What did Jackie pack for a year long trip??

So.  This was hard.  Really hard.  It’s still hard because just as much as I want some other items that I left at home, (i.e. perfume, Sperry shoes, long cotton blue and white dress, my straw beach hat,) I just as badly wish I had less to carry in my 80L backpack. It’s heavy! Just as the hotel front desk worker in India put it, “HOW do you CARRY that?!”  I ask myself that everyday! haha   Strong like bull.

So what made the cut:

  • 3 pairs of shoes – 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of flip flops, 1 pair of cute sandals –flats of course – I call them my Jesus Sandals, some of you may remember these 😉
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 light jacket with removable hood (this has been clutch since we don’t have an umbrella)
  • 1 long sleeved cotton t-shirt
  • 1 pair of (skinny and stretchy) jeans and 1 pair of long, white cotton pants
  • 2 pairs of Lululemon workout pants –1 capri type and 1 full length type
  • 2 pairs of shorts–1 pair of Nike workout shorts and 1 pair of khaki type shorts
  • 1 pair of light cotton pajama pants
  • 2 pairs of bedtime/lounge around shorts
  • 1 pair of khaki type capri pants (I wear these the most! wish I had another one!)
  • 2 skirts — both cotton, 1 full length and 1 above the knee
  • 1 beach cover up type dress
  • 3 (cute) short sleeve t-shirts –not the kind that are big, baggy and only worn to sleep in
  • about 7 or so tank tops, mostly wife-beater type
  • 4 sports bras and 2 regular
  • about 20 or so pairs of underwear (mine don’t take up much space so why skimp on that?)
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • 1 baseball hat (SF Giants)
  • jewelry — 1 watch, 1 pair of earrings, 2 necklaces, 4 bracelets, and my FitBit (leaving out most of my jewelry was hard for me, but has given me an excuse to buy some along the way–hey, its a souvenir AND its something I can wear now!)
  • 1 paperwhite Kindle (thanks Odios!)
  • 1 iPod Nano and headphones, my iPhone, and 1 underwater, point-and-shoot camera (thanks dad!)
  • 1 (infinity) scarf — doubles as a headscarf while visiting Mosques
  • 1 makeup bag, 1 toiletries bag, and 1 medicine bag (I’m a nurse!)

What I’ve acquired along the way:

  • 1 long sleeved flannel shirt
  • 1 t-shirt from Istanbul that says “Hello Dear Ist” (Get it?! I love this! Sean said, “THAT’S  what you bought?!” after I shopped in one store for about 1.5 hours, haha)
  • 1 t-shirt that Turkish airlines gave me when they lost our bags (thanks guys!)
  • 1 travel journal from New Zealand that says, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list” on the front  (Sean says, “Why don’t you just type it?!”)
  • Christmas ornaments (or trinkets that we can transform into a Christmas ornament) from each country we visit, including from Saudi Arabia even though we never left the airport — but it’s my favorite one!
  • 1 (engagement!) ring
  • 1 makeshift burqa from India to wear while in Saudi airport for 4 hours

What I’ve ditched along the way:

  • The makeshift burqa, cus let’s face it, it was cheap, ugly, and I was never gonna wear it again
  • My Garmin, since it’s only capable of uploading U.S. maps on it (duh.  Should have checked this before leaving the states. Wah-waaahhh).

I’ve done really well with the clothes that I have, and wish I had more if we go to a nice place, (like 1 time clubbing in Turkey, or a nice restaurant).  In those instances I find myself wearing my “Donkey clothes” as I put it, but in reality, if I brought dressier stuff, I wouldn’t really wear them that much.  Besides, I hate wearing heels anyway! 😛


70L Backpack Packing Breakdown. What got in, what got cut and what I wish I had

During our trip around the world we were sure to experience a range of climates. As such, packing the right clothes in the smallest bag possible was a challenge.

Originally I wanted to try “ultra-light backpacking.” That’s where you fill a 35L-45L (or less) backpack with only what you need, expectating to reuse clothes A LOT. There are certain types of clothing that are made for this type of use. For example, there is underwear that claims you can  wear it for 6 weeks without a wash.  Jackie talked me out of it –  I’m glad she did.

