Straphanging on an overcrowded Green Line subway, squeezed between a too young mother with baby stroller and a hipster with too big backpack, I spotted someone carrying a tote bag with the most cryptic logo stenciled on the side: TRAVEL LIGHT THINK SMART. I was about to dismiss it until I realized how many ways that message might be interpreted. I still have no idea what they were advertising but my mind raced.

1) If you plan on venturing more than three zip codes away from home and don’t want the hassle, you can enlist travel services. By changing the spelling (Travel LITE), we derive another name for convenience-based travel. This often is to made-up locales like Disneyland or Six Flags or household destinations like Paris and Cancun: school vacation tours, package deals with groups of like-minded tourists and fun-filled resorts as opposed to hard places with names that have no vowels or are necessary to look up in a dictionary.

In lieu of hardcore immersion into a new location, these excursions offer enjoyment from managed sightseeing where most of the amenities are provided.They also scream for “selfie” photographs to make your friends back home jealous.  

Travel Lite is intended to reduce stress, generate new experiences and maximize convenience. The terminus may be secondary to the service.

2) As an inveterate travel photographer, I often tote everything but the kitchen sink. Besides cameras and lenses (visas, Lomotil, GPS,…), the most obvious is lighting equipment for my assignments. Over the past few years I have reduced the size and weight of everything I carry. Using speedlights, which are small and portable, has lightened my burden substantially. I suppose you could call the speedlights (Nikon) and speedlites (Canon), TRAVEL LIGHTS. (See

On the other hand you might also need a nightlight that dangles from the end of your key chain to find the bathroom, outhouse or latrine in some one-star motel or campground in Albuquerque or Ayers Rock.

3) Abusing the privilege of moving unencumbered across the far reaches of our planet, tourists of all types scorch the earth with their expectations, culture, money, politics, etc. Their mere presence changes things. Tourists pollute, steal antiquities, burden the ecology, and stereotype the natives. We need to tread lightly or travel light in order to be responsible guests.

There is a famous quote “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures.” It should be the photographer’s mantra.

4) The most likely meaning for the above slogan is important too. As a general rule, people who only venture out once in a while carry too much stuff. They pack for every contingency–that fancy ball gown–just in case. The phrase “Pack Right Travel Light” advises to pack your bags paying attention only to what is absolutely necessary. There is nothing more unnecessary than to be trapped by heavy luggage. It is expensive to get onto planes.

Inertia. It slows you down. You can hurt yourself or others.

I try to adhere to a rule: don’t carry it if you can’t run with it. I have spent years seeking better designed gear that shaves ounces off my kit. Camera bags that give you scoliosis really slow you down unless you are attempting an assignment that requires an inordinate amount of preparation. Catching a taxi, train or bus overloaded with too much stuff diminishes reasons for traveling in the first place. And they are the mark of the “ugly tourist”.

5) THINK SMART. Well that goes without saying. And I had to catch another subway anyway.

Photos and Text by Lou Jones