What To Pack For A Year Of Travels
Why is it, that every single time I go away, I always seem to bring so much more than I could ever need, let alone use!
When I was getting ready for this trip around the world, I didn’t actually think about the obvious things like, “oh, I can buy a jumper in Ushuaia to take to Antarctica” or “oh, I can just buy hippie pants in Asia.”
The list is endless, and to be totally honest, ridiculous. When I left in September last year, I had the whole world ahead of me. I had no previous experience going to so many different climates, countries, and cultures all in one trip without any stopovers back home, and what I didn’t realize at the time, was that I didn’t need to pack 12 months worth of clothing! I just needed to pack useful and productive items that I could use to layer up with, throw out when not needed, and things that are natural and easy to mixed and match with.
Silly me ended up bring TWO suitcases, a backpack AND a handbag! All of which were massive! Seriously, ask anyone that joined me on our Africa trip, they thought I was crazy…and believe me, now that I look back on it all, all I can think is, Oh my gosh what on earth was I thinking! I basically had two duffle bags, one that could fit me inside it! And the other was slightly smaller. I think they were 120L bags! My backpack was 40L and my handbag was big enough to fit my 13-inch laptop inside, it’s bulky case, all of my documents in a folder, and a DSL camera in a camera bag.
So you get the vision right? It was like I was moving overseas forever! I can’t believe I let myself leave with that much stuff.
However, the funny thing is at the time I though it was the best packing job I had ever done. I mean, here I was going to travel the world for over 12 months, I was going from African heat into Antarctica and then back into heat around South America, then back into the cold in America, then back into heat in Asia, then back into average temperatures around Europe. The sad thing is I ended up spending almost $300+ in extra baggage within the first two months of travelling because of airline restrictions. (Which I was almost triple over.)
Surprisingly, it was within the first week of my travels in Africa, that I rid one of the duffle bags, and gave away half of my clothes. After struggling for the first few days on our overland tour, I knew it was a silly idea to have that much stuff. I still had my backpack, which was full, a handbag and now a overflowing duffle bag (because I still tried to keep half of the clothes from the second duffle bag I forced myself to rid of.)
I was fine in Antarctica. I ended up using almost all of my winter clothes, and don’t regret taking it all that far, but after Antarctica was over, I had bulky ski pants, jumpers, and layers of winter clothes all of which I would have to drag around with me for 2 months in the warm weather due in South America. By the time I got to Peru, in South America I was done! I knew this duffle bag had to go, or I would have to keep paying for extra baggage weight, which I was not prepared to do. It was ironic because as I pulled up in the taxi to my hotel, the taxi driver pulled it out of the taxi for me, but the handle got stuck and completely ripped off! Undoing the whole left side of the bag and all of my overflowing clothes tumbled out everywhere!
It was a sign. I needed a smaller bag!
That’s when I went shopping… and surprisingly this time, all I came back with was a new “backpack”.
Basically I bought a very expensive Osprey backpack that just so happened to also turn into a wheelie bag and it was great! However the one problem was, I still had so much stuff! I ended up yet again giving everything away, most of which I hadn’t even used yet, or had bought for another part of the trip, but gave away anyway because I knew I had no room for it. It was tough, and I ended up giving AT LEAST $200 worth of new/unused stuff to other backpackers, but it had to be done.
Now, fast forward three months! I’m in America with Matt (my partner of 6.5 years) he also had bought an Osprey bag back in Australia and his was much larger than mine, significantly! I of course now had no winter clothing, and had to go shopping. Thankfully Cosco was cheap and I got everything I needed for skiing and New York winters, we met up with family and they took some summer stuff home for us, as we wouldn’t need it for 3 months and we could only just close our bags. After we left New York, I had nowhere to put my winter clothes. We were about to do a winter road trip across America, and I knew I needed to keep some stuff for the cool days and nights. That’s when Matt and I swapped bags!
Boys typically travel with far less, and I convinced him it was the right decision (Thanks Matt! Hehe) we then continued on into Asia, met up with friends who also took most of our winter stuff home for us, which was wonderful as we were done with winter clothes!
By the time we arrived in Thailand it was summer weather again, and because we now had barley any clothes, went shopping and what not a better place than Thailand!
After our adventures around Asia and meeting up with my family, who then took more stuff (mainly paper work and souvenirs/travel stuff we had accumulated home, we ended up arriving in Europe! The only thing is, I like shopping. And even though I can’t afford to shop because I’m meant to be putting my hard earned money into seeing new places, I cant help when I see a cute dress for only 5 euro. So it brings us back to square one. We now have two osprey bags, one backpack, and now a new bag, which we bought a few weeks ago, a hard cased medium sized black wheelie bag.
I think we have come out with a win-win, I mean we got rid of my handbag and backpack, but technically all that stuff now sits inside the new black wheelie bag… Matt is going home soon and will be talking most home with him, and I will be left with just a suitcase and a small shoulder purse for my wallet and phone.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, DON’T PACK ANYTHING! Seriously, pack 5 items of clothing, some undies, and good walking shoes, one jumper and some things you can layer up with. I still haven’t seemed to learn my lesson. I’m a hopeless packer and have tried packing cells, rolling, folding, suction bags, and buying different sized suitcases.
Truth is, it doesn’t matter which way you pack your bag or what type of bag you have. If you have too much stuff your life will be extremely difficult! Like mine has been the past 12 months. Not only will you pay extra money for the extra kilos, but also you will have to lug the bag around, up and down stairs, through airports, on trains, and then have to unpack/repack at every hotel every night…and when you have so much stuff you end up losing things.
- Don’t bring more than you need. Try to pack between 5-10 clothing items (excluding underwear)
- Everyone that hauls around a backpack – I admire you. I see you at train stations, on buses and walking in the streets. But I don’t want to be you. I have had a backpack with wheels on it for almost 8 months now and have not had to use the backpack part once! Yes I’m slower going up and down stairs, but I haven’t had many flights of stairs to walk up (thankfully). And this brings me to my next point… which I’m sure many of you will disagree with…
- DON’T BUY A BACKPACK. Seriously you want to be a backpacker, that’s fine, but at least buy one with wheels on it! I don’t know how or why you do it, but in hostels people with backpacks always struggle to find things, end pulling there bags apart, and complain about walking and hauling them around. It’s so much easier to just have a reasonable sized suitcase!
Packing cells and suction bags – my opinion, ROLL EVERYTHING. Yes they help give you a little more space, but finding things is such a hassle. I love rolling things! They don’t crinkle, and are easy to pack and find.
Always remember, if you are going away for a long period of time to a lot of different climates, just know that shopping is OK. Bring a good jumper/jacket and good layers. But also know you will most likely not return home with half of these clothes, so try to bring old things that can be replaced or thrown out when needed.