I ended up going for a 70L bag (50L main bag with a 20L daypack) that is not carry on approved. I was worried about needing to check a bag in on every flight, due to the extra bag fees airlines may charge and the potential for lost luggage, but we decided we “needed” the all stuff we packed below and would make it work.

Most of the things we got below is from REI and Amazon. If you haven’t tried REI I wrote a bit on how I was skeptical to walk in the door at first but happy I did. They are awesome!

A video run through of the bag items a day before we left

What didn’t end up making the cut

I ditched all the wool sweaters and fleeces (top right of picture) and kept one thick hoodie and one long sleeve base layer. I figured layering undershirts could get me through most temperatures – and it has. I also got rid of the pajamas (bottom left of picture)  since my sweatpants (or gym shorts) could be used for sleeping or working out. I also trimmed down my running clothes completely (bottom left of picture) since I could just use my t-shirts and surf-shirts.

What made the bag

  • Osprey Farpoint 70L Backpack (50L w/ 20L Day Pack)
  • 1 power adapter
    • This was a nice grab from when Radio Shack had a going out of business sale. I am wishing we bought two. It’s not something you can just grab on the go, since every other country’s adapters are made for their plug’s inputs. Note, We didn’t bring a converter and haven’t needed one yet.
  • 2 shorts (cotton, one hybrid, one bathing suit)
    • It was nice having the hybrid so that if the bathing suit was wet I had a back up to swim in, and if the cotton one was dirty I had a back up too. Amazing how few people wear shorts in foreign countries. They can see me as a tourist a mile away in these things but I don’t care, it’s hot as hell in some places!
  • 3 pants (one Jeans, one Lulu hybrid and one sweat pant)
    • The tan Lulu pants are awesome. You feel comfortable hiking in them and you can wear them out since they really do look like khakis. Jeans are great to have to feel a bit more dressed up; I use them often. Sweats are good for working out or sleeping in as pajamas, but haven’t used them too often and thinking about ditching them; we are following warm weather mostly.
  • Noise canceling headphones and batteries
    • The headphone cable came in handy a lot when driving. We used it to hook into aux in our rental car to listen to music on our long drives. They ended up breaking, and took a lot of space, so I ditched them a few weeks ago. They were 4+ years old anyway so  I got some great use out of them. Regular iPhone headphones aren’t cutting it when there is background noise so I will need to find replacements.
  • Chromecast
    • A nice bday gift from a few years back from the Mosqueras. I really love having this on the trip. Although, this only works when you are on a private wifi network, like AirBnB rentals, it is small enough to be worth the space for the second screen on your TV for work, maps or movies.
  • 15″ Macbook pro and charger – duh.
  • Assortment of USB cables for iOS and non-iOS devices
    • Sometimes I wish we got rid of a few. But we have so many devices that charging them (or using them) all at once requires more than you’d expect.
  • Android phone (for travel SIM cards)
    • A crappy phone that we can tether to any device for internet or make local calls or texts from. Our phones aren’t jailbroken.
  • iPhone
    • The plan hadn’t run out yet – so we froze our account for 6 months (the max allowed.) It’s been great for WiFi, movie editing, VoIp, hyperlapse, pictures, music and games.
  • Kindle Paper White
    • A solid going away present from the Odios. We use them every day before we go to bed. They’re great for flights and the beach since they are light, don’t reflect sun and have their own back light.
  • Backup Drive
    • Since internet on this trip has been almost non-existent (or slow as molasses) backing up our video and photos quickly has been crucial.
  • Waterproof camera
    • Jackie’s dad got us this for our trip and it has been a crucial item on our trip. Not only for taking pictures and video underwater while snorkeling, but, just as importantly, it has brought us peace-of-mind when it is raining or when we are walking near water or pools. Since it is durable we take it with us everywhere. If it wasn’t, we may have “kept it safe” more and miss some great shots.
  • “Fast dry” towel
    • Meh. We used this once, barely. Since we are staying in hotels we always have had towels. They aren’t great for laying on the beach so we ended up buying beach towels anyway.
  • Button-up wool short sleeve shirt (Icebreaker)
    • Great buy on Amazon. I got it for $60 and see it everywhere for close to $100. It definitely dries faster than most of my other clothes, but the ability to just put it in the sun and it smells fresh after wearing it has been crucial. Whenever I wash clothes or run out this is my go to. It also looks good enough to consider “going out” clothes. Very versatile.
  • 100% Polyester Tennis Shirt
    • This dries super fast BUT it also smells super bad after wearing it.
