Following up on one of my previous posts on Things I Cannot Travel Without, here is a list of things that I believe budget travelers should really nix altogether from their suitcases. Too often we overpack, assuming somehow that we will live the same way on the road that we do back home. This is hardly ever the case! It is a terrible idea to be weighed down by a lot of unnecessary crap before your trip has even begun; for starters, you have to save room for all the souvenirs you'll be lugging back! In addition, carrying too many things around sucks out any sense of enjoyment you have from experiencing the new environment you are in...do you really think you could walk around Rome for 8 hours if your bags were brimming with things you don't even use? Exactly.
So what should you start unpacking now? For a practical guide, read on.
1) Your computer, no matter how essential the modern world has convinced you that it is, does not need to fly around the world with you. More often than not, it takes up unnecessary space in your carry-on luggage, and you hardly ever use it anyway. You'll always have to worry about getting the right electrical adaptor in the country, or how to get wireless access, or whether it will be stolen in the dodgy $10-a-night hostel in the red light district. Why bother?
Reasons I hear for bringing a computer around include "So I can look up the weather/map/tourist destination" or "In case I need to send emails/write a blog post/upload photographs". My response to all of that is usually "You'll manage without it. Don't worry." Most countries these days are equipped with cheap Internet cafes, and you'll quickly realize that you don't want to spend much time on your computer anyway when there's a whole new world out there for you to explore.
2) Beauty products or too much makeup will just bog you (lads and ladies) down. If you really must look nothing short of spectacular every single day even when hiking around the Himalayas, at least pick multi-tasking and multi-purpose products like a moisturizer (with SPF) that you can use on your face and body. You don't really need everything use back home on a short trip, and you can easily buy items on the road if you're on a longer trip. Don't waste time counting out 150ml bottles in Ziplock bags or dealing with yucky spillage; it's simply not worth it.
3) Unless you know that your trip will include a few fancy nights out, forget about bringing any jewellery with you. Not only do they show up as chunks of weird looking metal on luggage screening tests, they can also get tangled, jumbled up, or stolen. You're better off buying local jewellery and other trinkets; this way, you'll get to spice up your outfit and have bring home some special memories.
4) I always feel sorry for people who have liters of water in their bags. I don't get why it's there unless you're trekking through some arid, dessert region of the Middle East. Sure, the safety of water consumption in some developing countries may be questionable, but if you're in city that sells portable water, fresh fruit juice (such as coconuts) or even bottled/canned drinks, this nearly always eliminates the need to be hauling your own bottles around like a mule. In cities like Singapore, Sydney and London, there are even water fountains in most parks with clean (free) drinking water.
5) Guidebooks are yet another total non-essential. Most tourists are convinced that a handy little Lonely Planet will take them everywhere and give them all the help they need -- I've personally found the opposite to be true. Give it a good look through before you leave, then chuck it, because the last thing you should be doing is burying your head in it when you could be looking up, down and all around. Pick up a city map from a hotel or train station, and talk to a few locals about interesting places to go.
If foreign language is a problem, flex your language skills! Pick up a few essential phrases before you leave, work up the courage and try them out. You'll find that most people are happy to help out travelers in their city, especially those who are trying to communicate in a native language. Before you know it, you'll discover more about the city than you would have if you were using a guide.
Toss out these 5 items and you'll feel liberated, both physically and mentally! The less you have to bog you down, the more you get to do and the more enjoyment you derive from it. If I had my way, I would travel with nothing other than a camera, notebook and pen, and some money. In fact, that's pretty much what I do now anyway. :)