I’ll be the first to tell you that up until now I haven’t been backpacking as much as using an impractical suitcase. This was intentional, being completely aware of my own ignorance how to travel minimally and on a shoestring. Since my parents would be meeting me in Turkey and then leaving back to California afterwards, I had a window of opportunity to swap gear around.
With that in mind, I sent back almost half of the stuff I was carrying, most of which I hadn’t touched. Lesson learned. My dad also very generously let me swap my full-size DSLR with his very compact and cool 3/4 olympus.
Also, and most daringly (stupidly?) sent home my backpack and bought a new one for $7 at the Grand Baazar in Istanbul. It looks and feels every bit as cheap as it was and I don’t expect it to last more than a month or two. When I see a better one I’ll buy it.
On a philosophical level, this is inching closer to my hopes and expectations of how this trip should go – freedom from material things and unburdened (literally and figuratively) by consumption.
My parents and I, a few nights in a row, sat in a restaurant on the main hostel street in Istanbul watching people walking in off buses and taxis carrying what must have been 60-70 pounds worth of stuff, probably 4 or 5 times what I have now. Usually they had two backpacks, one giant on the back and another on the stomach, both filled. I can’t imagine what you would need so badly and couldn’t buy.
I won’t look down on how other people travel, whatever works for you or makes you happy is fine. But for me, if I could get by with a toothbrush, a passport and an ATM card, I would.