This is a question I thought a lot about before we left. Reducing our ‘stuff’ was part of why we were leaving. We wanted to live with less and travel light, but still have everything we needed. Anyone with kids knows how much stuff suddenly appears the moment they enter the world. How were we going live comfortably without ending up with way more than we could carry?
Recently I read an article by Robert Moor, about MJ Eberhart, known as Nimblewell Nomad, who had been walking for 15 years. Moor said of Eberhart:
Shaving down one’s pack weight, he said, was a process of sloughing off one’s fears. Each object a person carries represents a particular fear: of injury, of discomfort, of boredom, of attack.
This is definitely true of what we have in our luggage. We’ve got clothes to prevent the cold, toys to prevent the boredom and gadgets to prevent losing touch with our loved ones. We don’t have a lot, but what we have is important to us.
To prevent ourselves from bringing anything unnecessary, we committed to limiting our main bag size to 45L each, and the kids to 30L. In addition we would each have a backpack for smaller items and as day bags.
In our pre-travel thrift, we made a decision not to purchase too many new items. We bought new luggage, good quality drink bottles and some packing cubes.
Well, I had good intentions with the drink bottles, but it wasn’t our best purchase. Within our first month of travel, we had lost all three of our new drink bottles. One got left behind before we left Australia, one got left in a taxi and we think the other one might be hiding in our friends’ house but hasn’t turned up yet.
On the other hand, our bags have proved a success. Cass and I bought a 45L Osprey Sojourn each, as they can be wheeled or used as a backpack. (Osprey no longer sell this size of Sojourn, but their Ozone is similar – see previous link). Three months in, we have not yet used them as a backpack, but we are still glad we have the option in case we ever need to.
For the kids we bought smaller 30L Kathmandu hybrid cases. All our suitcases have proved to be a good size for lifting onto high luggage racks on trains, or for wheeling down the cobbled streets of Spain. But for many people, the bags might seem small. So, what have we got in them?
- 7 pairs of underwear for each of us – this reduces laundry pressure a little. (I only have 3 bras.)
- 3 pairs of socks
- 1 set of full length pyjamas
- 1 long sleeve collared shirt – the kids have an extra t-shirt instead of this one.
- 1 long sleeve top – mine is a marino thermal because I feel the cold.
- 1 x short sleeve top
- 1 x t-shirt
- 1 x sleeveless top
- 1 x jumper
- 1 x cardigan/hoodie
Dress – for La Chica and I
- 1 x dress
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 skirt and a pair of black leggings (for La Chica and I)
- 1 pair of tracksuit pants
- 1 raincoat – for Cass and I this doubles as a coat when we go out, but the kids have an extra coat.
- Thongs (Flip flops for non-Australians) – I can’t live without these
- Closed in shoes
- Running shoes (for me only).
Other bits & bobs
- Light scarf
- Sarong – we use this as a picnic blanket, a bag, an item of clothing, a sheet. So handy.
- Travel towel
Running Clothes (for me)
For me the biggest struggle is fitting in all my running clothes and accessories, without them, my bag could be much smaller, but I love running while we travel so they are here to stay. They also need laundering more often (because I get pretty smelly on a run), so I have to bring more items than I would like.
- 2 x running bras
- 1 x pair shorts
- 1 x pair 3/4 length bottoms
- 1 x cotton sleeveless top
- 1 x technical shirt
- 1 x hydration vest + bladder
- 1 x pair of trail running shoes
Surf Items (for Cass)
Cass travels with a wetsuit and a rashie and a couple of spare fins so he’s always prepared when there’s surf. He decided not to travel with a board as it was too cumbersome when trying to get up escalators and the like with the kids in tow. It’s been a good decision, but he has to be extra resourceful when we arrive at a surf-side location.
I only have a small bag of toiletries. The biggest items are first aid (band-aids, sting cream, etc). Every time I pack, this is the item that annoys me the most because it’s the last to go in and everything looks like it fits so nicely until it goes in.
- A journal
- Small pencil case
- Phone – we have a Spanish SIM for continental Europe and and UK SIM at this stage.
- 1 x book (when we buy one we donate, swap, or exchange the old one)
- Portable hard drive – Cass & I have one each with our work, photos and music on it. They add weight to our luggage but they are worth it.
- Passports (!)
The kids each have one of those insulated lunch box containers that they are allowed to fill up with toys or activities. When they buy something new, it has to fit in there, or if not, they have to remove something else. I actually think we haven’t had to get rid of much because we lose more toys than they buy (read fidget spinners).
La Chica has a kindle because she can easily read a book a day if she has the time, and El Chico has an iPod for listening to music when he needs a break from the rest of us.
Each of them have a camera that they received as Birthday presents.
- iPad – we brought this in case we wanted to both work at the same time. So far we haven’t really needed to, and I think we could easily live without it. It becomes useful on a 9 hour train journey to entertain the kids, but if it breaks, we’re not going to replace it.
- 2 maps – We mark where we have been on each of these maps. It’s really fun to sit down together and see how far we’ve gone. The kids always have some really great questions too, and we learn a lot about Geography.
- A small travel set of container of watercolour paints – We’ve only used this twice, but I like the idea that I will use it more… maybe….someday.
- Frisbee – we’ve used this a lot.
- Hackey sack – haven’t used it much (the kids find it difficult and lose interest).
- Travel monopoly
- Deck of cards
- Travel washing line
- Travel adapter & plenty of charging cords
- Knife – for cutting up delicious Spanish cheese at our picnics, and also because Airbnb hosts often have terrible knives.
- Tea towel – We bought this while travelling because surprisingly most of our accommodation has not had a tea towel, and it is frustrating.
- Travel sewing kit
- 2 x lunch boxes for travel snacks
So far this has got us through three months from the 10˚C mountain cave districts in spring to the searing 45˚C in Andalucía to the summer rain of London. We’ll have to stock up on woolies and boots as we head into colder climes, particularly when we head to the snow, but for now this is everything we need.
Having a small amount of clothes means we need to launder more often (4 times a week to be precise). But that is a small price to pay, and is evident when we watch travelling families with suitcases much larger than ours struggling to lift them onto the luggage racks on a train. We always offer to help them, but are secretly glad we don’t travel that way.