How to pack for indefinitely: PART 2

After three months of traveling through Mexico and Guatemala, I planned a break in the U.S. to celebrate my birthday, wash off, see some people I love and also reassess this initial packing situation.

To recap: in July, I set off with a 40-liter bag, smaller than I could even imagine, filled with everything I thought I needed for an indefinite journey abroad.

I didn’t know what I was doing.

And let’s be clear — it’s very possible I still don’t. But after a quarter of a year, I certainly have some better idea of what I need, what I absolutely don’t, and what I can live without.

Hauling one’s life around on their back over some 4,000 miles has a way of doing that.

I gave away my gorgeous pair of Red Wing boots in the very first airport I stepped foot in. I abandoned plenty more along the route. And I grunted over cobblestone streets, into busses and vans and airports and through crushing back pain at times with what I did retain.

I learned a valid lesson: every centimeter, every ounce, matters.

But more importantly, I learned that I actually don’t need that much.

Since I’ve been back in the states, I expected to dive into the two large boxes of clothes and shoes I didn’t sell in my mad dash into the wild, eager for new options and more fashion diversity. Instead, while in my homeland, I’ve mostly operated as I did abroad, using basic toiletries that have abided me and wearing, almost exclusively, what was already in my suitcase.

Now that I have some understanding of what I really need, I think I have the chance to actually slim down while being more efficient. It excites me.

Here’s my new packing list, for indefinitely:

GOODBYE:

Bigfoot: I love you, man, but you’re taking up space and it turns out I’m not nearly lonely enough to talk to a plastic figurine. You’re out.

Seven shirts: I had just about the right amount of shirts, I think, but they weren’t all *right.* I had a couple shirts that were nicer and kind of dumb when paired with sneaker or just weren’t very realistic for weekly wear. When you have a tiny wardrobe, you can only have a single *vibe,* and everything needs to match it. Anything that doesn’t is out.

Gauze: I brought way too much. Wayyy too much. What am I doing that I need that much gauze *before* I can get to a doctor? Was I expecting to live in the jungle? This is ridiculous.

Some of the sterile wipes: Same. I mean soap and water is pretty good.

Gimbal: This is a great example of me being far too optimistic about what I could do and when. As it is, I’m maintaining an active website, a host of Patreon subscribtion promises (including newsletters and videos and live chats and postcards) and a substantial freelance agenda. I’m barely hanging on over here. The idea of LEARNING HOW TO USE A GIMBAL and subsequently CREATING ON-THE-GROUND VIDEOS was insane, at least for round one. I hated the moment on each move where I had to find a place to stuff this huge contraption I wasn’t using. I do hope to incorporate it back in at some point, but right now, it is OUT.

Big wallet: Hahahahaha, I’m so cute, I brought like my normal city wallet on the road like that was sustainable. Two weeks in, I bought a tiny woven pouch instead and have been using that since. 

PackTowl and wash cloth: To be clear, I love my PackTowl gear. It’s super effective. But I’m not camping, and in every Airbnb I’ve stayed, I’ve been provided with a towel. The wash cloth has been replaced by my new reliance on baby wipes.

Dry case for phone: Plastic bags mostly do the trick, and they’re beneficial to bring along for other reasons.

Adapters: Most of Central and South America use the same outlets as we do here in the United States. Eventually, I will get a perfect travel adapter (with pop-outs for most outlets you’ll encounter), but right now I don’t feel the need, and the space is welcomed.

Tampons: As it turns out, the Nexplanon birth control implant in my arm that I got before traveling stops periods for a huge percentage of women. I’m one of them. Hooooooooray, no more tampons/periods/unnecessary pain.

Pro-sip straws: These are not realistic for everyday drinking because it takes like 2 minutes to suck an ounce of water into your mouth. I still have my SteriPEN Aqua Water Purifier and it works great.

Iodine tablets: Same deal. I don’t have the space for a three-part water purification system.

Benadryl: I’ve gotten plenty of bug bites since I’ve been traveling, but I’ve found I can deal with them —worst case scenario, I burn them off with a lighter. If I ever need it, I’ll buy it.

Magazines: Originally, I was carrying along a lot of magazines for freelance purposes; when pitching a story, it’s important to know the specific sections of a publications and how they play on print, which is not easily obvious online. But …they were so heavy. They had to go.

Old jeans and old shorts: I was carrying along two pairs of pant-wear that just didn’t fit me right. I have a small closet. Goodbye.

Keychain alarm: Well, this wasn’t really a choice. It *fell off* my keychain within a week and a half on the road. But in all honesty, it always felt like more of a security blanket than an actual useful tool. Would I have it in my hand and be able to pull the rip cord if I really needed to? Maybe. Maybe not. In general, I think there is no replacement for simply staying alert and informed and doing a lot of pushups.

Extra jewelry and jewelry case: HAHAHAHA that’s funny, like I was going to change my jewelry. 

Some makeup: I greatly condensed what I brought before. A tan really does a lot for no-makeup confidence.

HELLO:

New jeans: See above

New shorts: See above.

