The importance of traveling light

June 28, 2018 OTHER

Ashim D’Silva photo



Bikash Mohapatra



Most airlines these days charge for extra baggage. But carrying excess luggage is a far more deep-rooted problem. It is about a habit.



It wasn’t the first time I was going to miss a flight. However, on this occasion the fault wasn’t mine.


The construction of a flyover en route to the airport, and the resultant heavy traffic, ensured I was racing against time, even though I had left for the airport with ample time in hand. At least I thought so.


Worse still, my supposed destination wasn’t one to which there were frequent flights. If I missed my scheduled flight, I had to wait till the next day. Reaching the airport as early as possible and hoping for the best was the only option. There was no alternative. None whatsoever.


The fact that I had done the web check-in was reassuring. Was it? I had forgotten to take a print-out of the boarding pass and the airport wasn’t one that accepted a soft copy. And before you start thinking let me make it clear this wasn’t an airport with self check-in kiosks.


I was getting impatient. But there was nothing I could do. With the clock ticking my cab finally reached the departure gate. I rushed to the airline kiosk only to be told that the facilitation counter for those who had done web check-ins had changed. Once there, I found a long queue.


“I have already checked in. I just want a print out of the boarding pass,” I pleaded to the staff present.


They took me to another queue, a little less longer. It had people who had come to drop their baggage, the destination notwithstanding. The couple in front of me were flying to the same city as me. They were denied the boarding pass.


“Sorry, we can no longer check in your baggage,” said the attendant on a firm note.


The couple pleaded. To no avail. They were carrying five heavy suitcases, and three hand baggage. The cabin baggage allowance for the two combined amounted to 14 kilograms. The total baggage allowance was 30 kilograms. The luggage they were carrying weighed a lot more. And there was no time to pay for the excess baggage and get checked in. There was no way the attendant could have helped them.


She asked me to place my luggage on the weighing machine. It measured only 4.6 kilograms. I took the boarding pass, proceeded for security check and was the second last person to board the flight.


Traveling light had saved the day for me, like it had so many times before. To someone for whom traveling is a passion, and whose profession also involves extensive field visits, my many journeys have also made me understand the importance of being a smart traveler…of carrying less baggage.


“The measure of a good traveler is how light he or she travels,” wrote noted American travel writer and producer Rick Steves.


I usually prefer a single hand baggage, unless of course it is a lengthy trip – in which case there’s an addition. My bag usually contains the computer, and other things of utmost importance. For other purposes I prefer the disposable stuff, the use-and-throw variety. The idea is to limit stuff to the cabin and thereby avoid baggage drops.


Doing web check-in and traveling light helps you take liberty as regards the time factor is concerned. Firstly, you can leave for the airport a bit late. Secondly, it should not bother you if the queue in front is a long one. Not to forget once you have landed, you can avoid the luggage belt (and the palpable delay there) completely.


Unfortunately my compatriots and among the world’s best travelers otherwise, prefer traveling heavy. Even the most trivial of stuff finds a place in our baggage. Blame it on the deep-rooted parsimonious nature or just show off, people from my country in general are guilty of carrying excess baggage. Well, many aren’t going to like reading the previous line.


If the journey is within the country, it is a minimum of three to four baggage on average for a couple. In case it is a family traveling god help the official at the check-in/baggage-drop counter. If the journey is to destinations overseas counting of baggage is an exercise in futility. Measuring the weight albeit ensures additional charges (read profits) to the airline.


In fact a particular community, very fussy about what they eat, even prefers carrying its own food for the sake of convenience. Still better, if the stay overseas is a long one many prefer carrying (in bulk at that) along with them the basic ingredients (rice, wheat, pulses, pickles, spices, etc) that will enable them prepare their staple food on foreign shores, and thereby save money, the latter being the more pertinent intention. Thank god meat, veggies and fruits are perishable commodities. Else…


This typical ‘attitude’ may be a big turn-off for those who prefer traveling light. Truth be told it is indeed frustrating to see someone ahead of you carrying a bulk, or for that matter struggling to find space to fit in your little cabin baggage, as most of it is taken anyway, the seat number notwithstanding.


Yes, most airlines charge for extra baggage. But this is a far more deep-rooted problem. It is about habit. If someone is used to carrying excess luggage it is a matter of time before he/she gets used to paying for extra baggage.


However, there’s a silver lining. You can request the passengers standing in front of you to oblige, in case you want to get over and done with early as regards the check-in/baggage-drop.


The fact that your baggage is less might just work in your favor.






Bikash Mohapatra

A firm believer in the adage ‘variety is the spice of life’, New Delhi-based Bikash Mohapatra has been a human resource manager, a communication specialist, a strategist, a media professional and a researcher/writer at various stages of his career, acquiring a new set of skills with every additional responsibility.

Outside of work he is an avid traveler, with an innate desire to learn about various people, places and cultures. It is this ‘travel education’, coupled with varied ‘professional experience’ that manifest into thoughts and take the shape of detailed and elaborate narratives.

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