Why Is It So Hard For Us to Travel Light?

Are You a Four Bagger Too?

It’s a common saying when you’re going on vacation that you should travel light. We tend to overpack for exotic trips because we want to be prepared for everything. I once went on a trip to Australia to visit a friend and I brought about half a dozen different outfits with to wear, and I wore pretty much none of them. I stuck with just a few interchangeable clothes the whole time I was there, and the extra garments I had packed were just dead weight. In fact, they got in the way of packing souvenirs I had bought and wanted to bring home with me.

Women tend to overpack more than men. This may be biological or simply conditioning, but they have more of a sense of wanting to be prepared for unexpected eventualities in life while men tend to be more foolhardy, risk-takers that like to make up solutions as they go along. This may be related to the fact that women are used to carrying purses around with many useful items in them, so the mindset of being prepared when out of the house is just always there in the back of their minds.

This can be taken to extremes however. Even on local “trips” the advice to travel light is often ignored. When I was in college, I had to take the city bus from one end of campus to another. During the trip, you would always see many students walking up and down the sidewalk to get to their respective buildings across the spread out campus. The women were the most interesting to watch, because, even though they were just going from home to class, they often had several bags they'd drag along with them. I would report this with some amusement to my girlfriend at the time. The example that really took the cake however was the day that I saw the “four bagger.”

This well-dressed young woman was struggling to carry two large purses, one over each arm, and pulling a small wheeled wardrobe bag, along with a duffel bag slung over her shoulder. I knew she was a student I had seen around campus, and the fact that she had so many bags just mystified me. I tried to reason out why the four bagger would need so much to just go out in the world for a single day. The standard purse had all its obvious uses, then she had her emergency back up purse...

I could see the wheeled wardrobe bag being useful if she had to change clothes from lab attire to a dress outfit for a presentation. But the only purpose for the duffel bag seemed to be if all her other bags failed her and she needed a backup bag of stuff for her three primary bags. I remarked to my girlfriend about this later that night and asked, “Why is it that women feel they need to carry their houses with them when they leave the house?” She just laughed and said I didn’t really understand women. Maybe not, we’re no longer together, so she definitely had a point. But I do know that the admonition to travel light is rarely followed, even by people just walking from an apartment to a class for the day.