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Travel light? Start young and prepare to Planepack

‘Are you going to be varm enuff? Haff you taken a jersey? Verr is your handbag? Ai, Bobby – houww can you go out like dat?’

My mother bristled with exasperation: no handbag? What would the world think?

‘I’m fine, Mommy! This is 1972 – not 1952!’

I twirled around before heading out the door. Sixteen years old, with the whole world to explore, I could never be bothered with carrying things. Who cared if I got cold? I had love to warm me! Who needs a bag? My house key was folded into a R10 note inside my pocket: I was fine.

Travel light

My mother and I shared a love of fashion – evident in this early photo. She never taught me travel lightly. I learnt that all by myself.

I started young.

Exploring our streets, I climbed every wall and every tree, unencumbered by toys or gadgets, dodging grumpy neighbors and befriending dogs. Our street gang of neighborhood children criss-crossed yards and gardens, playing and tumbling through houses and flats. We never wanted things; we wanted life.

But what my mother taught me was to leave things behind.

Traveling less light

My mother was one of those mothers who always worried about my well being: Did I have a coat? Was a I wearing a vest? So you would have thought she’d advise me to travel lightly, but you’d be wrong.

A long time ago, packing for my first trip to Europe, I squeezed 14 t-shirts into my already bulging suitcase. My mother watched as I struggled:

‘Haff you taken warm tings?’ she asked.

‘Of course, I have Mommy,’ I responded, ‘and anyway it’s going to be warm there.’

Light travel with bag

My mother looks on as I squeeze a further 14 t-shirts into my already bulging bag. Not traveling lightly.

When she travelled, she took with her as much as she possibly could.

She saw it as a challenge to fly with more than she could carry. My mother would pin jerseys into the sleeves of her coat so that she could wear the jersey and the coat in the cabin. She swathed herself in shawls for the trip, claiming she suffered chills.

‘Why do you need all of those scarves, Mommy? They give you blankets on the plane, you know?’

‘But I vill get cold. My poor knees; I have to put someting over dem. Dose air hostesses never bring me nutting,’ she claimed, patting her knees as if to confirm their plight.

Traveling even heavier

Her luggage was always 10 kilos overweight, socks stuffed with bottles of rakija; presents from her Serbian family.

She willed herself through customs and was never pulled over for excess baggage or alcohol. But she handicapped herself, lugging bags, shopping baskets, suitcases, and trailing fabrics, from plane to plane.

When I travelled with her – only once did we make that trip to Europe together – I thought I’d die. We negotiated the airports with my pushing her wheelchair, balancing her walking stick and heaving her bags through customs. I never recovered from that struggle. It was the moment that defined Planepack.

Planepack: the art of traveling light

Planepack is my personal philosophy of flying and traveling light. I no longer lug bags in and out of planes, boats and trains. I don’t go near baggage claim. And my luggage is never lost. Planepack frees me to travel lightly and nimbly. How do I do that? I fly and travel with carry on hand luggage only.

In this Planepack series, I write about travel, the art of packing light, and how to do that with minimum fuss and maximum pleasure.

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