This is the fourth post in a five-part series. Over the course of these posts, we will cover general travel tips & tricks, our favorite apps and companies, travel hacking strategies, packing lists, and our choices for travel items/gear.
Packing is a precarious subject. EVERYONE seems to have a deep-seated opinion on whether or not to actually bring the kitchen sink. I recently heard someone say "Quit being weak checking a bag". Like, what? People get very self-righteous when they declare themselves a "carry-on only" packer - like it's some crown of glory bestowed upon seasoned travelers and they are suddenly in some ultra-secret society. Puke. On the opposite side, we've all witnessed the extra large oversized suitcase make its way to the luggage scale only to be rejected for being 5 lbs overweight, which involves the owner opening their suitcase in line to try and shift 5 lbs into their carry-on or purse. My opinion? Bring whatever you want. Check a bag, don't check a bag. If you're willing to pay the fees, who cares what anyone else is packing? Do whatever feels right for you.
In addition to what's in your bag, when you start packing is also a heated topic travelers debate. Which type of packer are you? 1. Throw everything into a suitcase less than 24 hours before your departure or 2. Begin with a packing list a week or more ahead of time, start arranging things in your suitcase as soon as you can, and check each item off as you go. I'm definitely a #2 - planning every detail down to the last Q-tip. Brad is a bit more of a last-minute guy but has an idea of everything he typically packs. Again, neither is wrong. Unless you're heading to a remote area, most items can be purchased while you travel. As full-time nomads, our bags carry most of what we own. Surprisingly, this is more "stuff" than either of us expected. Each time we repack our bags, we reassess our items to see if we can toss or donate anything. We say no to most souvenirs, unless consumable (hello coffee & chocolate!) or small enough to carry until the next time we head home.
Curiously, what's in our suitcases is one of our most asked questions. I guess whittling our life down to travel size is interesting to people? Oddly, they seem to think that since we travel full-time we must have all the answers on what to pack. They are wrong. Hilariously wrong to be honest. Funny story - this photo shows my luggage the day we left the USA in Nov 2022, BUT we only made it to Minneapolis (a 1 hr flight from Fargo, ND) until I ditched the backpack. Not kidding. I started having doubts when my friend Amy picked it up two days prior and declared, "How in the hell are you going to carry this around the world or through airports?" Well, it was quite heavy, but I figured it wouldn't be on my back all the time, right? So we boarded our first flight at 5:00 am and I was so happy to finally be living our dream that I didn't even feel the heaviness. Until we landed in Minneapolis. And we had to walk to the other side of the airport to collect our rental car and checked bags. We had a full day in Minneapolis prior to our Amsterdam flight departing at 9:00 pm. Brad would be spending the day working from his company's Minneapolis office and I was off to spend the day with two of my best friends doing best-friend shit. Brad was the first to voice concern at the weight - whew, I didn't call uncle first! - but I quickly chimed in exclaiming "What were we thinking?!" I dropped him off at his office and started looking for luggage ASAP.
It was hard, but I finally admitted to myself that my grand visions of having a carry-on-size suitcase and a backpack to travel the world just wouldn't be realized. Who was I kidding? I'm not 20 (30, 40, or 50) anymore. I need to think about my back, hips, knees, and joints that aren't creaking yet. It seemed like a badge of honor to only have THAT much stuff. In reality, even though I switched out my backpack for a smaller wheeled suitcase, it was still the same amount of stuff, but so much easier to cart around. My back and joints were breathing sighs of relief and I've made my peace with "being weak for checking a bag" - HA! I've even added a small tote bag to use on travel days for my easy-to-access essentials: laptop, headphones, kindle, snacks, and water bottle. This is what currently works, however, we are just learning as we go and will likely change things when necessary.
