Oliver Burkeman: Pack up your troubles

One day, perhaps when it comes up in a pub quiz, or a particularly obscure edition of Trivial Pursuit, you'll thank me for sharing the following piece of information: Jimmy Savile travels everywhere with only one pair of underpants. (He washes them every night, according to an interview he gave this newspaper in 2000.) I do not recommend this course of action, in line with my overall policy of not recommending that people model their lives on Sir Jimmy's. But you can't fault the man for not travelling light.

I thought of Jimmy Savile's underpants (much as I try not to) when I came across OneBag.com, an extraordinary website written by a marketing executive, Doug Dyment, whose urbane and friendly tone belies the steely single-mindedness of his ambition, which is never to travel anywhere with more than a single carry-on bag, and to persuade anybody who'll listen to do the same. Dyment's approach is intensely practical but, taken along with other sites (such as Travelite.org) and books (The Packing Book, by Judith Gilford, and Fodor's How To Pack), you can begin to perceive the outlines of a Zen-like philosophy of travel, according to which lightweight physical baggage is not just a metaphor for, but a cause of, a calm and happy mind.

Dyment quotes Frank Lloyd Wright: "To know what to leave out and what to put in; just where and just how, ah, that is to have been educated in the knowledge of simplicity." The most useful part of his site is the "just how" - specifically, an idiosyncratic technique called "bundle wrapping", which involves wrapping your clothes around each other to eliminate air pockets, prevent creasing, and fit far more into a small space. You'll need to consult the diagrams to try it for yourself and, if travelling with a companion, you'll also need to learn to withstand withering looks as you unpeel your shirts from your jeans. But it works. "People overpack because of timidity and fear of the unknown, both largely results of inexperience," argues Dyment, who also provides numerous tips for reducing the number of items carried, including doing laundry en route, complete with retractable washing line.

Panicky restrictions on cabin baggage do not make any of this easier, though the current version of the endlessly changing rules - all carry-on liquids to be placed inside a transparent plastic bag - does at least encourage the kind of minimalism of which OneBag approves. And anyone travelling by air still has to contend with the fact that your bag will be accepted as small enough to take on board, or rejected as too large, depending entirely on which side of the bed your check-in agent got up. But since a light and well-packed bag engenders a calm mind, you won't get angry. You'll good-temperedly hand over your bag to be stowed in the hold. And when the airline ends up routing it to Bratislava by mistake, you'll merely reflect that the ultimate way to travel light, after all, is to travel with no bags whatsoever. You can always just wash the underpants you're wearing. Jimmy Savile does.

· oliver.burkeman@guardian.co.uk

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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