CXO

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Travelling ultra-light

I dream of a 'no bag' future...
Written in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Photographs taken in Boston. Revised in New York and dispatched from the silicon.com CIO Forum in London via free Wi-Fi

Over the past few weeks I have had several requests to describe how I travel and what I carry. However, the real prompt for this blog was travelling with a customer who doesn't get out much! We arrived at London Heathrow for a two-week trip, me with my small roll-on case which fits in the overhead, plus my computer bag (see photo below). He arrived with two cases plus a huge computer case full of goodness knows what. How come?

Years of travel have taught me never to check a bag into the hold of an aircraft. The probability of loss varies from about one in 60 to one in 1000 depending on the carrier. And sure enough, on this multi-hop trip my colleague lost a bag. Worse, at every airport, and there were nine on this trip, we had a protracted check-in, and a long wait at baggage claim. So when we got to the taxi rank there was always a long line. When I am on my own I'm through an airport like a knife through butter - no waiting in line, no bag loss, no baggage claim and mostly no taxi delays. All told I reckon we lost about a full working day by this mechanism alone!

So how do you get down to one bag? Bring only one jacket or suit, one pair of shoes, a tie (if needed) and enough underclothes, shirts and socks to cover the longest stay in any one place plus one or two days. Also, only wear dark trousers/clothing for travel, it stands up to spillages a lot better. No pyjamas by the way - they take up an awful lot of space and are unnecessary. Then make use of two really good facilities - the hotel laundry and FedEx!

When you travel, always wear your jacket with a pair of cotton pants, placing your business pants in your case, and never sit in your jacket - always hang it up. This is so your clothes don't get creased. If you are doing a wet-to-dry or cold-to-hot-climate trip, wear or carry your top coat til you can FedEx it home, along with anything else you no longer need such as papers, documents and books you might be given.

Make sure your toilet bag has everything you need plus some emergency medical supplies but no scissors or sharp-pointed implements (they may be confiscated on the airplane). Make two copies of your driving licence, passport, visas and any other essential documents and place them in both bags. This will save you hassle should you lose or have the originals stolen.

Also, make sure you have back-up software, and a pocket hard drive with a complete copy of all your files, in with your clothes in case you need to do an emergency rebuild from scratch whilst on the road. This really applies should your laptop be stolen or should it crash. You can see a photo of my back-up drive and discs below.

And now for the computer bag, which I have photographed for you below! I have been working on this one for years and have finally got a near optimum solution. I use velcro to secure all my connectors, cables and peripherals in the manner shown in the photo. At once I know where everything is, and I can see at a glance if anything is missing. I have tried various bag designs with pockets and inner bags but have now settled on a lightweight plastic box as an insert. Why? I want to carry my kit and not the luggage! So I search out the lightest weight equipment I can find.

This all works, passes the airline test, and lets me travel efficiently, with minimal hassle. But there is one final, anti-technology touch! I have five printed copies of my detailed itinerary. One copy is for my home, so my family knows where I am. One in each bag should they get lost. One folded in my jacket pocket for quick reference and note-taking on the back, and a spare.

Beyond all of this there is the body management problem. Get a good aircraft seat, hotel and car, build some slack in the timing of meetings and airport transfers, and generally de-stress the whole trip experience as much as possible. Drink lots of water, no alcohol, and only eat 50 per cent of the food presented to you. Sleep whenever and wherever you can. Also, walk about and get some exercise on flights and in hotels. Use the pool and sports facilities if you can.

As for communication, use email and text to overcome time differences. And search out locations with good Wi-Fi and GSM connectivity. That is, avoid hotels and coffee shops that do not provide a turnkey solution! One final thing - use the times when you are alone to work hard on things that need a lot of focus but also remember to find times and places where you can really relax.

In my wilder moments I dream of a 'no bag' future where I travel wearing everything including all my technology in a fly fishing style jacket including all my extra clothing neatly hidden inside my top coat. The basis being that the airlines measure and weigh bags but not people. But that is something for the future.


My travel bags


The contents of my computer bag


My back-up drive and discs


Velcro holds my cables and peripherals in place

About

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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