Deciding what to bring on any trip is not easy, but packing correctly for a six month trip is very challenging. You have to balance what you will need with what you want to carry around with you. Being bogged down by a lot of crap that you will never use makes it difficult to get around and means you have a lot more to worry about—keeping an eye on all your bags, the possibility of losing checked luggage and so on. My main goals are to bring only what is necessary, be able to carry it in a single pack (and a computer bag) and have it weigh less than 20 kilograms (44 pounds).
I’m effectively homeless right now. I’ve sold the house and have been staying with friends and family until it’s time to leave. So in a way I’ve already made some decisions on what is and isn’t necessary. However, because I’m close to everything it’s easy for me to go and get some things if I need them or leave some things if I don’t need them. That won’t be the case when I’m traveling. I’ve kept out a couple of things out of storage that I clearly will not take with me. Things like a couple of suites, some clothes I wear to work, and whatnot. Those are not needed in Thailand and India (could you imagine a suit in Thailand or India?).
As I mentioned, a major consideration for me is that I be able to carry everything by myself. I try to avoid checking luggage when flying. That means keeping the weight to 20 kilos, or 44 pounds, which is the maximum weight most airlines allow without a penalty. Ideally I would get it down to 15 kilos or less.
I also prefer to keep everything with me when I can (to avoid losing it or having it stolen). I tested this on my trip to Indonesia and it worked out well even with a large purchase I made early in the trip that forced me to carry another, somewhat fragile, bag the rest of the trip through multiple destinations and airports. It worked out well so I feel rather confident about being able to make this happen.
Another requirement is that I have to be able to lose it and it’s not the end of the world. Of course, losing my computer or iPhone would be a major blow. And losing my iPad would seriously suck. But none of it would truly be the end if the world. I have backups and could deal with it if I had to. Is losing anything truly the end if the world anyway? I mean, part of this whole thing is to simplify and focus on the important things in life. I don’t think any of my gadgets really qualify or meet the standard of what is important in life.
Thinking about all this, I put together my list of crap that I think is essential. I expect I will add and subtract over time as my needs change and things wear out (you’d be surprised at how poorly an expensive REI shirt does and how well a night market pair of shorts from Thailand do—it really makes you rethink things). I know my list may not seem like a lot, but it actually quite a bit more than I probably will need.
Think about what you wear every day and chances are that on an average day your wardrobe consists of a pretty small set of clothes. When I worked from home I wore the same shorts and t-shirts every week. When I was working in the office, it was the same pair of jeans and shirts. I have just enough to get through the week before I had to do laundry. I don’t expect that will change when I am in Thailand. It’s not that I’m a minimalist per se, I just don’t want to be saddled with extra crap I don’t need. I’ve traveled enough and lived thoughtfully enough to know what is and is not necessary.
A final word about what I am bringing. I did not attempt to reach a certain number of items (it just happens to be under 50). Nor did I bother listing out each sundry item or toiletry item (assume toothpaste, floss, etc.). I did not include credit cards or documents like my passport, vaccination record, international driver’s license, etc. in the list. I kept it to the main items.
|1||Sandals (flip flops)||1||Computer bag|
|1||Regular shoes||1||Day bag|
|2||Cargo pants||1||External hard drive|
|3||Shorts||1||Camera and accessories|
|3||Sleeved shirts||1||Bose Headphones|
|1||Workout shirt||1||Head shaver|
|1||Jacket||1||Notebooks and documents|
|3||T-shirts||1||Sonicare toothbrush and charger|
Total weight for the pack, minus the computer bag? 13.6 kilos, or exactly 30 pounds. I actually think that is a bit heavy and will try to whittle it down over time (I also plan on wearing some of the heavier items that were in the pack when I weighed it, so that will bring it down too).