Jewish One Bag Solution
A while back I wrote about the OneBag.com website and the one bag solution, showing how to pack light without checking in your luggage (Life is a Journey – So Pack Light). It occurred to me at the time that however you try to minimize your belongings, there are a few items that an observant Jew just has to take with. These items naturally take up precious space and you end off forgoing other vital items to avoid a second bag.
It’s not only a Tallis & Tefillin (or a snood/hat/wig), but also some emergency Kosher food, a Siddur (if you intend to pray on the way without a Minyan), a few basic cooking implements (if there aren’t any Kosher stores on the way) and so forth. If you’re planning on being in the backwaters of Jewish life over Rosh Hashanah, then you’ll need also a Shofar and a Machzor too. If you travel on Succos then you need 4 Minim (and maybe a portable Succah). If you are in transit on Channukah then you need to light candles. One mustn’t forget a regular Shabbos with Challa, wine, a Bentcher and Havdoloh implements.
I wrote the following letter to the author of OneBag.com:
As a religious Jew, I carry with me whenever I’m overnight away from home, a prayer shawl (Tallit) and a set of phylacteries (Tefillin) which are carried around in a cloth bag (when not being used for prayer). These items naturally take up space. Sometimes I need to carry also a few basic Kosher food items and/or utensils, when I’m not going to a location with a Jewish community.
Can you give any suggestion for coping with these extra but essential items while sticking with the OneBag philosophy?
The author, Doug Dyment responded:
Not sure what I can add in this regard that I have not already written. As I teach, you need to develop a packing list that defines the way in which you travel, and work to refine that list in order to make it as free of bulk and weight as you are able. I know that in my own travels (using the list described on OneBag.com), I invariably have extra space in my bag when starting out, though whether this is sufficient to include the items you require, I can’t say. But then, my list is not yours: that is something you need to develop for yourself.
Sorry I can’t be more helpful, but this aspect of travel is a very personal thing, and dependent on your own perception of your needs.
The Mass of Spirituality
As I get it there’s no magic solution and keeping the Jewish Tradition is not just a spiritual abstraction but actually takes up physical space in the “real” world. I’d call it “The Mass of Spirituality”.
There’s no replacement or shortcut for Tefillin and a Shofar, but one can be more creative with other religious needs. Lets say you avoid taking a Siddur and use an app for your phone (like Tfilon). The same goes for Torah study materials (see Torah Study on the Go). As for Kosher food and utensils, I recommend taking only minimum emergency Kosher rations for the first 24-48 hours and buying the basic utensils (including disposable dishware, a pot and frying pan etc.) and raw materials from then on. If you are situated in a place where you absolutely cannot prepare your own food then I guess you’ll just have to take only one set of everything else with no extras.
If you are traveling around the Festivals then it is extremely advisable to be near a Jewish community in order to get the basics. Otherwise you’ll need to take with at least a mini version of whatever is needed. BTW, you don’t need a Menorah for Channukah; a few tea-lights will suffice.
No Baggage Challenge
I used to think that one can’t manage without all one’s creature comforts till I saw Rolf Potts website Around the World With No Luggage . Potts literally traveled the world in 42 days on the road carrying only what he could stuff in the pockets of his ScotteVest Travel Vest with all his stuff in over 30 pockets of the vest and matching cargo pants!
Of course he ate anything anywhere and probably doesn’t put on Tefillin too often (Ha Ha). But using his methods one can carry a tiny backpack with all one’s Jewish needs. No problem.