carried passport and some cash. Neat. I did see something like that in Warsaw airport store for about 60$. Perhaps I can find it cheaper somewhere else.