In all my globe-trotting trips to 47 countries and the remotest areas of India, I’ve always travelled with just one pitthu (small shoulder bag), having only one jeans, two shirts/t-shirts, two undergarments, bottle for water, toothpaste, brush, soap, tongue-cleaner, washing soap, brush and a shaving razor.
Other items included Mobile charger, GPS & battery charger, Pen and a 100 pages notebook used in the school. I travelled with bare minimum necessities, which helped me with a lot of things.
1) When I arrive in a new city coming out of the airport, railway station or a bus station, I do not invite the bad guys looking at my rucksack or luggage, to discover that I am new in the city/country and have just arrived. This helps to keep me low profile. As if I’ve just come to see-off or receive someone, or I am an employee working there.
2) While on the way to my hostel/hotel to check-in, again it helps me to stay low profile in the City Bus, Metro or a Tram. Please Note: Usually the bus/train that takes you to the city centre is again a hunting ground, where bad guys out there, are looking to steal your luggage, cheat you with their schemes. For example, once a guy approached me in a double-decker bus on the way to the Dublin airport asking me “My phone is not working, can I use your phone”, luckily I had noticed him talking on his phone while he was boarding the bus, he didn’t see me because I was sitting in the upper deck.
3) If I am luggage free, and if my hotel/hostel is not far away, I can walk and reach easily. This way I get to see roadside stalls/shops, everyday life, local people, markets, and more. Maybe a place in my To-Do or To-Visit list is actually on the way to my hostel. I always take a walk to my hostel if it is less than 2 km. (25 minutes walk). Since you’ve been sitting for a couple of hours or maybe more in that flight, train, or bus you just arrived, it’s good to get your blood circulating again with a walk to your accommodation.
4) At the hostel/hotel, I don’t need to use that locker, since I have just a pitthu (small shoulder bag). Which I can carry around easily.
5) Let’s say you are in the city for two days, and tomorrow at 11 am you have to check out. You have booked your onward train/bus for 12 or 1 pm, and you still have a few places to visit in the morning. So what usually people do is, they would check out early in the morning let’s say around 8 am after the breakfast and put in their luggage in the luggage room, where everybody’s else is also dumping their luggage.
But if you do not have any luggage, all you have to do is checkout and then visit your places and head straight to the railway station or the bus station. This way you do not have to go all the way back to your hostel to collect your luggage and then reach the railway station or Bus station. This way you save a lot of time & energy.
6) Let’s say you’ve just arrived in the city early morning for a day and you have a train/bus tonight. Now if you are luggage free, then you don’t have to find a cloakroom at the train/bus station. You can set out immediately to visit places in the city. It also helps you if you decide at the very last moment to change the mode of transportation, let’s say you had a plan to travel by train which is at 11 pm.
But you became free by 5 pm and found a bus departing at 6 pm for your next destination, which is 6 hrs early, which will drop you to your destination next day morning 2 or 3 hours early. Again if you do not have luggage, you are free to change your route, mode of transportation anytime anyplace, without bothering that cloakroom.
Please Note: Many time, you need to attach a xerox copy of your ID for using Cloakroom services, which again wastes your lot of time. Then we have to give some deposit, around Rs. 200 to 500. The worst part for a backpacker is, that if you wish to put your luggage in the cloakroom, you have to have a lock. Now that is impossible if you are having a rucksack, which does not have chains.
And even if you have, you will be forced to go and buy a tiny lock that passes the hole in your chain, again you lose time searching it and finally standing in the line waiting for your turn to deposit your luggage, with all formalities. In India, if you have an onward ticket, then the PNR no. is enough for most of the hassle. But still, you need a lock.
7) It helps when you are travelling alone in the long journey train for a day or 2. of course, not everyone around you is bad, but believe me, thieves can easily make out from your clothes, body language and easily place you and judge your smartness level.
The moment you are off to buy something at the rail/bus station, some snack, fruit or a meal. They’ll do it, very quick. Remember their eyes changes, but the goal remains the same. I mean, if a guy sitting next to you talks for 2 hours before getting down at a station, can pass on your information to the new guy who is going to take his place and use that intelligence very smartly to initiate a conversation with you, to create more interest. Eventually building a trust, which they exploit at the later stage in your journey, which you will never know about.
Sometimes a family scene is created to gain your trust which includes women. Yes, they are very organised. I have seen people falling in such traps many times in my train journey, so I always make sure, I am carrying my luggage every time with me. I talk to everyone, but I make sure I am not giving away too much info about me. Remember, always be in questioning mode, never be in answering mode. This way you learn more, you gain more. And yes, do share it with the world, the way I am doing with you right now.
8) It helps when you are going to a washroom, again the same thing as mentioned in the above point. They always look out for one ignorance from your side, and that’s it.
9) It also helps if you have to travel in the unreserved coach in India, which is almost every time jam-packed. So if you have luggage, there is no chance you can get in, but if you have none, all you need is some space to stand, and wait for the next station to arrive if someone gets down, giving a seat to you. At the same time, you do not need to request people to move or shift their luggage so that you can put yours and adjust.
10) At the airport, you don’t have to worry about overweight baggage because you have none. The check-in is a breeze. This also helps if you have bought the air ticket in a hurry which allows ONLY hand baggage, I mean you have to pay even for the smallest check-in baggage. Reaching your destination, and you are out of the airport in less than 10 minutes. Again, if crossing the international border, custom guys are not going to stop you, unless you look real suspicions from your clothes or body language.
In the end, if you get robbed, that person will regret it because there isn’t anything valuable in your luggage to sell and make money out of it. The only benefit he can get is to use your clothes if it fits him.