Welcome back to Ricardo’s Travel Advice, a series in which I lay out some of the insight I’ve gained from my overseas journeys. This advice comes from the perspective of an American male who’s done three solo extended overseas journeys—two to Europe and one to Japan and Korea—and might not apply to everyone, but there should be a lot here that’s broadly applicable. Today I’ll be giving some advice related to packing light.

I’m a big advocate of packing light when going on backpacking trips abroad. When I say “packing light” I mean that you only pack what you absolutely need and try to bring only a single piece of luggage with you on the journey, ideally a single medium to large-sized backpack. This isn’t always easy to do, but I have never regretted it and I’ve yet to meet anyone who tried it and ended up wishing they had packed heavier.

Packing light and living out of a single backpack (or other piece of luggage) requires you to be absolutely ruthless in what you choose to bring with you. Only pack what you’re completely sure you’re going to need, and then after that if you still have any room left in your backpack you can think about bringing extra stuff. Are you sure you’re going to use that snorkel? Do you really need two jackets? If you can’t justify an item’s place in your backpack beyond a reasonable doubt then it doesn’t make the cut. It might seem painful before departure to not be bringing along all that extra clothing and gear, but once you’ve arrived you’ll be thankful that you’re not weighed down by all those things you left behind and you’ll gain a new appreciation for just how little you actually need to thrive while you’re abroad.

As for what backpack to use, the size of the backpack you bring along is up to you and will depend on just how light you’re willing and able to travel. For reference, let me tell you about the one I’ve used on all three of my journeys. My backpack’s dimensions are roughly 22.5” high, 14” wide, and 7” deep. For my readers who use the metric system, that’s about 57.15cm high, 35.56cm wide, and 17.78cm deep. It has a single large storage area and then two small ones on the sides and a small one on top. Fully loaded, my backpack weighs a little less than 15 lbs., or just under 6.8kg. I’ve seen people working with backpacks larger than mine, and also people using backpacks smaller than mine. Everyone travels differently, so there’s no one correct size for everyone.

Packing light can seem like a questionable thing to do—believe me, I was a little uncertain the first time I did it—but give it a try and I think you’ll be surprised just how well it can work. Do it once and you’ll probably never go back to your old ways of traveling.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This series will be continued on Monday, May 5th.

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