“How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders. Feel ’em? Now I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. You start with the little things. The things on shelves and in drawers, the knick-knacks, the collectibles. Feel the weight as that adds up. Then you start adding larger stuff, clothes, table-top appliances, lamps, linens, your TV. The backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. And you go bigger. Your couch, bed, your kitchen table. Stuff it all in there. Your car, get it in there. Your home, whether it’s a studio apartment or a two bedroom house. I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now try to walk. It’s kind of hard, isn’t it? This is what we do to ourselves on a daily basis. We weigh ourselves down until we can’t even move. And make no mistake, moving is living.
Now, I’m gonna set that backpack on fire. What do you want to take out of it? What do you want to take out of it? Photos? Photos are for people who can’t remember. Drink some ginkgo and let the photos burn. In fact, let everything burn and imagine waking up tomorrow with nothing. It’s kind of exhilarating, isn’t it?” – Ryan Bingham: Up In The Air
Think big in your travel plans, and small for your packing list. Take everything you think you need and cut it in half. Airlines will only allow 7kilos for your bag to be a carry-on. That’s a little over 15lbs for my American friends.
Trust me, if you are traveling around the world, you want to travel light, move through airports quick, and not pay the surprise check-in bag fee once your at the airport or when buying your ticket.
Your shirts will get holes, your shoes will break, and your underpants will get too dirty to clean. Anything you forgot, you can buy on the road. Besides, do you really think you’ll want to wear the same outfits for over 12 months? Second hand stores and street markets will become your oasis for new clothes within budget.
My recommendations? Just pack for the first season you’re going to and swap out your backpack closet as seasons change. Don’t go to REI before leaving and buy those expensive waterproof pants and quick drying underwear. There are some items I do recommend buying before leaving, but those are not some of them. Why? You can’t wear those fancy pants year round and you will want the extra space in your bag after a month that those pants are taking up. Your underwear will get dirty, and there goes the $30/ pair of underwear. Also the golden rule: don’t pack white or light colors.
What should you buy before leaving?
A quick drying towel (similar to a yoga mat towel but not one with the grip bumps on the bottom.) This towel will become your lifeline in hostels and beaches.
A puffer jacket or vest that folds down small is also a great idea. Get a light one that super compacts. This will keep you warm on airplanes, become a travel pillow and be that extra layer of warmth in the winter. In the summer it still has its use as a pillow. Getting a waterproof one isn’t a bad idea either.
Finally, a universal charger. Most outlets in Thailand also work with American, but you don’t get so lucky in every country. Other than those three things, don’t waste your money on anything else.
My revised RTW packing recommendations after 6 months of traveling:
Backpack: I got a pack that was small enough to use as a carry-on and also didn’t make me feel like a “Backpacker.” The straps on the sides compact the bag enough that I don’t get weighed or even a second glance in airport security.
Tops: Two tank tops (great for layering) One long sleeve shirt. One puffer jacket.
Bottoms: Two pairs of bottoms, a pair of shorts, and a long skirt if you’re a girl. (When entering temples, being covered is necessary. A long skirt is great in the heat for exploring and doubles as your beach blanket on the beach, and maybe even a scarf for when you go out.)
Pajamas: None! You will most likely sleep in whatever you were wearing during the day, so don’t pack pajamas.
Accessories: A wide scarf. (Necessary for temples if you don’t have a t-shirt that covers your shoulders. I also use my scarf at airports to cover the floor when I need a lay down while waiting.)
Undergarments: Two bras, five pairs of underwear. Depending on the season, the number of socks you bring will change. Your feet will stink up your shoes in the winter and you will need more if laundry is hard to come by. In the summer, toss the boots and socks and just travel with your flip flops.
Shoes: One pair of boots or hiking shoes, one pair of flip flops. You will trash your shoes. You’ll be walking hard and exploring endlessly. I went through 3 pairs of flip flops in the first 6 months and two pairs of boots. I spent got $150 pair of boots before I left on my trip, thinking the better they were the longer they would last. Well I walked hard and the shoes couldn’t keep up. That being said, your feet are your number one. You don’t want injury. So be selective and smart when you get your shoes, but know that this will be a constant turn over during your travels. Wear the boots on the plane and slip your flip flops into your backpack to lighten the load.
Hygiene: Buy as you go.
Technology: Camera, Phone, laptop and chargers. This will be the most weight, so keep it in your carry-on bag.
Don’t Forget: Your passport.
What I packed that I didn’t need:
I brought two dry bags – didn’t use them and they were super cheap and everywhere in Thailand on Phi Phi, if I ever needed one it was then and I could have bought there.
I did come with a solar panel charger that was great for van life in NZ. It would have been great in Thailand too on our remote beach, except I couldn’t get it to work on a cloudy day. I’m mostly sure it was operator error.
Rain pants. I was super excited about these. But in the 7 months I’ve been on the road I’ve worn them twice. Fail.
Medicine for Malaria and Diarrhea….