Letting Go: Project Plan – Packing

[singlepic=1441,150,,,right]The first step is to decide what you are going to carry – suitcase or backpack.

Look at your itinerary and think about the types of places you’ll be staying, the types of transportation you’ll be using, and how often you are going to be moving from place to place. If you are staying in hostels, camping, and traveling in less developed countries by bus or car, then I personally think that a backpack is the way to go. However, if you are staying in nicer hotels, traveling by air, and focusing on developed countries, you can simply take the weight off your back and use a traditional suitcase with wheels. Look for something durable, yet lightweight.

I actually compromised and purchased an Eagle Creek Switchback (a suitcase with wheels that turned into a backpack), a great solution for me since I was planning on doing both types of travel. My Eagle Creek Switchback was made of heavy-duty nylon which was lightweight and ‘moldable’ – good for stuffing a lot of items into it!

When you go to buy your pack, make sure you try it on – have them put weights in it and load it up, then put it on and test it out.

  • Walk up and down some steps for a while
  • Lift it above your head as if you are trying to put it on a rack in a train
  • Sit down, get up – does it feel comfortable?

If you are doing long-term travel, this pack will become a part of you as you travel. It sort of turns into another appendage that you learn to love and hate at the same time. While you are shopping for a pack, don’t forget locks and security!

The easiest way to pack is to choose a single color palette such as black, brown, or blue; then choose clothes and shoes based on that.

It was so hard for me to go from a gigantic closet of colorful clothes for all occasions to choosing just a few things that I would be carrying with me for a year. It’s much easier to mix and match those few items when they are all in the same color palette – you will get a lot more mileage out of your clothing this way.

[singlepic=1139,200,,,left]This also helps with choosing shoes. Shoes take a lot of room, so choose few and choose them carefully. Most importantly, make sure they are comfortable. If you have packed a pair of shoes that only goes with 1 or 2 outfits, then forget it. Put them back in your closet. Each pair of shoes needs to go with multiple things.

A single color palette doesn’t mean that it has to be boring. Actually, you can pack small/lightweight items with some fun color to spice up any black, brown, or blue outfit. I used jewelry and scarves to add something fun to my clothing choices. One final note…please, please, please do not pack items that require dry cleaning!

[singlepic=963,200,,,right]Once again, look at your itinerary and determine the climates you will be in. I planned my itinerary with climates and packing in mind. I knew that I couldn’t take winter and summer clothes with me; therefore, my plan was to stay in the warm weather areas and avoid cold winters.

However, there were a few times where I was caught in cold situations that were unplanned. In those cases, it’s great to have layers. I had lots of tank tops, but I also brought one long sleeve shirt, and one fleece for layering or cold AC.

In addition, if you are going to really hot, tropical countries, then dress like an athlete. Specifically, use dri-fit clothes whenever possible. Instead of a blue cotton T-shirt, pack a blue dri-fit shirt; it looks just like a t-shirt, but this one will keep you much cooler and will be able to quickly dry.

About a month before my departure I did a test run. I laid everything out on my bed that I wanted to take with me. I kept adding and adding, and then I looked at my empty suitcase sitting on the floor and thought “this will never work”.

This packing process seriously led to many breakdowns for me. I found it to be a real challenge. My best advice is have a glass of wine or beer handy. It’s really hard to get your head around how you are going to live out of a suitcase for a year…a whole year.

Regardless of how long you are traveling, do this test run. Imagine you are leaving tomorrow and you have to pack everything. Don’t leave anything to the imagination. Lay it all out, then pack it into your suitcase and see what fits. You don’t want your suitcase bursting at the seams on your departure…you want it bursting when you come back! So make sure that you leave some contingency space.

My test run was rough. I laid everything out sticking to a single color palette, and I realized right away it all wouldn’t fit. I took half of it and put it back in my closet. Next, I did one of the most important things you can do while packing – I rolled. If you want to fit more items in a suitcase, then don’t fold your clothes, roll them. It takes up less space and I personally feel the clothes wrinkle less.

I rolled all of the items and carefully put them in my pack, I put my shoes in bags and fit them in, I packed up my toiletry bag, my electronics, and my books, and put them all in. It was still too much, more downsizing was required…more glasses of wine.

This isn’t an easy process. But remember – don’t worry about forgetting anything. You can pick up just about anything on the road. Learn more great packing tips for long-term travel.

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