A lot of people have asked me how I packed to travel indefinitely. Let me explain…
The Journey Begins: Preparing to Vagabond
It was the perfect storm of people, books, life events and foreign cities that solidified my decision to travel long term. Vagabonding, a book by Rolf Potts, had the strongest influence. It changed my mindset by opening me up to new ways of thinking.
The exact quote escapes me at the moment but he says, more or less, that
Your vagabond journey begins the moment you decide to take the trip, even if your actual departure date is a long ways away.
This saved me! There were a lot of things I had to take care of before I could actually board the plane. For starters, I still had a 3 bedroom house worth of stuff I had to figure out what to do with! I also had student debt, credit card debt, family obligations and a salon to dissolve. Taking care of all of this took me TWO YEARS!
I would have never made it if I had looked at those two years as a waiting period, or something I had to suffer through, before I could take off. I would have given up. But because I viewed this process as the first leg of my journey, I owned it! (Thanks Rolf!)
My path to minimalism had begun several months before I made the decision to travel long term. And it happened unconsciously. With no reason other than to make my frequent moves around Las Vegas easier, I started getting rid of stuff. From the beginning I could feel the freedom that comes from eliminating physical clutter.
Once I set my sights on long term travel, I took minimalism to the next level. My goal was to have nothing left but my travel backpack and a box of keepsakes by the time of my departure. I sold furniture and electronics, donated books and clothes, and even got rid of my car!
To date, all I have left are my travel bags, 2 boxes of photos/keepsakes and a few articles of winter clothing. The boxes of keepsakes are split between my friends’ house in Las Vegas and my mom’s house in Chicago. These could still be thinned out quite a bit more but I ran out of time. At the last minute I decided to leave a few winter items at my mom’s in case (god forbid) I find myself having to travel back to Chicago in winter. I have no house and use my friends’ address as my “permanent legal address.”
Potts focuses on using what you already have instead of buying new stuff for the journey. It’s vagabonding after all, long term budget traveling. The less money spent upfront means more money on the road! It’s easy to justify “needing” this or that for a long term trip. But in reality, all you really “need” is a passport and access to cash, everything else can be purchased on the road. Reading this book, at the same time I was reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau, and at the same time I was getting my first taste of the freedom of minimalism, I had no problem not buying anything new for the trip… (Until I had a freak out the month before I left that lead to an unnecessary Target splurge.)
I bought an Osprey Fairpoint 55 for my first Europe backpacking trip in 2015. Before purchasing it I compared and contrasted several. I can’t remember why I chose this one but the fact that the day pack attaches to the big bag probably had something to do with my decision. Since I’ve been on the road the last few weeks, I have met several people with the same bag who seem to love it as well!
Packing cubes were another purchase I made in 2015, before my trip to Europe. They help keep me organized by compartmentalizing things while I travel. This whole set doesn’t fit in my backpack so I only used one large, one medium, and one small.
Cross Body Bag
Ok, so this bag I did buy right before I left. It was a casualty of what I’m calling my “Oh-Shit-I’m-Leaving-This-Month-Anxiety.” The cross body I planned to bring was getting old, several years old. The strap was thin, worn out and non-adjustable. Meaning it hung low on my body. I pictured (like the paranoid person I can be when my anxiety kicks in would) someone slicing the strap and pulling it right off me. The one I got is a heavier leather and has an adjustable strap so I can wear it close to my body.
Large Packing Cube: Clothes
- 4 dresses (one long for temple visits, knees must be covered)
- 3 pairs of shorts (NON jean, they are bulky to pack, uncomfortable to move in or sit in, and take forever to dry)
- 4 tank tops
- 2 t-shirts
- 1 light long sleeve button up
- 1 pair of leggings
- 1 pair of loose linen pants
- 1 pair of loose cotton gaucho pants
- 1 set of pajamas (cotton shorts and crop tshirt)
- 4 bandanas
Small Packing Cube: Swimwear & Undergarments
- 3 swimsuits (damn anxiety got me here- What if I want to go swimming 3 days in a row and my suite isn’t dry yet? What if I’m bloated and don’t want to wear a bikini? What if I lose it and can’t find another one in my size?) One bikini and the one-piece were purchased the week before I left. The other bikini I’ve had since 2012, so score there!
- 7 pairs of underwear (half of these are new but I have no shame there, I hadn’t bought underwear in … years… so that was necessary in life, not just for this trip).
- 2 bras
- 1 pair of regular socks
Medium Packing Cube: Personal Care Items
- 1 3oz travel shampoo
- 1 3oz travel conditioner
- 1 3oz travel face & body wash
- 3oz toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 5 tampons (enough to hold me over in an emergency until I get to a store)
- 3oz travel 30spf sunblock
- 3oz travel insect repellent
- 1 pack travel tissues
- dental floss
- 2 packs Theraflu (best sleeping med)
- 5 packs Emergency
- travel blowdrier
- air dry hair gel
- hair paste
- pack of rubber bands
- 20 bobbi pins
- Bb cream
- eyebrow pencil
- chap stick
- Moleskin Tape (this stuff works miracles- from bandaging
- clippers & shears (for cutting my own hair and other’s)
- shower flip flops
- pretty flip flops
- secure sandals
- gym/hiking shoes
- microfiber towel
- sweat shirt
Day Pack/Plane Pack
- battery pack
- camera (an old one, good to capture slightly high quality photos than my phone)
- power converter
- 1 Singapore adapter
- 1 Asia adapter
- travel docs
- teaching docs
- copy of passport
- day planner
For the Plane
- Turkish Cotton blanket/towel
- long socks
- 2 debit cards, 2 credit cards
- Global Entry card
My large pack weighed in at only 22 lbs and guess what- I PACKED WAY TO MUCH. Before I head to Singapore I will be ditching a few dresses, a pair of shoes, my blow drier and my day planner! I haven’t used them in two weeks and the reality is, anything I need I can get here, and for CHEAP! I freaked out right before I left because leaving the comforts of home is scary. But, now that I have seen everything here that I purchased on that last minute shopping trip, I know my splurge was an over reaction. Everything here is also a fraction of the price!!!