Traveling Light

Once you need less, you will have more.

— Life is a Recipe

Every year, I tell myself that next year will be different.  My three girls and I make it a priority to go on an annual family vacation.  We spend a week or two connecting as a family, taking in and learning about the beautiful sites the world has to offer.  And during the trip, without fail I find myself exclaiming, “next year we will pack lighter!”  But prior to the trips, we always fall into the same routine: I tell my girls, “one bag each,” they say “okay,” and by the time we’re ready to leave for the airport each of us (myself included) have at least double the amount of luggage we hoped to take.

It has gotten to the point where even my mother makes fun of how much luggage we lug around.  As she helps us get ready she’ll laugh at how many shoes I’m bringing or the amount of jackets. In the moments of packing, every single item seems like a necessity.  In my mind, the trip becomes the perfect place to wear those boots I’ve never worn before.  The plane ride becomes the place where I’ll absolutely need to use that lotion I’ve never used before.

After the challenges of packing comes the perils of transit.  I forget to consider how hard it will be to move about with the extra cargo.  In the airport, I always feel ashamed as the person at the check-in counter disapprovingly weighs our conspicuously overstuffed bags before my girls and I madly rummage for things we can bear to part with.  Then, I always feel the other passengers pity as my two oldest girls and I comically struggle to get across the terminal with 8 bags among us; my youngest is too small to carry her own.

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And of course, the return trip is always worse.  Where do we put the special items we picked up during our trip?

When I thought about all of this, I discovered that the burden of travel was stealing some of the joys of why we were traveling in the first place.  Last vacation I took seven pairs of shoes.  I ended up wearing only two of them!  That realization taught me that I no longer wanted to let my material items rule my vacation.  I no longer wanted our baggage to steal the fun, wonder, and relaxation from our experiences and our memories.  After years of enduring these nightmares, I decided to create a new plan and change our approach.

First, making an essential packing list before you start packing is a great idea. In the moment, it’s too easy to look at something and feel like you’re going to need it. If you make a list and stick to it, packing becomes much easier, as you can easily see the unnecessary items that are trying to sneak into your bags.

Secondly, I decided to stick to my own rule of bringing one bag.  My resolve would set an example for my girls: if I can’t stick to this simple idea, how can I expect my girls to follow it? I realized that you can, indeed, be stylish and simultaneously be a practical packer.  Now, rather than bringing a completely separate outfit for each day, I pack more transitional ideas. I ask myself, “will this piece of clothing work for both daytime and nighttime activities? Could I pair it with something else to create a whole look on a different day? I also keep my toiletries to a minimum. Realistically, I will be using only the essential products anyway.  There’s no need to bring my entire medicine cabinets and makeup bag.  There’s no need to bring items that aren’t essential.

Thirdly, I needed to change the way I organize my bags. I like to be very organized and keep my outfits neatly arranged.  But now, I care a little less about the visuals and roll my clothes instead of folding them.  Also, not packing your bags to the brims and leaving at least one fourth of your luggage empty is great way to make sure you’ll be able to shop and actually have a way to get your goods home with you!  Taking a more thoughtful approach to organization allows me to do more with less space and – not squash everything together. 😉


Life Recipe:
Traveling Light

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute to pack! :-) Being in a rush dramatically increases the risk of bringing something you don’t really need.
  2. Make a list of essentials. Watch out for those items that feel like they’re necessary but really aren’t, and leave them behind. Know exactly what you should pack before actually packing. :-)
  3. If possible, stick to one bag. When you really think about it, most round-trip excursions don’t require your entire closet. Stick to this rule, and it will simplify your entire trip.
  4. Further explore the concept of efficient / minimalist packing. There are tons of great resources out there with more great tips!

Lunch Recipe:
Squash Carbonara

  • 4 cups butternut squash (peeled, seeded and cubed)
  • 1 package of linguine
  • 1 can low-sodium chicken broth (14.5 oz)
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup onion (chopped)
  • 4 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
  • 5 slices of bacon (chopped)
  • Chili flakes (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (fresh ground, to taste)


  1. Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Next, add in sage and mix well.

  2. Remove bacon and sage and pat dry.

  3. Leave about 3 Tbsp of bacon fat in the skillet and add in onions.

  4. When lightly browned, add in your squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let cook for 6-8 minutes. Add in garlic and mix well.

  5. Next, pour in chicken broth, fresh nutmeg, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let mixture simmer until the broth as reduced, this should take about 15-20 minutes.

  6. Cook one package of linguine according to the instructions on the package. Set aside one cup of pasta water for later.

  7. When the squash mixture is finished, turn off heat and let cool for a few minutes.

  8. Next, add squash mixture to a blender. Add cream and then cover.

  9. Remove the center of the lid and cover with a kitchen towel. Blend until mixture is smooth (you can do this in two batches if your blender is smaller).

  10. Add cooked pasta to the large skillet.

  11. Pour in pasta water and squash mixture. Mix well.

  12. Let simmer over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

  13. Add in parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  14. If desired, add chili flakes. Mix well.

  15. Serve. Sprinkle with bacon, sage, and parmesan cheese.

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