Virtual weight

When traveling without a bag – or with minimalist one – you often evaluate the physical weight of things, as well as the space they might take. But I believe there is a more important weight to ponder: the virtual one. What is the sacrifice you have to make to keep this particular item? Or this group of items together?

As an example, I was pondering the virtual weight of taking a raincoat with me. What kind of sacrifice do I have to make if I take it? If I do not take it? If I do take it, because even the lightest I found was bulky, I was sacrificing a lot of space. Well, a lot proportionally to my belongings, but more importantly I had to either take a permanent backpack on me or wear the coat on my belt. As I would have choosen an ultra light one I would also had to pay a lot for it. The first choice, taking it, was signing the death of my “no bag travel” project. The second, not taking it, meant temporary discomfort – or having to wait for the sun – when raining heavily. To me, the virtual weight of keeping it was heavier than the one of not keeping it. In that case it depends of course of the physical weight and volume of the item, but this is not always true. Bringing my smartphone or not was not a matter of weight but rather of electronic and network disconnection, and having valuables on me, versus possibilities and comfort offered (the last one won in case you wonder).

Sometimes the virtual weight of an item alone is small so it's tempting to think it's just a detail. Yet, when you put drops of water together, you get a full glass to drink. Traveling without a bag is a good illustration of this case. All the small items put together can take up a full pocket, where you could have put something more useful or even better, lighten your cargo pants.

I left behind:

  • hoodie (very bulky)
  • raincoat
  • additional medecine (I kept the essential)
  • Diminished the size of my towel
  • Switch to a thin paper wallet (replace bulky leather one)
  • socks, running shoes
  • switched to a smaller USB key (dual usb-c)
  • dropped second USB key
  • dropped locker

I sacrificed:

  • Light risk of being cold (being in Thailand, where a/c is always set on freezing).
  • Medium risk of being soaking wet (rainy season).
  • A little bit less of comfort after a shower if no towel is provided Having to make a new wallet every few months.
  • Having to run barefoot or buy temporary shoes.
  • Less storage for backups.
  • Having to rent a locker if needed.

I gained

  • Having to make a new origami wallet is kind of fun and enhance skills, offers a break (origami is relaxing).
  • Raincoat can't breathe and can get extremely hot, being wet is not that much a problem if my passport and phone are safe. Having to wait for the sun slow down your pace, you live with the earth rhythm, learn to contemplate more.
  • Challenge to run barefoot.
  • Having no bag except my foldable one for food and shopping, so freedom, no sweaty back, no stress of being robbed or forget my bag, not looking like a basic tourist. Stories to tell. People are often surprised to know I don't have a bag.

Final thought

In the end, while the physical weight is the same for everyone, the virtual one will be unique for each individual. Ask yourself: what slows me down, and what gives me strength?

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