I’m a pack rat. All it takes it one look around my bedroom and you’ll find every manner of clutter and things piled up. I love to collect things, display them, and I carry on doing this until there is hardly any space left. You can imagine then how it is when I pack to travel. I used to struggle with the idea of keeping things minimalist, instead I took it all as a challenge to see if I could make like Mary Poppins and turn my bag into a depthless vessel.
Living Out of a Backpack?
Then came the Mongol Rally. Before it happened I knew I’d be stuffing all my things into a bag and would have to live out of it. It was something I found a tad bit intimidating as the thoughts of “but what if I need this?” swirling around in my head. But I did it! And by the end of everything, when I returned to London and back to my bedroom, I was a changed lady.
1. Packing like a ninja
When you have only the one bag and a pile of clothes and things for your trip that need to all fit in it, you get very good at packing. You learn to roll your clothes, origami fold your sweaters, layer socks then how to tuck them into neat stacks like it’s live action Tetris with the weird shapes being the other items you bring along – like your cameras, laptops, journals, and endless cords.
You also learn how to build a tower of priority within your bag, with the things you’re least likely to need at the bottom and the more important things at the top.
As easy as this sounds, let me say, there were many times that I finished packing only to realise I did actually need something that I packed at the very bottom of my bag and pulling it out would just crumble everything. Always that one thing.
In the grand scheme of traveling, what’s really important in terms of packing? Obviously you have to consider where you’re going, but I like to approach it with the idea that at a moments notice I could go from my nice hostel in Venice to camping out on the Mongolian steppe.
Clothes would be a good idea (unless you’re in a spa, then by all means let it all out) but what about the other things? Now keep in mind, I’m practically a master level pack rat, so navigating this was a little difficult. In the end I learned that a lot of things could be bought or found along the road. So below we have my list of things I deem the most important; things I really don’t want to be caught without.
My Travel Bag Priorities
-Clothes (including bathing suit and flip flops)
-Self filtering water bottle
-Camera (with one extra battery and SD card)
-Conditioner (because I spent 80% of my last trip looking like an 80s troll doll)
3. Gift space
Now some people aren’t big on buying souvenirs, which is just as well. The experience itself is a souvenir on it’s own. When I was a kid, my dad (a 30 year veteran of the US Marines) would often leave on deployment and travel to the far reaches of the world, and when he returned he always brought me something from the places he’d been to. I treasured these items, because I dreamed fervently of the day when I could go out there and see the places the items all came from.
My mom and sisters can’t travel much and neither can a lot of my friends all for their own reasons. So when I venture out, I try to bring them back something small. And low and behold, when my bag isn’t full to bursting with the crap I thought I needed, I had more room to fit these gifts in there and therefore, had the ability to bring them more things (and even a few bits for myself)
No longer am I a slave to the suitcase.
The impulsive need to pack a bunch of “just in case” items is gone and now I keep it simple. And I love it. This lighter traveling helps me really focus on the main point, which is the trip I’m on. I’m not carrying around extra baggage any more. I feel all the more free because of it.
From the 18th of July to the 13th of September I lived out of my backpack. I wore the same clothes over and over, the same pair of shoes. I didn’t have much with me and I was content.
Once I got back into my bedroom I was astounded by how much junk I owned, and how frivolous most of it was. The whole notion of less is more was never more true.
I have a lot of things I don’t need, and the things I do need I have an excess of. Since my trip I’ve donated a huge portion of my clothing, I’ve gathered a lot of my fandom and nerdy things and am preparing to do a giveaway. I feel like I’ve gained a whole new perspective, one I hope to share with those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of living out of a bag and maybe convince them to leave the suit case behind and backpack on to a new adventure.