New tanks: I had a couple too many “nice” shirts and not enough “layer” shirts. What are even “nice” shirts anymore? I amended the problem.

Tide stick: Stains happen. And since my cycle is short and laundry is unreliable, I believe a moment-by-moment spot check will be invaluable.

Bobby pins: In my new life, I don’t do my hair. The least I can do is have a little help holding it up when it’s supposed to be up.

Second pair of sneakers: I actually added a pair of leisure sneakers since posting this last guide, and even thought they’ve since gained a hole in the toe, I can’t imagine what I would have done without them. I wear my athletic sneakers for hiking and such, but most days, I wear the others. Well worth the carry.

Books: Given the time spent without WiFi and the limited access to English-language books — when you can find them, you have the choice of maybe 20 books, none of which may appeal to you — I’ve decided to place a premium on toting books from the States and then giving them away as I finish them.

Plastic bags: I acquired about 15 gallon-sized plastic bags from an American coffeeshop owner in Guatemala who told me I needed them — to hide my passport in toilet tanks, among other reasons. I haven’t heeded his advice yet, but they have come in handy — at airports, when transporting liquid goods on busses, and in stowing my essentials on boats.

Lavender and tea tree oils: The lavender oil is great for sleep and mental health, and the tea tree oil calms mosquito bites naturally and I kind of use it in place of perfume. 

A travel candle: I’m excited to use this on the road. I know others that have traveled with candles and they say that having a familiar scent in every new location is very calming.

A canvas bag: I’m always needing a bag — toting around my laundry, hauling things from the market, shopping for toiletries — and I’m excited about this addition.

THE FULL LIST:

Clothes

  • 10 Tank tops
  • 5 T-shirts
  • 2 Long-sleeved shirts
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 1 pair sleep pants
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 sweater
  • 12 pairs of socks
  • 10 pairs of underwear
  • 2 regular bras
  • 1 sports bra
  • 1 leather jacket (OK, it’s still pleather)
  • 1 rain jacket

Shoes

  • Vans UltraRange mesh sneakers
  • Vans Authentic sneakers
  • Cheap black slides

Tech stuff

  • iPhone 8+ 
  • Cheap burner phone (in case my iPhone is lost or stolen)
  • MacBook Air, 12 inches
  • 2 iPhone charging cords
  • MacBook charging cord
  • Portable battery pack for iPhone or burner phone
  • Noisemaker and bluetooth speaker
  • 1 alt charging cord (for burner phone, noisemaker/speaker/battery pack)
  • Joby mini tri-pod (for photos and videos)
  • 2 pairs of ear buds (one to fit into phone, one to fit into computer)
  • MacBook Air converter for USBs and memory cards
  • Nikon DX
  • Nikon battery charger
  • 2 Nikon memory cards
  • Get Clean screen cleaner spray

Toiletries

(I never travel with shampoo/soap/conditioner/lotion/baby wipes because it’s too bulky; I buy that stuff at every location.)

  • Comb
  • Exfoliator
  • Face moisturizer
  • Vaseline
  • Makeup basics
  • Toothbrush
  • Mini toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Deodorant
  • Razor
  • Eye drops
  • Tiny emory board
  • Nail clippers
  • Hair bands
  • Bobby pins
  • Teeth whitening strips
  • Q-Tips
  • Lavender oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tissues

Important documents

  • Passport
  • Copies of birth certificate
  • Copies of driver’s license
  • Copies of passport
  • Extra passport pictures
  • Vaccinations document (some countries ask to see them when you enter)

First aid and safety

  • SteriPEN Aqua Water Purifier (UV purifier that works in seconds)
  • Band-aids
  • Gauze (just a couple pads)
  • Malaria pills
  • Anti-biotics
  • High-strength ibuprofen
  • Aleve
  • Diarrhea pills
  • Muscle relaxers (a life-saver on long travel days)
  • Zinc tablets
  • Date-rape detector strips (put one in your drink and it changes colors if you’ve been roofied)
  • Mini scissors (these have been incredibly helpful for a number of reasons)
  • Sterile wipes (again, just a few)
  • Neosporin
  • Hydration powder packets

Other

  • Notebooks
  • Pens
  • Books
  • 1 pair eye glasses
  • 1 pair sunglasses
  • 1 wrist watch
  • 1 pair earrings, two necklaces, two rings (always worn)
  • Ear plugs
  • Eye mask
  • Takeya 1.5 liter water bottle (this doubles as a muscle roller and also a weapon)
  • Lacrosse ball (a muscle roller)
  • Silk pillowcase (to help negate bad pillows)
  • Plastic bags (for airport travel, water transport, etc.)
  • Travel candle
  • Tide stick
  • Lighter

8 thoughts on “How to pack for indefinitely: PART 2

  1. Great post. Good advice, except giving away the Red Wings. You poor baby. I have a pair of Red Wing weekend chukka boots that go with me everywhere, and then I pack a pair of very light weight tennis shoes. Anyway, thanks for sharing your travel packing experience.

  2. Interesting how your needs change, based on experience — experience that shows your travels are unlike previous travels, like camping. Great post!

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