I like to travel light. Anybody who has traveled significantly understands the importance of staying lean. A heavy bag, or series of bags, can ruin the experience of hopping from city to city, which can color the whole trip. Practically, it can cost extra money to move extra bags on a flight or drop off the bags at a bag holding service. Waiting for a checked bag can add more than an hour to your commute time at some airports in certain seasons. Every time I traveled to Miami airport, I waited for at least half an hour and once 2 hours for my checked bag to circle around the carousel.
Some people think that they travel light, but they do not. One checked in bag is not light. Checked bags are the bane of the traveler. You do not want to wait for your bag to come out a turnstile. It is boring and tedious and you never want to do it.
One carry-on is much closer to the ideal. My friend the other day went to Hungary. He decided to travel light, and just bring one duffel bag. He bought some clothes, and other essentials. But if you are running around a city for a whole day, say on a 12-hour layover in Milan, rolling a bag around can start to tire you out. You can check it in, which I did in Zurich, but that delayed my 10-hour layover by over an hour. I would have much preferred to travel with little than to bring even one small bag.
My friend took a small amount, but he could have taken less. I took one small backpack to Hungary. It contained my MacBoook Air laptop, which fits in a manila envelope, an Amazon Kindle, a legal pad, my passport and money, my 3oz green travel towel, my Vibram five-finger shoes for running, my sweat pants for sleeping, and black shorts for running.
I realize that I could have brought even less.
I did not need my travel towel, since anywhere with an actual bath or shower will also have some kind of towel since nobody expects anyone to travel with towels. My apartment had a maid who provided towels. Hotels provide towels. Even hostels have them available.
I hurt my toe, so I could not wear my Vibram running shoes. I wanted to run, so I just took a run around Budapest with my sandals, and it was fine, and in some ways better. I learned that I don't necessarily need my Vibrams either. Budapest clubs are not so haughty as to disallow sandals. Europe is littered with H&M stores, which have quality fashion at absurdly low prices, so i shopped for clothes there instead of packing clothes.
I recently started to use the Kindle app on my iPhone 4 on my 35-minute walks to work. Of course, the large-screen Kindle DX is a hugely better experience. But, the iPhone has the advantage that it is always in my pocket, always. It's also faster to turn the pages and scroll through books. The new version includes the Oxford English Dictionary, so I can look up words, highlight, and take notes much more quickly than on the Kindle. I love my Kindle DX, but it is unnecessary for travel. Although I have to hold the smaller font closer to my face, the Kindle app on the iPhone 4 delivers an acceptable experience.
The legal pad, sweat pants, and shorts I could honestly buy anywhere in the world. They would not be as high quality, perhaps it would be white paper instead of legal paper, maybe some random shorts instead of high-tech Lululemon gear, but they would work for a few weeks of travel.
In fact, if not for my work heavily involving computers, I would not need a laptop either. The iPhone would serve me fine for checking email and reading news. Relieving myself of this, I would need to take none of these things to Hungary.
I could travel naked, with clothes of course but with nothing else really. No bags, no trinkets, nothing to hold me down.