  • Tee shirts (two light cotton ones)
    • At this point I wish I had more light shirts. Jackie was right. I thought I would wear the icebreaker everyday but even though it smelled less and dried fast we didn’t always have sun or time to clean it when it got dirty.
  • Loose Surf Shirt
    • This shirt is SPF 50 so it adds extra protection from burns on long days in the sun or at the beach. Plus, if I get to go surfing I’ll have a nice rash guard. It is also one of the faster drying shirts in the collection.
  • Camera stand and iPhone stand
    • These items are light and compact, about the size of a cigarette box (only long nice wide.) I needed it to take the upcoming shot of my engagement, but since then I haven’t really used it. I have pretty good selfie arms.
  • Travel under-clothes satchel
    • I use this all the time when flying. It is a good place to keep your passports handy and safe. In shady cities known for pickpockets I use it instead of a wallet to carry my credit card and cash. I always leave my passport locked up in the hotel. Tip: To get a SIM card in each country you need your passport so bring it along with you for that.
  • Bag lock
    • Cheap and peace of mind. Not only for checking bags but a nice to have in places that don’t have a safe. I lock the bag up and slip it under the bed.
  • Collapsible Sun Glasses (Ray ban)
    • I love these things! Jackie got them for me on my birthday and they have lasted longer than any other pair. I think because they are easy to pack or stow in my pocket.
  • Underwear (A few cotton ones and 1 ExOfficio)
    • Jackie was right. Although the underwear claims to be able to go 6 weeks without a wash I really couldn’t bring myself to wear it for more than two days at a time – max. Maybe it does have anti-microbes that keep it clean, but I didn’t feel great about myself inside knowing I had used underwear on. Not worth the $40 bucks. Sure it dries fast but not THAT fast. I’m just not getting the value for the cost.
  • Vacuum Bag
    • This thing is amazing. I just stash all the fluffier items I need for cooler climates in the vacuum bag and it takes up little space. You just smuch the bag and seal it.  Sort of a light weight travel trunk.
  • 4 Shoes (walking, running/sneakers, sandals and boat)
    • Sounds like a lot of shoes – and it is, but I’ve used them all. Not only based on the environment but it keeps my feet from getting too tired. Changing the form of my shoe has kept my feet fresh for the hundred of 30+ miles I walk a week.
  • Fitbit
    • It sure is nice to see a number when you get home from a full day of walking. Turns the tiredness into a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Goggles
    • Worthless. Getting rid of them. Everywhere we wanted to see underwater we ended up renting snorkel gear (or getting it for free with a tour.)
  • Collapsible Pillow
    • Another non-starter. Jackie seems to use hers a lot, but mine has made it out of my bag once. It is super comfortable and compact – but taking it out and unfolding it only to have to fold it and packing a day or so later just doesn’t seem worth it. I typically have plenty of pillows on the bed of the hotel and on long flights they give you a pillow. I can’t bring myself to get rid of it though because that ONE place that I need it will suck.
  • Collapsable water bottle
    • Saw it on Tynan’s packing blog. Seemed cool when I got it, but, again, everywhere we went had cheap bottled water that was cold. It has sat in my bag all but once in an airport when we tried to use it from the water fountain but the taste brought us back to the bottle. I know it’s not environmentally as friendly but – sorry – I’m getting rid of it. Even if we wanted to save bottles we would just fill up an old used water bottle we bought.
  • Bag weigher
    • It has come in hand a few times when the bags seemed like they would go over. Though, we always have gotten away with a few Ks give or take and can’t carry much more. We would probably be fine without it.
  • Bug spray/Sun block lotions
    • Yeah. Especially in all the bug infested parts of the south pacific and beaches we’ve visited. We have gone through these bottles quickly.
  • Toiletries
    • You know, the usual. Tooth brush, tooth paste, nail clippers etc. brought face wash, shampoo, and shaving cream but have used it infrequently since our hotel’s toiletries are usually good enough for me.
  • Plastic Bags
    • Simple but useful. I like using it to cover my shoes when I put them with my clothes. Call me crazy.
  • Dr. Bronner’s Soap
    • A useful soap that can clean clothes, wash hair or anything else you need. We’ve used it a lot for times we didn’t have a laundry service and needed to wash things in the sink. We haven’t used it for the other uses – yet 😉
  • Granola Bars
    • We always grab a box when we can. It has come in handy so many times when we were stuck between meals in transport or at a hotel.
  • Vaccination card
    • I haven’t needed to show it to anyone yet but it is small enough that I am fine to carry it everywhere I go just in case.