We've been using hard-sided AWAY luggage since 2018 and haven't looked back. They have a lifetime warranty, excellent customer service, tremendous durability, and nice inside layouts. We have three of the "Bigger Carry-On" cases and one "Medium" case. They are not cheap, but totally worth it in our opinion. Send me a quick note if you want $20/off your first bag. Additionally, they offer a 100-day free trial period so you can try it out for yourself.
Predictably, if you've read this far, don't expect a detailed packing list from me. It's too subjective and everyone's needs are different. This is a brief overview of what's in my luggage (estimates). A tip we received early on? Pick a basic color (black, blue, gray, white, khaki), and make sure everything else in your bag matches it. Black is our basic, so everything we own matches this. Lastly, we are both huge fans of packing cubes. We have a mix of regular and compression packing cubes - they help keep everything organized and make packing easier.
CLOTHING: 4 pair leggings - 2 long, 2 3/4 length, 2 pair casual pants, 4 dresses, 4-5 pairs of shorts, 10-12 short sleeve shirts, 3 cardigan sweaters, 2 scarves, 2 swimsuits, 15-20 underwear, 2 bras, 2 sports bras, baseball hat, 4 shoes (flip flops, hiking sandals, sneakers, and slides), 4 socks, light jacket, 1 pair sweats & 2 t-shirts for PJ's.
(NOTE: we each also have warmer jackets, hats & gloves that compress into a small bag we bring only when we know we're going to encounter cold temps, otherwise, they reside at home.)
ELECTRONICS: laptop, extra screen, ergonomic mouse, laptop stand, external keyboard, Kindle, phone, 2 pair headphones (1 in-ear and 1 over-ear), chargers, external power bank, 2 multicountry adaptors, Bluetooth speaker, portable carbon monoxide detector, and extension cord.
MISCELLANEOUS: waterproof rain pants & coat, umbrella, first aid kit, 4 re-useable shopping bags, water bottle, notebook, night lights, foldable day backpack, corkscrew, travel pillow, and a microfiber towel.
RIDICULOUS ITEMS: We each have a few "creature comfort" items we have no regrets bringing in our bags. These items are pure joy to have no matter the space they take. For Brad, this is a Yeti coffee mug & Swiss Army knife. For me, it's hard-soled slippers, a handheld fan (hello, menopause!), and a pair of bulky Bose over-the-ear headphones that I will never give up even though they require just as much space as my winter coat. I also carry full-size hair products, a blow dryer & diffuser - what can I say, my naturally curly hair is picky!
Life Update and What's Next?
We spent a month in Ireland and it was exhausting. Moving every 5-7 days was physically and mentally challenging and we were both unprepared for how crazy it made us feel. While I realize we are incredibly privileged to be living the life of our dreams, it comes with its own set of new challenges. Some expected, some surprising. Going home in May was bittersweet in a sense - so great to see our family & friends - within that secure, familiar comfort zone. However, in the weeks following, I struggled with feelings of loneliness & isolation. I've been taking some time for self-care, journaling, and remembering my 2023 One Word is "grow". It took a very dear friend to help me realize this is all normal. She said, "A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there!" Thanks, Annie - your words helped me more than you could ever know.
"The discomfort of change will always be better than the discontentment of remaining the same." - unknown
We've learned that moving around too much is stressful and not something we care to do again anytime soon, which is why we were looking forward to a month-long dog sit in southern England. Disappointingly, this sit was canceled last night/last minute due to the owner being ill. Luckily, I found a replacement sit with similar dates, we interviewed this morning and accepted the stay starting next week. I've been working on rebooking travel most of the morning, so our mini-mess is averted for now.
On the bright side, this hiccup has allowed us a few extra days in London, where we plan to connect with the owners of a previous dog sit. We can hardly wait to see Max again -- check out this handsome guy! Having things to look forward to boosts your mental health like nothing else and this is a big win <3
We get multiple requests for travel gear recommendations. I am working on getting an Amazon site set up with our favorite travel items and will share these in our next blog post.
Cheers, Peace, Love, and Kindness,