You owe something to every thing you own.
Each additional item you cram into your suitcase is an obligation you’re committing to maintain, protect, or give attention to for the duration of your trip. The less you bring, the less responsibility you have.
Traveling heavy requires planning around your luggage. You can go wherever you want… you just have to stop at the hotel to repack all your stuff first. And your stuff probably won’t fit on that bus. And those extra outfits are costing you $50 every time you check-in your bag on a budget airline.
The only true travel requirements are a passport and money.
Everything beyond that is optional. Understanding that is important, even if it’s unpractical. There’s nothing stopping you from washing a single outfit every night… it’s just not the most exciting use of travel hours. Finding out what ‘enough’ is for you, and then packing just a little bit less than that, is where the challenge lies.
I shoot for a week’s worth of clothing. Doing laundry once a week is manageable. In some countries many AirBNBs will have washing machines, and in others, laundry service will cost less than a Big Mac. Made-for-travel clothing can often be washed in the bathroom sink with minimal effort.
Shirts are the highest maintenance. Decent pants can be worn at least 4-5 days in a row. Socks and underwear are easy candidates to be washed in the sink before bed. I haven’t figured out shirts yet. I try to make sure all the clothing I bring can be mix-and-matched, so my navy shirt isn’t waiting for me to change out of my navy pants.
A new optimization I’m trying for the first time: minimize charging cables and adapters. My laptop, my phone, my portable SSD, power bank, and my electric shaver all use the same USB charging cable. My Kindle and my wireless earbuds share a cable as well. This means I can charge all my electronics, without bringing a bulky power adapter, with just 2 USB cables and a USB wall charger.
My stuff is split into smaller bags and pouches before being put into my main bag. My clothes live inside of a packing cube, my electronics and cables live inside of a large pouch, my liquids in a freezer bag, toiletries in another, and my laptop inside of a collapsible day bag. Packing takes 10 minutes, unpacking takes 1 minute.
The cost of packing less essentially comes down to having less of a wardrobe. I deal with this by doing laundry weekly, buying durable clothes, and/or buying more clothes on location, if I need to. In return I get to travel with a small 25L backpack that wouldn’t look out of place if I wore it to school.
No checked baggage. No baggage claim lines. No thinking about “stuff” whatsoever.
My 2021 Packing List
This is my current packing list for indefinite one bag international travel. I put all of this inside of my 25L Core Pack by Topo Designs.
My Favorite Travel Resources
Nomad List is a decent resource. I rarely use the website aside from glancing at the rankings on the front page. You don’t need an account for this. Becoming a paid member will unlock the Slack community. Membership might be worth it just for the access to more experienced travelers who have been where you’re going before. It’s as if the country you’re going to/currently in has community-sourced customer support ran by fellow travelers.
I have a phone number parked at NumberBarn, which forwards all my texts and 2FA confirmations to my email for a few bucks each month.
Counterflows is an excellent newsletter on news relating to the digital nomad lifestyle.