Packing (light!)

Carry less, go further.


Minimalist travel, for me, came by necessity. I now realize it’s a luxury. After I hurt my back, chronic pain influenced my life + travel pretty significantly. I changed the way I booked flights (aisle seats for hourly walk breaks, goodbye nap time) and now opt to take only a personal item sized backpack with me wherever I go. What a blessing in disguise! Each time I travel I notice how little I actually need. I spend less time accounting for things and more time being in places, with people. I find that traveling light helps my true self come forth in a stronger and more real way. I crave throwing on my backpack and catching the next train to simple living.

What I Pack:

I have one packing list which I use for all of my trips all over the world. I developed this for my journey “around the world in 89 days” which involved countries/climates ranging from Fall in central/southern Europe to Early winter in Norway to hot & humid Thai Islands. No matter the climate, I bring the things on this list. Here’s the trick: NOTHING more! (If I’m ONLY going to the beach in summer, I might swap the insulated jacket for a lighter one) Minor adjustments only, no excess = the key to success!

Happy backpacking through Thailand.

The bag:

Patagonia Black Hole® Backpack 25L – it’s personal item size


Carry less, go further. The thing I love the most about being a traveler is that when you’re on the road you don’t have a job with you or a house full of stuff or a social safety net… you have only yourself and are forced to be only you. I think this is why the friendships I make while traveling are so deep. Travelers meet as two souls first, life stories come second or third. I find that traveling light helps my true self come forth in a stronger and more real way. I crave throwing on my backpack and catching the next train to simple living at its best. Here I am about to jump on a train in Lisbon.

I used to use their MLC (maximum legal carryon)

I pack all of my clothing in compressible packing cubes (Eagle Creek makes simple, durable ones, found at REI) & aim for athletic fabrics whenever possible because they dry faster and can be worn more than once (I shop Gap fit, Lulu, Athleta).

I pack the following in one cube and plan on doing laundry about once per week/two:

7 underwear & 2 (soft) bras + 2 bikini bottoms & 1 top

2 pants (jeans, black pants), 1-2  skirt/shorts

dresses (short, long)

6 tops: 2 tanks (light, black), 2 tees (light, black), 2 long sleeves (thin, thick) optional: shawl

black leggings, athletic tank

1 leather jacket, 1 compressible down jacket + rain jacket as needed 

1 blanket scarf

1 wool/nylon compression socks (I love VIM & VIGR) + 2 reg socks

Other essentials:

Phone (this is my camera) & charger(s), adapters, headphones

In my “important stuff” folder: All tickets, reservations, etc. printed + copy of passport photo page & visa (if applicable) & any medication/prescription forms. All just in case.

Light athletic/running shoes (for hiking & long touristy walking I like Supergaas) and flip flops + (optional) 1 pair wedges/booties and/or + (dressier) flat sandals– easy to pack a couple of these if you’d like

optional: silk sleep sheet (Cocoon), eye mask & earplugs (or noise canceling headphones)

Snacks: Pro Bars- Meal bars/Clif Bars, starbucks via packets (instant coffee)/tea, reusable water bottle, multi-vitamin

Compressible backpack/bag for daytime use (think reusable shopping bag/Longchamp)

toiletries: shampoo & conditioner OR Co-wash: Elvive Olio Straordinario Low Shampoo/New Wash (choose your own budget), face + body lotion/oil, lanolin lip gloss (I like Frank Body), sunscreen (I like Sun Bum or Coola), dry shampoo powder (Bumble and Bumble is non-aeorosol and hard to beat), DEET wipes (I use in area with higher risk of Malaria etc) optional, face/body wipes (see notes), deodorant (I like Lavanila), toothbrush & paste, face makeup (BB cream (I like Erborian) + mascara maybe concealer, highlighter), meds: pain/anti inflammatory, antihistamine, antidiarrheal , fem products, cold/sinus (optional), vitamins, Dramamine/strong mints, nail clippers & file, tweezers plus a couple of medicated bandaids

Then pick a couple of “glam” goods, maybe a tube of lipstick or a tiny hairdryer/flatiron

I purchase jewelry as souvenirs along the way.

Thats it! That is all I’ve ever needed in 30 countries & counting… and I find that after each trip I take one or two more items off the list. The lighter the load the easier you move, that’s my philosophy.

My little brother Sam traveling ultra-light on the Camino de Santiago in Spain


feminine wipes make great makeup removers/shoe cleaners/full body spot “showers”, throw a dryer sheet into your packing cubes and the dirty laundry pocket of your bag, having decent tea (I love Yogi Tea) when hostels don’t provide it is exceptional (as are meal bars- try ProBars– at overpriced airports), compression socks (Missoula made Vim&Vigr anyone?) change everything on long flights, tiger balm always comes in handy for aches and pains associated with carrying a backpack around (and for warm toes overnight). I’ve only every used a backup battery pack to help charge a stranger’s phone at an airport- but having one (which was $5) isn’t a bad idea. Emergen-zzz is a great sleep aid + vitamin blast for red eye flights. Hand wash your socks and undies whenever you have a private room and a full day to dry things.

Blanket scarves are my favorite travel accessory. (And Serene is one of my favorite people)

I challenge you, world traveling friends, to try taking less next time. I want to encourage anyone else with chronic pain to make the adjustments necessary to cope and to be open to the idea that a modified lifestyle may be an improvement. I hurt a lot. I have to take breaks. But I’m grateful for my challenge. Chronic pain isn’t easy but it sure helps focus ones attention on the basic things. 

If you piled every single thing you own around you could you see over your pile? With so much world to see keep it simple.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s