The Thing about Traveling Light

1046 miles.

16 travel hours.

1 chick.

1 bag.

Last weekend I made a quick trip to Maine. Unfortunately, it was  to attend a funeral, but a funeral I wouldn’t have missed. Making the trip was well worth the time spent connecting with friends I hadn’t seen in years. The service was a life celebration of a man who has been friends with our family for the better part of 50 years, spanning three generations.  I have never not known him, so missing the service wasn’t an option for me. It truly was a blessing to be part of.

I did have to leave in a hurry though from our house, with just one day’s notice of funeral arrangements. Making last minute arrangements and leaving notes for my own family regarding meal options, doctor appointment times and Sunday Night Game Night suggestions was first on the agenda. Packing my bag was second but just as important.

We traditionally pack light. Generally each of us carry a full pack* (hiking pack) when we travel, often times including sleeping bag and pillow. This kind of packing requires being choosy about what we take, how we pack. It forces us to decide what is a priority and what is optional, what is fun and what is life or death. Packing light, I realize though, is a relative term. And certainly there are trips where packing light still includes all means of camping gear, sleeping bags, canine items, life jackets, kayaks, food, clothing for all sorts of events (swimming, church, hiking, sleeping, normal outdoor wear, dress clothes, winter clothes, etc.), gifts, fun stuff for the kiddos to do in the car, etc. Traveling light is relative.

This past weekend, however, I traveled light. I had one job. That job was to get to my parents house, attend a funeral, hang out with my family and drive home. This meant I needed no sleeping gear, no food, no extras. I really could just take the basics.

My parents have not yet kicked me out of their house or refused to feed me.

That is good news.

A couple of years ago I bought a white bag. A bag that works as a purse, but also works as an overnight bag. Or a day bag. Or a giant purse in which I carry any and everything I could possibly need in a day. A bag that I once took on a retreat with 600 women and dropped it watching it’s contents roll down the inclined floor.

It’s big.

I’m not really sure if it’s actually a giant purse or an overnight bag.

Either way….it worked perfectly for a quick trip.

*The girls have these backpacks from Cabelas. I have this one from Cabelas. Jeremy uses this one from Dicks Sporting Goods.


What I packed for my weekend in one overnight bag was this: 

personal items (toothbrush, vitamins, etc.)

1 small makeup bag

computer (my mom and I worked on a project. Plus I had pictures of my kids to show off to any family member within sight…its the important stuff you know….)


1 wrinkle free black dress to wear to funeral on Friday and church on Sunday (I’m convinced everyone needs a wrinkle free black dress.)

1 pair black heels

1 pair pajamas

1 pair sneakers

3 shirts

2 pair jeans


earrings, bracelet and ring that matches both casual and dress clothes


Basics for travel:

1 wallet that doubles as a crossbody purse

change and one dollar bills for tolls


knife and survival bracelet ( I carry this one)

carabiner (doubled as hair tie holder)



cell phone

car insurance, registration information, directions, emergency numbers


Basics for winter travel:

one heavy winter coat (this was also my dress coat)

hat, mittens, scarf





Packing doesn’t have to amount to a lot. Reusing items like my black dress for two occasions, or wearing jewelry that matches everything from casual to dressy and re-wearing items like jeans or shirts for travel as well as everyday really cut down on space.

Taking basic winter survival items when driving north in the winter (as in states bordering Canada, not driving from Florida to North Florida) is a must. Snowstorms, ice and cold weather can sneak up at anytime in northern states. Items to keep warm in case of getting stuck on the highway and bottles of water and snacks are just plain smart.

Other things like change for tolls, cash for emergencies or quick stops and cell phone make traveling easier and safer. I’m not a paranoid person, but I like to keep a knife in my purse for self-defense should I need it (I haven’t yet). And you would be surprised how handy it comes in in everyday life. You know, like when you have to stop at the store on your way to a birthday party to buy the present that you should have bought a week ago but didn’t and now you need to cut the ribbon to tie around the gift. Not that I’ve ever been that irresponsible, but I’ve heard things.

I also like the fact that I don’t have piles of luggage sitting in my car to be easily seen by passersby when I have to stop along the way.

As a female travelling alone it’s important to take precautions:

  1. Pack smart
  2. Give your vehicle and good once over before you leave, making sure it’s got a full tank of gas, clean oil, filled tires and all around goodness. (I’m sure that a mechanical term somewhere.)
  3. Keep wallet and phone handy at all times
  4. Take the dog or don’t take the dog? I didn’t, because I didn’t want to have to get out with her alone at rest stops.
  5. Make stops quickly and infrequently
  6. Keep contact with others and let them know where you are and when you stop
  7. Keep wallet/purse close to your body (I use this one)
  8. Wear comfortable clothes to travel in
  9. Be confident (a confident driver, confident customer when stopping)
  10. When stopping stop in well lit, well marked rest stops-the more people the better
  11. Take along some sort of self-defense  (knife, pepper spray, ninja warrior skills…whatever you got)
  12. Take along drinks and snacks to minimize stops for mealtimes
  13. Keep directions handy if you need them
  14. Make sure you have plenty of gas in the car at all times and know where the next gas stop is
  15. Plan ahead-we’ve made the trip from PA to Maine so many times we know what rest stops we like, what exits we like, where to get Dunkin Donuts as soon as we hit New England, what certain exits offer what gas station or restaurants we like.
  16. Enjoy the journey. How often do you get a chance to spend 9 hours alone with your own thoughts? I don’t get that often, but every once in awhile it’s a blessing.

Packing light gave me the ability to not focus on my things, but focus on the reason I journeyed to Maine in the first place. And isn’t the all the reason in the world to put aside ‘things’?

Blessings on your journey.






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