Waaaaay back in 1960, documentary filmmaker and surf enthusiast Bruce Brown made a movie called “Barefoot Adventure, ” a surfing documentary lightly studded with fictionalized silliness performed by his friends and fellow travelers as they trekked across the US (including the relatively new and exotic state of Hawaii) in order to find good spots to surf, explore, and generally goof around.
While not particularly useful as a practical guide for traveling to distant, exotic locales on the cheap, “Barefoot Adventure” encouraged a mindset of traveling light, as unencumbered as feasible by the bulky trappings of civilization. This is a mindset that can serve the world traveler (who is not independently wealthy) quite well. There are two practical methods for accomplishing a figuratively “barefoot” adventure.
Number one, keep it light. If you’re backpacking cross-country, especially, you’re going to have to carry your necessities every mile you travel, in which case you’ll quickly realize what truly constitutes something you “need.” Be prepared to carry fewer changes of clothes (rinsing and drying in a hotel room sink when possible). Pare your toiletries down to the barest level and be ready to pick some things up during your trip, rather than carry everything you normally have at arm’s reach. You can find soap, aspirin, and bandaids everywhere.
Number two, make sure what you carry can serve multiple functions. A lightweight hooded jacket with a variety of zippered pockets becomes an extra carry-on bag for your flight, can keep you dry in the rainy season, helps distribute weight across you person on a long hike, and can be one of several insulating layers during a cold morning. While you’ll want some heavier-duty hiking shoes for long overland treks, in hot climates nothing can beat the nearly-barefoot feeling of a good pair of lightweight and rugged mens sandals, which take up very little space and can be a lifesaver if your shoes give you blisters. Multi tasking equipment is also a plus where you can find it, such as flip flops with a built in bottle opener. Utility pants with zip-off legs can save you space by taking the place of a separate pair of shorts and pants, and the pockets are always useful.
Through experimentation, even an inexperienced traveler can find what space-saving and multitasking solutions work best for them.