Why Going Light Is Easier Said Than Done
PACK WHAT you need and then take out half - surely the first and best nugget of wisdom that every new traveller hears and ultimately ignores.
I've never met a first-time backpacker who has actually followed this simple travel-as-light-as-possible advice before leaving and I will be dammed if I am to be the exception.
The problem with this travel light mantra is that it is similar to saying to a smoker "Don't smoke - it's bad for your health" - it's blindingly obvious but they just can not help themselves.
Or imagine as a non-swimmer being asked to jump in the deep end of a pool with no floating devices attached and told - just relax, thousands have done it before, you will float.
The reasons for overpacking are psychological, of course, because people have a fear of moving out of their comfort zone, of being put in unfamiliar surroundings without their belongings they "require" to swim and not sink.
The first thing to realise is is that what we require is for the most part conditioned by the surroundings we find ourselves in. Obviously working in an office you may be inclined to change your clothes every day but on the road this will not be as important. Or watching your favourite soap on TV can seem as useless as smoking to those who have managed to kick the habit.
Another factor in overpacking lies in the difference in what we really need and what we think we need.
In our normal lives we are continually being sold to, be it fashions, cosmetics, gadgets and the like through a complex mix of marketing and social/peer conformity.
The combination of these factors explains a lot.
Even if you do not run in to a salesman in your local camping store who tries to flog you everything going, you will probably shop in the "buy it just in case" mode anyway.
This is the cycle I've been trying to break lately, but it is difficult. Bloody difficult. Already I have bought a Swiss Army knife, albeit the basic model, when I could have just brought a lighter kitchen knife for free (I can open beer bottles with a lighter...and who needs a screwdriver anyway?).
Also dumped my 10 degree sleeping bag for a 1 degree heavier mummy-style one for the Bolivian altitude, although I will not be camping and could probably just wear the long johns and ask for an extra blanket or two. And buying that new pair of trousers even though I have six pairs to choose from at home was just plain stupid....
Old habits are hard to break.