Just after I finished college, I set off on a long bicycle trip around the world. I had a great bike, front and rear panniers, lots of gear carefully tucked away... I had a down coat for winter, spare cycling shoes, tent, stove, pots and pans, books to read, a number of changes of clothing.
I was really well equipped. I was prepared, ready and I had EVERYTHING I needed.
These pics are from that trip a number of months later when I travelled across Ireland and met up with two friends from college. I was thinner and lighter all around. Laura took great photographs.
During the first week of cycling I found myself moving very slowly. I wasn't in top shape yet, but my bike was also VERY heavy. Was that what all those cool panniers I had were for?
Then, one day during the second week out, I met a friendly cyclist on the road outside Pompeii. He was moving very fast as his bicycle carried nothing. He was a Swiss doctor, and he slowed down as we rode together for awhile.
I asked him where he was headed. He said Sicily.
I asked him where he was coming from. He said Geneva (over 1,000 miles).
I asked him how long he was travelling for. He said one week.
I asked him where all of his things were. He said that all he needed were his few bike tools and a credit card. He said he would pay for all of his food and lodging, and for everything else, he would trust in the goodwill of the people he met.
Then realized that he was more prepared than I was.
He was travelling with lightness and using his needs as a way of meeting the world around him and engaging with people. My bike was heavy, and I hadn't met anyone yet because I was totally "self sufficient." I had planned NOT to ask for help. Late in the afternoon, he excused himself, said goodbye and moved quickly away down the road, while I lumbered on.
The next day I went to an Italian post office and dumped half of my stuff, sending it home in two boxes.
That was the first big lesson of that year, and it has stuck with me ever since.
Lightening your load requires trust in the world around you and a willingness to open up and meet people. Trust like this is, perhaps, the most important thing you can carry in your pack, and it creates more of itself when it is offered.
Whether you carry your home on a bicycle, own one in the country or rent one in a city, keeping your possessions light and leaving your space open requires trust and openness to the world. And then this allows for the joy of new things and people that can then come into your life.
How light is your home?
(Image: Laura Baring-Gould)