5 Things You Learn Living Out of a Backpack

By in List, Mongol Rally, packing, Sora, Travel Tips on March 15, 2016
0 0 0 15 comments

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.

5 Things You Learn Living Out of a Backpack - The Nerdventurists

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.

2. Prioritising

The Nerdventurists - Prioritize when you pack, what do you really need? Conditioner is a must for us!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 The Nerdventurists - Save room for gifts when you travel!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)

4. Freedom

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.

The Nerdventurists, Mongol Rally 2015. It's all about how you pack. Four of us had all our supplies, food, clothes, sleeping bags (AND TENTS) in this tiny car.

5. Materialism

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.

A proud military brat who’s lived all over the place, who decided to uproot herself and move to London to earn her BA in Graphic Design at LCC. She’s only traveled a bit around Europe and her home country, but she’s very keen to travel more and earn more stamps on her passport. She’s a podcaster and graphic designer for The Baker Street Babes which feeds into her love for Sherlock Holmes.
  1. Love this – packing like a ninja makes all the difference! I love that you did the Mongol rally!!! It looks like so much fun 🙂

    1. Reply

      Thank you! And the “Ninja Packing Style” really does make all the difference.

  2. Reply

    Wow! So happy to hear how living out of a backpack changed your life. I went through the same transition after my first couple of trips. Now I seem to constantly live out of a bag and a the queen of minimalism. I think backpacking is definitely the way to go! 🙂

    1. Reply

      Certainly helps me enforce the whole “travel on a whim” thing, I can now pack a bag and be ready to go on some random trip at the drop of a hat. #Backpacking4Life

    • evaecasey
    • March 16, 2016

    So true! I even brought too much on this trip (my 4th backpacking trip – but also the longest) and hope to pare it down even further next time! I LOLed at the 80s troll doll comment hahaha. I can’t even be bothered with my hair when I’m traveling so it usually stays up in a bun!

    1. Reply

      It’s hard to resist the urge to pack a bunch, especially on long trips. But it’s all about learning as you go, and frankly I think it’s one of the best ways to learn! Haha, both Kristina and I have some crazy hair, and I’ve since learned that bun and ponytail is the way to go, otherwise I’ll end up looking like Halloween came early xD.

  3. Reply

    Love this post! I decided to go digital nomad 8 months ago, and I was also shocked when I went home and noticed how much junk everyone has! It’s freeing to be down to 1 bag. Although I’m still at a medium sized bag =x

    1. Reply

      Thank you! Yeah it’s almost mind blowing how much stuff a person can accumulate, or at least realise how much we think we need all this stuff. And there isn’t a thing wrong with not living the minimalist way, but it is still a neat new perspective to have 🙂

  4. Reply

    Yes, it is so fulfilling to learn that we really dont NEED all the stuff we accumulate at home. Learning to live simply 🙂

    1. Reply

      This last trip was most certainly the most poignant “Need vs Want” lesson I’ve ever had, haha.

  5. Reply

    I love this post. I don’t backpack, but I totally get wanting to be a minimalist. I have 3 kids so it’s somewhat depressing to see how much a family of 5 can accumulate. I try not to buy material items as gifts and just focus on needs or experiences. This post is a great reminder.

    • Alex
    • March 17, 2016

    So true! Living out of a backpack teaches you so many important life lessons- and for me, how to turn your socks and underwear inside out to go another day without doing laundry. Did I just admit that- whoops =P

    • Bee
    • March 17, 2016

    Still struggling with gift space whenever I’m backpacking. I love the post. I seriously pack like a Ninja nowadays hahaha

  6. I pack at least 3 different times before I’m satisfied with my bag. Its a cycle of pack, unpack, repack minus 2 shirts, repack, unpack when I realize that I can stuff the shirts into a pair of sneakers, and then pack again…. its a vicious, yet oddly relaxing cycle.

    I like that you include conditioner on your list. If I’m going minimalist, I need to have one or two items that make me feel “normal”– and conditioner is a big one for me, too.

  7. Reply

    Great article. I guess you really need to experience it before you believe it. I’m a light packer and always take too little. And pack very very last minute. However, for my next big trip, I’m already contemplating what to bring. Maybe I’ll master the art of true ninja packing myself one day too.

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