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The benefits of travelling light

Updated on: 07 April,2023 06:24 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Rosalyn D`mello |

The prospect of dragging along two suitcases while having a child in a stroller doesn’t seem exciting. And while sneaking excess luggage through the counter has its thrills, it’s hardly worth the hassle

The benefits of travelling light

Better to only take what is essential and to consider tasteful, miniature-sized gifts. Representation pic

Rosalyn D’MelloOne of many side-effects of adulting involves learning to recognise your weaknesses and strengths. During my people-pleasing years, I was invested in perpetuating a myth about my general ‘togetherness’. I wanted to believe in my efficiency, my uncanny ability to accomplish many things in a single day, often pushing my body to exceed its limits. I used to host dinners for 20 or 30 people and do all the cooking myself over a day or two. It brought me immense satisfaction to witness my success at making something ambitious happen. It made me feel special, like I could do something that few others would even consider. In many ways, I was doing what felt very normal in our household—cooking large portions. But it was also a love language. I loved being able to cater to all my guests’ specificities. There was a peculiar thrill to the whole affair.

As someone now on the other side of 35, and a mother, I have become so much more restrained about such ambitions. Instead of a feast, I focus on three delicious dishes. Instead of 20 people, I invite not more than five. When I think about the reason for my evolving minimalism, I feel sure it has a lot to do with recognising the levels of stress I allowed for while I did these unthinkable things. I had completely normalised anxiety.

The current version of myself is more scaled back. As I prepare for our upcoming homecoming trip to Dubai and India, I am trying to be counter-intuitive about an aspect of travelling that I inherited from my immigrant parents: packing! My father has always had a very special talent for making things ‘fit’ into a suitcase. He could have been a YouTube guru. I watched him countless times through my childhood as he packed our bags or his own for travels abroad, working with the volume and the shapes of the items that were to make the journey with us. As children, it was always the most exciting thing when either my father or my brother returned from a long trip abroad. We awaited the unveiling of the suitcase and watched with delight as things that were not available in our stores in Mumbai were unpacked with elan. Tang. Cheddar cheese. Quality Street. Maggi cubes. Perfumes. After Eight. Once my brother even managed to bring back a tub of KFC chicken. This was way before an outlet opened in India. 

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Eventually, when I began travelling between Mumbai and Delhi, my own suitcase would be speckled with things that connoted ‘home’ and that I couldn’t access in Delhi. Goa sausages. Home-made Reshad masala. Home-made curry powders. Cans of tuna or luncheon meat. Chocolates. Vada pav. Kheema from Naaz Hotel. Sorpotel. Vindaloo. My father packed it all in vacuum-sealed bags or dabbas and I unpacked it the instant I arrived home, inviting friends to sample the various delicacies. It was my parents’ love language to pack more than I could carry.

Under normal circumstances, I would have already sourced many things here in Italy that I would have liked to take with me. But the fact that to arrive at the Milan Bergamo airport, we need to take two trains and thus maintain a constant fear of the elevators not functioning makes me plan differently. I have embraced our decision to travel light. Having a child in a stroller and dragging along two suitcases doesn’t seem exciting. Also, after years of travelling between places, lugging my suitcases and asking strangers for help, I have decided it is simply not worth the anxiety. Better to only take what is essential and to consider tasteful, miniature-sized gifts. 

I saw a TikTok sketch of this desi aunty convincing her husband her suitcase is not overweight. When the airport’s weighing scale suggests otherwise, she insists it’s because of all the medicines she’s carrying. The suitcase opens accidentally to reveal packets of pasta. ‘Why are you taking pasta to New York?’ her husband asks. It reminded me of the many times my friend and I travelled together around India and strategised to get our excess luggage through the counter without having to pay penalties. At the time I felt so clever, but in retrospect, it was not worth the hassle.

I have a theory, though, that this intergenerational obsession with taking as much as can possibly fit into a suitcase has something to do with immigrant backgrounds. I have seen my brothers carry whole jackfruits from Goa to Dubai. 

When it comes to packing, in our family, the eyes always want more than the suitcase can accommodate. It’s the fear of homesickness. I already know that while it’s easy for me to travel light from Italy to India, the return flight will involve several dilemmas about what to bring with us and what to leave behind. 

The penalty will be in the realm of regret.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D’Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx
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