Adventures with Sarah: blogger, travel book writer and guide
It's hard to button hole Sarah. Is she a blogger? A travel writer? A travel guide? An architect? An artist? A mother? In fact she's all of these and I'm in awe of her achievements. She graciously agreed to answer my questions - in between writing a book and flying from Seattle to Italy and back. I so appreciate learning from her many years' experience as a light traveler. This is what she has to say:
Q: What do you see as the foundations or principles of light travel?
A: I always say that nobody has ever complained that they didn’t have enough weight in their travel bag. Bringing less and keeping your bag light allows for more flexibility, keeps you quick and light on your feet when catching trains or moving through airports. Footloose and fancy free should be the goal. You never see people with tiny bags looking miserable!
Q: How persuasive are your readers/clients to travelling lightly?
A: My philosophy of weight-based packing is a slightly unusual way of looking at holiday packing, even if many hikers are used to this way of thinking. My readers seem intrigued with the idea, and while I don’t think everyone will be as strict as I am about keeping weight down, I am happy if my readers can adopt some of my techniques.
Q: What do you mean by travelling lightly? Is that carry on only? And if so, how much does your bag weigh? I think in the States your carry on weight restrictions are not as stringent as our Australian ones: we can only carry on 7 kgs.
A: My goal is to follow the tightest rule out of all the airlines I plan to travel on for each trip. For example, If I am flying Delta and Lufthansa, I’ll follow the rules for Lufthansa because I know them to be more strict. My general goal is a maximum of 8 kilo for suitcase and handbag combined, carry-on only.
Q: When you run a travel tour, how easy is it to get everyone to travel lightly?
A: It can be a tough sell, many people are not used to it, but it is required for my tour members to bring only one suitcase, preferably carry-on sized and one day bag. The buses often don’t have enough room in the luggage compartment for big bags. More so, my travelers are required to handle their luggage themselves, I don’t use porters, and once people understand that, they realize that the real limit is what they can realistically lift. This may seem harsh, but the people who agree to follow these rules tend to be people who are easy to travel with.
Q: What advice do you have to parents travelling with small children? Is it possible for them to travel lightly? I get asked by young mothers if I could give them advice on travelling with very small children. How challenging is that?
A: My advice is to just go! I started traveling with my sons when they were infants. Now that they are older, 12 and 9, they are my favorite travel partners because they know how to travel well. They are adventurous, fun, open to other cultures, and flexible in the face of travel challenges. It is possible for young children to travel lightly. All of the equipment that we think kids need is really unnecessary. I carried my kids in slings rather than bringing strollers. Carseats can be rented at the destination. In hotels, the kids have always slept in bed with me, so no need to bring a crib. As far as clothes and such, my kids have always carried a backpack with as much in it as they could reasonably carry. They have always carried their snacks, stuffed animals, books and a small change of clothes. When they were little, my kids used Trunki rolling suitcases, which are genius. When the kids were tired, they could sit on the suitcase and I could pull them behind me! Young mothers should also keep in mind that they can always buy baby and child gear at the destination, so it isn’t necessary to bring the whole house along.
Q: As a blogger, traveller, writer and mother - that's a busy schedule - how do you manage your time?
A: I do have a lot going on, sometimes it is intimidating to keep organized and get everything done. My kids are my priority but they think what I do is cool and like to be involved. My approach is to be always chipping away at things. My mobile phone is my business hub, so I can pick off small tasks whenever and wherever I can. While I’m in line at the grocery store, I’ll jot down blog topic ideas. At Boy Scouts last week, I sat in the car and worked on my client list for my Thailand tour. When I hang out with my best friend, we have fun shooting YouTube videos for my channel. Many people watch TV to unwind, but I love my work so much, it is relaxing to spend my free time working on building different aspects of my brand.
Q: I see you like shoes! Have you found the ultimate light travel walking shoe yet?
A: Finding the perfect shoe is like the search for the Fountain of Youth. It’s a noble goal, but let’s face it, it’s never gonna happen. I have never intended to focus so much space on shoes, but it’s the most common question from my readers. People worry about bringing the right shoes and if my good (and bad) experiences can help others, that’s cool with me. The best shoe to date has been the Asics Metrolyte walking shoe, which lasted a solid two years under tough conditions. Clarks CloudSteppers and Tom’s are also very light and comfy.
Q: Do you personally travel with a backpack? Or do you use a cabin bag? What is your advice?
A: I only travel with a backpack for several reasons. Rolling bags are never going to allow a truly light bag, since they often weigh several pounds before you have packed a thing in them. I am in Italy much of the year, and dragging a bag over cobblestones is not my idea of fun. Running for planes and getting in and out of boats or trains is so much easier with a backpack. I also find that it is way too easy to overpack a rolling bag. Backpacks also keep you honest—if it is going on your back, you are much more likely to keep it as light as possible. No matter what bag you choose, my rule of thumb is to make sure that you can lift it—fully packed—over your head without assistance.
Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting to travel light - but not quite ready to give up that hold luggage?
My advice is to pack your bag a week ahead of time. Make it a goal to evaluate your choices and remove one item every day until your departure. It is so easy to convince yourself that you can’t live without your stuff, but the reality is that you can buy just about everything at your destination. Try giving a few things up and see how it goes.
You can catch Sarah at Adventures with Sarah.