My husband and I were watching a travel documentary the other day about Greece, and the traveller came across a boat full of refugees arriving on the beach that he was driving past. He stopped and spoke with a Syrian family who had fled with only a small backpack and the clothes they were wearing. That was it, everything they had in the world for 2 adults and 2 children was in something the size of a daypack. My husband said “hey, onebagging!” I replied “yeah but they had no choice”.
It’s been something I’ve been pondering a lot lately. My family is preparing to launch into full time international travel, and we are choosing to travel with carry-on only sized backpacks. One each, and that’s it. We’re getting rid of most of our household furniture and items, safe in the knowledge that we will be able to reacquire those things upon our return in a few years’ time. It occurs to me that at no other time in history have people done this. Humans tend to hoard things, save for a rainy day, you know, just in case.
Lots of blogs and packing lists have a disposable mentality – just buy it when you get there, save space by buying bottled water instead of taking a reusable bottle, etc. I even found myself having the same thoughts as I watched my husband gather together his zero waste kit “tsk, that’s a lot of extra weight and space being taken up in your small bag”. How much space gets taken up in landfill with disposable items? All those disposable coffee cups? Plastic bags? Plastic cutlery? My thinking was so topsy turvy.
Minimalism and onebagging are counter-culture, but they’re still fundamentally rooted in the capitalist culture that spawned it. A minimalist’s choice is supported by a wealthy society. At any time they can tap out of it and reacquire the stuff they need or want cheaply and easily. It’s comfortable and safe to make that choice in that context. Few people would choose to be so light-on if they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.
So as my family prepares to launch into full time nomadic travel, I’m giving these thoughts some deep consideration. I want to travel responsibly and I suppose being mindful of these things is the first step.