All in the bag weighs about 20Lbs + (4.5Lbs for the laptop.)

Since leaving SF I’ve bought …

  • A Battery powered hair trimmer
    • I thought I would go full beard but A) I found out you can’t snorkel with a bear and B) It is way too itchy and hot. The trimmer I got in Australia is surprisingly good. I love that I can drop a few double AAs into it and it works. No adapter or outlets needed.
  • Underwear
    • Per my realization above of the realistic use of my ExOfficos, I bought another pair and will probably get more as the time passes.
  • A polo shirt
    • Again, Jackie was right. I have quick dry and odor-fighting shirts but throwing on a fresh shirt just feels too good to pass up for so little bag space. I got a fake Lacoste in Istanbul for $5.
  • Beach towels
    • They are a PIA to carry, but the “quick dry” towels suck to lay on and we are visiting A LOT of beaches. They are pricey enough (and hard enough to find) that buy-and-ditch doesn’t feel like a good alternative. Having the vacuum bag has helped decrease the space needed to keep them.
  • Sewing kit
    • I have kept the sewing kits we have found in our hotels. It is useful to have a needle and thread for fixing clothes, or patching equipment.

After a month or so on the road I wish I had …

  • Another (compact) adapter
    • Using the computer and charging devices (camera, phones, backup charger etc) would go a lot faster if we had another adapter. Worth the space for sure. And as I mentioned above, you can’t find a U.S. adapter in other countries  :-/
  • Another vacuum bag
    • I can’t seem to find it anywhere else in the world other than REI in SF. I Wish I got two.
  • A pencil and drawing paper (maybe some water color stuff that Silvio showed me)
  • An Umbrella.
    • That being said I’ve only wanted it twice so far. It would have been nice to have, but just carrying it the other 90% of the time would be annoying; I’m on the fence about it.
  • An ethernet cable
    • Another item I *sometimes* wish I had. There have been only a few times I had an opportunity to plug-in for a faster connection. Small item for a nice ROI – I think.  
  • Ketchup
    • They don’t make it like they do at home (and it is rarely available). So sue me.
  • A few bottle top water filters
    • You can’t find a bottle water filter easily like you can in the US. This would’ve cut down the need for water bottles immensely.
  • A bigger collapsable water bottle
    • Like I said in our itemized list, the one we got is semi useless because of how small it is (only a few gulps worth of water for Jackie and I) and because of a lack of a water filter to fill it safely with.


What bag did I choose for our world trek?


Originally I bought a Deuter 50L bag (in the SF REI) with an attached (zip on) daypack. It came with a harness that had thick cushioning straps and a strong frame for back support.

Luckily, we decided to test the bags out on our final trip to DC to visit family and friends. During that test I realized that the daypack wouldn’t fit my 15″ macbook pro. To be honest, it was too small to fit just about anything. I went to the VA REI where I found the 70L (50/20) Osprey bag I ended up with. They happen to be the same price; it was an easy trade.

Each bag had its merits and faults. The Osprey had very little cousin on the straps and less support on the back and waist. On the other hand, it had an extra flap on the bottom that that folded into itself and allowed you to zip up your straps while checking the bag on a plane (see animated gif below.) This ended up being super handy. For example, with Jackie’s bag, we ended up having to tie up all the straps every time we checked it to keep the straps from dangling. Of course, that zip cover came at the cost of losing the pillow compartment that was on the bottom of the Deuter bag.


