Slobodanka Graham


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How to reduce your travel anxiety by travelling light

How to reduce your travel anxiety by travelling light

Travelling can be stressful. You have so much to consider: travel details; passports; accommodation; routes; what to pack - and more!

What are your biggest fears when travelling? These are some of mine - and how I overcome them.

I worry that my bag might be stolen.

Purse, passport, phone - these are all travel essentials that I fear getting stolen when I travel. To combat my anxiety, I keep my documents, purse and phone close to me, in my cross-body bag, zipped up and guarded by my hand. But what about my other possessions? It would be horrible having no clothes when I arrive at a new destination. Or losing those small gifts before I return home.

Luckily, as I travel with a carry on bag only, I’ve never had my luggage stolen. My travels are easier with one bag only: less chance of losing one bag or having it filched.

At airports, stations or in the street, I never lose sight of my suitcase - even trundling it into toilet cubicles with me. I have found that always travelling with my bag at hand minimises the risk of someone stealing it. It’s a relief not to have to worry about more than one suitcase; my bag is always at hand.

I worry that I might miss my flight.

Worrying that you might miss your flight is a typical travel stressor. If you miss your booking, the next flight might be days away. Your conference/holiday won’t wait for you. If you miss this flight, just think of the expense in re-booking.

Picture this scenario: You’re rushing to the airport. The taxi or Uber was late. The traffic is horrible. The weather is bad. You intended to get to the airport way ahead of departure, but you’re running late. When you get to the airport, the queue for your flight is miles long. Luckily you checked in online so you skip the slow walk around the ropes. Now for the best part: you avoid the crowds and cruise through Departure, straight to the boarding gate. Sounds good? You can do that if you travel with carry on only.

While this describes domestic departures, it’s not always the case at international departures. But you might get lucky with international flights as airlines sometimes offer quick check-in for passengers travelling without luggage. By travelling with one small carry on bag only, you won’t have to wait in line to check in your bags. Save time and minimise stress.

I worry that my bags will be too big to fit into things.

I remember my first visit to Paris where we checked into a small pension: the lift was tiny. My friend and I couldn’t fit ourselves and our bags at the same time. We had to do a serial lift: one at a time - or face the stairs.

That’s the lift, but what about when you’re in your room? I recently discovered that Japanese hotel rooms are small. There’s hardly enough space to walk around the bed, let alone to store your suitcase. The wardrobes are just wall alcoves, with a shelf on top - and there’s no space in the passage between bathroom and bed. Luckily I travel with one small suitcase only. It’s so much easier to store your bag into boats, trains, planes and buses.

I worry about what to wear!

On my very first trip to Europe, I packed 14 t-shirts. I planned to wear a fortnight's wardrobe before having to wash my clothes. I quickly learnt that washing clothes frequently is much easier than lugging clothes in a heavy suitcase. I also learnt that I can wear a t-shirt two days in a row if I’m careful. And I learnt that natural fibers like cotton and wool pack and wear better. I have been tempted with synthetic fibers as they pack and roll so well, but they are heavy.

Since discovering what colours and styles suit me, my travel wardrobe is much easier to plan, prepare and pack. Packing and unpacking are simple: fewer clothes make for a tranquil life. Minimalism reduces stress.

I worry I might injure myself carrying heavy bags.

It’s not fun lugging a heavy suitcase - even if it’s on wheels. Heavy suitcases are challenging to manouever through airports. And if they fall over, it’s like trying to pick up a motorbike: they are heavy and unwieldy. Getting a heavy suitcase in and out of lifts, cars, taxis, boats, trains and planes is not fun. And apart from not being fun, it’s easy to injure yourself - your hand, shoulder or back.

A small light carry on bag means you never strain your back lifting it to the overhead locker.

A small light carry on bag means you never strain your back lifting it to the overhead locker.

Lighter bags are much easier to carry. My most enjoyable passenger experience is lifting my light bag into the plane’s overhead locker: seven kilograms is manageable. Not to mention the sense of self righteousness when I see other passengers battling with their unwieldy and heavy loads. I am so glad that I travel light.

I worry that my bag might get lost - again!

One of the main factors for my deciding to travel light was to avoid the inconvenience of lost luggage. Over the course of 40 years of travel, my suitcase has been lost or mislaid by airlines four times. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when it happens, boy is it annoying. The final straw was in 2008 when my suitcase when missing for six weeks! What made it worse is that I was back home after three weeks . . .

The antidote to lost luggage is simply not to put your bag into the hold. Wean yourself off heavy luggage and learn to travel light: airlines will never lose your bag again.

I worry that I’ll miss my connecting flight, bus, boat . . . get home so late

Picture this scenario: You’ve disembarked from a long haul flight - maybe 16 hours in the air. You are tired, disheveled, disoriented and all you want to do is get home. The passport control was efficient, but now you have to collect your baggage. Inward groan . . . But wait! You don’t have any baggage to collect: you’re travelling with hand held luggage only, which you are holding onto right now.

Oh joy! Just head for customs with nothing to declare - and stride out of Arrivals like a rock star. That my dear friends, is the greatest delight of travelling with one small carry on bag only.

What’s your anxiety?

What’s your greatest anxiety? And how has light travel alleviated it? I’d love to hear. Let’s start a conversation. Send me your comments!

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