“What do you put in your backpack?” “How long will you be gone?” and “How do you say goodbye to everyone?” These were the questions people asked us the most as we prepared to become nomadic again.
We don’t know how long we will be gone. It will take at least a few years to explore Europe. Because ease of mobility is key to enjoying a life of constant movement it is essential that we pack light. We put a lot of thought into every item that goes into our packs.
A little background
In 2016 Trin and I sold our home in North Carolina and just about everything in it. We whittled our luggage down to two backpacks and set off to slowly travel around the world. Since then we have explored Central and South America along with the Philippines, Antarctica, and Australia. COVID deflected our travel trajectory in 2021. Instead of Europe, we went home (USA), converted a van, and did a road trip across the northern USA.
After our road trip, we settled in Phoenix for seven months. I took a short-term job during that time, joined a gym, got to know my sister, and we made some good friends in the valley.
Seven months may not seem long, but having a job quickly instilled a routine on my day-to-day life. As our travel-restart date approached I found that my mindset automatically started shifting back to nomadic life. We got rid of accumulated items and started packing for a trip with no end date.
What to pack for a trip with no end date
Here’s what we packed for the next few years of travel:
- Bonnie’s Backpack
- Trin’s Backpack
- Our daypack (stuffs inside Trin’s backpack)
- Bonnie’s purse
- Travel document holders, masks, and tote a bag used for easy access to snacks while traveling or grocery runs
- Bonnie’s clothes: Three Leggings, six shirts
- Weather gear: Thermals, raincoats, down jackets, and beanie caps
- Trin’s clothes: Two pairs of pants, a pair of shorts, and six shirts
- Swimming goggles and suit
- Socks (Darn Tuff – I swear by them) and underwater for both of us
- Toiletries, makeup, toothbrushes, shampoo, toothpaste, towel, etc.
- Food: Spices, vitamins, collagen and glucosamine powder, coffee, etc.
- Glasses, electronics, water filter, clothesline
- Two Nalgene water bottles
- Two laptops and headsets
- Medical and sewing kit
Circled in red are extra clothes and a pair of shoes for a conference within our first month in Europe. These items will be given away after the conference and reduce our load.
It all fits snugly into our packs for travel. I wear the hiking boots and Trin wears his sneakers on travel days so we don’t need to pack them.
Having to carry everything we own also makes me approach shopping differently. When entering a store I no longer see things I want to buy, but rather things that I don’t want to carry.
For the flight to Europe, all liquids were put in Trin’s backpack and checked in. We placed his backpack into a box for check-in to save on the wear and tear of the pack. The box was dented and had holes in it, but the pack came through without a mark.
A couple of essentials to highlight
Not easily seen in the picture above but important in our travels: Power adaptor, water filter, clothesline, and stuff sacks.
In South America, we carried a power converter. We could plug it into any outlet and it would convert the voltage for us to the US 110. This helped save our devices and even helped us build a house. In South America even if the voltage is 110 the frequent surges on their grid can burn out a device. Some of our power tools from a team we joined in Nicaragua to build homes would not charge without this converter because of the surges.
For Europe, we are just using a power adaptor. The stuff sacks help organize and compress our clothing. The sawyer keeps us healthy and enables us to avoid buying bottled water even in places where there is no safe drinking water. Generally, we wash our clothes out by hand so the clothesline that doesn’t need clothespins is a huge help.
Why we reduce and wander
Reducing our stuff and automating everything we could is something that not only frees us up physically but I have been shocked at how much it frees up my thoughts as well.
We carry as little as possible not because we don’t like nice clothes, but because we are willing to trade them for ease of travel. We have a few things on the top shelf of a closet in Phoenix and a couple of things in a basement in Pennsylvania, but we got rid of enough to not pay for storage and have to worry about lease or payments.
When we live in one place, as we did this past winter, I am more goal-oriented and methodical. On the road, I shift to an event-oriented and spontaneous frame of mind. The spontaneity and time freedom gives me more space to be creative, something that is more difficult for me to find when my days are planned and packed full of activity.
Trin has gotten so good at selling our extra stuff off that I think he looks at it as a game. This time we didn’t have much to sell, but when we first prepped to become nomadic in 2016 it took us months to get rid of everything.
Leaving friends and family
We feel very blessed with friends and family all over the world. The second most asked question we were asked was, “How can you say goodbye to everyone?”
I believe one of the reasons we have gotten so close to some of our friends is because of the time limit. While on the road when we meet someone cool we spend hours with them taking in each other’s stories. Sometimes we even spend a few days together, quite literally the entire days hiking, eating, and staying up late talking. Knowing the time is short sometimes sweetens the time. There is no putting off till tomorrow what we want to ask or say today.
The short seven months that we spent in Phoenix was a limited time frame that propelled our engagement creating friendships that I believe will last a lifetime. We met a couple who are business owners and are currently in an extremely busy season of life. Yet, knowing the time limit they still set aside hours to create a friendship that I cherish. If we had been in Phoenix with no end date that same friendship may have taken years to cultivate. We are all busy, but having an end date forces us to spend time on things that matter most – the people we love.
We generally don’t say “goodbye.” For us, it is, “see you later.” We don’t know when or even where, but we will meet up again. Thankfully with technology, we can keep in touch till then.