It took me a few hours to make my pick (hats off to the patient staff at REI,) but it has been about a month and I’m very happy with what I got. Since we are in hotels most of the time, and mostly flying, the features of the bag I got have been exactly what I needed. As a note, I rarely have the time to zip the daypack onto the bag. I probably could have got a cheaper large bag and a cheap small day pack for my laptop and have been fine.

Concerning the costs that comes with checking a bag, almost all of our flights so far had a one checked bag allowance. Now that we are about to hop through europe, discount airlines will charge 20-40 euros per bag; almost the amount of the ticket themselves. After 10 flights it will cost an extra 200 euros to check our luggage. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet.  Regarding our fear of losing our bags,  we’ve only had one narrow escape. In Turkey, on a speedy transfer between flights, our bags got delayed. We were able to have the hotel concierge call the company to have it expedited to the hotel, so no harm no foul.

A few more bag selectin tips:

  1. Parkinson’s law of space: If you have the space you WILL fill it. Don’t convince yourself to get a bigger bag “and just not fill it all the way.”
  2. Get a vacuum bag. It doubles the space you do have for fluffy items.
  3. Get a bag that opens horizontally, like a suitcase. The ones that open from the top (for hiking) are pains the the ass to fill and remove things from. If you aren’t camping a lot – avoid the top loader.
  4. Get a bag with zippers. Some hiking bags just have straps, velcro and clips to decrease weight. The added security you get from having zipper is worth the few grams of weight it adds.
  5. The waist strap helps a lot.
  6. Don’t worry about the waterproof cover if it costs more – a plastic bag will work fine for the few times your are walking, with your bag, in the rain for a long period of time.
  7. Make sure your bag has straps in the inside to keep clothes in place. It is a nice way to organize and increase usable space.

How we turned our 750 sq ft apartment into two 50L backpacks

“Here we go – one month left until move-out day!” With our plane tickets bought, it just got real.

We posted to Facebook, Craigslist and taped signs on the street, “EVERYTHING MUST GO!” If you we’re looking to fill your apartment with more stuff, Sean and Jackie’s house was the place to be.

Price check on aisle 1

Why were we getting rid of everything? Well, this wasn’t like any other move-out day because it wasn’t really a move at all. We were going “nomad” for a year and for the first time in our moving history we were NOT figuring out how to relocate our stuff into another set of rooms and closets. It sounds like a subtle difference, letting all the things you’ve accumulated over the years go versus “go somewhere” but the feelings were monumentally different.

our soon to be filled backpacks

Our goal was to take everything we needed (and I emphasize *needed*) and make it all fit into each of our 50 Liter backpacks. So, goodbye couches, tables, blenders, utensils, and plates. Goodbye to our multitude of change-of-clothes options, Jackie’s coveted hairdryer, and, most notably, our current concept of home.

We’ve been planning this for years, well, at least talking about it for that long. You know the conversation, right? “Hey babe, what if we just dropped everything and just – went? Just you and I. Somewhere far away. Wouldn’t that be great?!”

Bowls of too hot, too cold and just right porridge.

The conversation would usually end with either an imaginative tour of all the top places we’d want to see or end with a comment like, “we have too much going on right now to leave.” Just like a modern day Goldie Locks it never feels like the right time to make it happen. The economy is always going too well or too poorly – when is the timing just right?

“Okay”, Jackie said, this time changing the typical end-game phrase, “If we did this what would it look like?” We talked about going to South America and making our way down to Patagonia. Maybe visit family in DC and then start in Europe? We could make the dollar stretch if we went to the South Pacific, right? How long would we go? Three months? Six? Sadly, the more time we gave ourselves to travel the more things we were able to do and thus – out of time again. In the same way our bag size grew and filled, it never felt like there was – enough. We were living Parkinson’s Law.

I won’t bore you with the play-by-play, but trust me in that researching locations, costs, transit systems and weather had us going back and forth between destinations, routes and timings ad nauseam.

But, now with our plane tickets bought there was no longer an ever widening gap between theory and reality. Our first stop is Fiji and we have 30 days to jettison what we didn’t need, pack what we do, and go.

Next up, making it happen economically!

Jen C. and Jeff came by to lend a hand and take some stuff

My view from the backseat of Jeff’s wagon after shoving our couch in it to quickly get it to his apartment on our last day in SF