Everyone Should Travel With Nothing But A Passport Once

Passport Stamps

There’s nothing better than arriving at the front of the immigration line, staring the customs officer right in the eye having brought nothing into their country but the clothes on your back and your passport.



With his eyes, he might as well be saying, ‘we know you’re up to no fucking good.’

You answer this silent statement with a smirk.  Nope.

He then calls over another officer to look at the screen, a second set of eyes to glance from the passport photo to the real face. 

Some mumbled foreign language confirming ‘he’s up to no fucking good eh’ as they leaf through the back pages of your passport, thumbing visas and stamps and hard to find empty pages.

‘The reason for your visit?’


‘And you are staying at the…’

The hotel means nothing to you.  You just needed something for the form so struck a conversation with the person next to you, the amateur who inevitably needed to borrow a pen, and wrote down the same place knowing it must be some overpriced tourist hell-hole too close to the main tourist attraction and too far from anything good to eat or offering local culture in any way.

A hotel reservation just another form of baggage – packed with clothes that don’t fit the situation based on research that couldn’t possibly be accurate.

You’ll know when you’re in the right spot after walking around a bit, feeling out the area.

It’s one thing to travel light, a small pack, an overnighter, clearly the person who packs judiciously, thoughtfully.  This is the opposite of reckless, this is smart, seasoned. 

The light traveler is the experienced one, the one who knows you aren’t going to use half the shit you felt you couldn’t live without for a few days. 

When you pack, cut it in half. Then cut it in half again. 

This light traveler, the one unburdened by the wheeled bags and needing help from porters, bell boys, inconvenienced grunting taxi drivers, gets the nod from the customs agent, the enjoy your stay, because this is the type of traveler any country welcomes. 

The one that doesn’t fit the American mold of excess, waste, gluttony.  The one who won’t make trouble or end up getting things stolen, calling the police and making a stink, blending in just enough to not be a huge target.

But the person with nothing is not this person – economical, thoughtful, austere in the same way a monk might travel.  The person with nothing has taken austerity to the level of being, well, perhaps unhinged.  

If traveling light entitles a level of superiority over the encumbered masses with their hard-shell trunks, shrink-wrapped suitcases, and duty-free impulses, traveling with nothing allows you to float above them all.

So light in your emptiness that you hardly touch the ground. 

Even the experienced traveler looks in awe as their perfectly organized pack is sprung and scattered like the detritus in a tornado by menacing customs officials as the empty handed, like a unicorn, receives suspicious stares from the same distracted official, but with nothing to open, nothing to search, remains unmolested except with the eyes and strides off into the new world – no use for help with bags, for hustling locals, no care that bags might be grabbed and stolen or held ransom.  

Even the traveler with just a backpack has to cram onto trains, strain under straps, back sweating, weary of the exposure of someone opening up the bag and emptying it of its precious, well thought out cargo, each thing absolutely critical in its multi-functionality.

Nothing to take means no use for them, so you go ignored.

‘Baggage?’  This time the driver is asking.


Unlike the customs agent.  The taxi driver also smirks.  He knows you’re up to no fucking good, but sees people like you as an asset, the less to be burdened with.  Cash only.

Of course, on your return, traveling with nothing elicits similar reactions.  Another custom line, another suspicious look.  Of course now you can just fly through the electronic stall, again unused by the ignorant masses and even some of my friends who travel. 

What are they thinking?

Electronic pass, no bags, no lines.  What used to be a quagmire of lost life and suicidal thoughts, re-entry to the country now taking a few minutes, more like a train terminal than an international border crossing.  

Out to the car in the same time it takes to unload a Southwest flight from Houston.

Everyone deserves to take an international trip completely empty handed once in their life, but most people will never do it. 

People don’t know how to handle this level of freedom from their belongings, the freedom to jump on a plane or train and be anywhere and acquire just what you need in that particular situation, then leave that behind the same way you would a shirt that doesn’t fit, riding up into your armpits to make it unbearable.  

We keep things that people impose on us, calling them free, calling them gifts.  These things sit right along side the ones we rely on and use all the time, giving them the same value.

We bastardize the word itself.  Need.  I need this.  

You don’t need that.

All you need is your passport and some money and you can see the world, engage in it lightly, freely.  Letting the world take you along in its current, the natural eddies pulling you to a natural pause at the good shit while the over-encumbered are sinking to the bottom, fed on by the bottom feeders and stripped of any experience but the murky depths.


This experience will force you to reckon with all your own shit when you get home.  The shit you clearly don’t need, piled up, even if minimised, filed in drawers and cabinets and storage bins.   A curated by still clumsy weight that couldn’t be packed or moved or stored without at least some effort.

You’ll look at it and think about the time you went to the other side of the world with a passport and found a toothbrush when you got there.  That time you couldn’t even find shoes to wear.

What is all this stuff?

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