The night before we left we realized that we had never packed our bags before. Turn out we had way too much stuff. We didn't know yet was which of it we should toss and what we should keep. After five continents and almost a year of constant travel our bags are each below 12kg (25lb) and we always have extra space in them for random extra stuff. As opposed to detailing each and every thing we've tossed, I've organized them into sections by the lesson learned.
Most of us grew up reading physical books and transitioning to reading on an electronic device can be painful. If you refuse to read ebooks for a long term trip your options are a) carry as many books as you will need to last you on your trip or b) basically end up reading whatever you can find in physical form. So you are either horribly overloaded with paper or picking among the crap leftover in your hostel or the local overpriced book shop.
A long trip is a tremendous opportunity to read the kind of books you often think about reading but don't have the time or focus to do so. Spending that time on the random thrillers you find in guesthouse bathroom seems like a waste. In the long run, paper books will be far less common than electronic ones. They consume more resources, cost more and are less convenient. Consider using your trip as a way to force yourself to make the switch and, in the meantime, you can read some aspirational books that you will be proud to have read.
We have a pretty decent number of items that need charging: from phones to tablets to a bluetooth speaker. Before we left, I felt sure that we needed cables and chargers to charge everything at once. This meant an entire packing cube of USB chargers, cell phone chargers, GoPro Batteries etc.
You don't need them.
Despite having 5 peripherals, two laptops, two phones and a tablet that require charging at any given time we manage to keep them all going on a daily basis with just two USB chargers and one laptop charger. All it really requires is a little forward thinking. If you are concerned about not being able to replace a chargers if one busts, don't be. These days the only place you can't pick up chargers are the places where there is no electricity anyway.
CLOTHES YOU WON'T WEAR
This is not the easiest thing to determine but stuff we tossed generally fit into three categories:
- They weren't comfortable to wear
- They didn't look good
- There were better options in the same category (e.g. I have other pants I like better)
The simplest rule to follow is: if you wouldn't wear it at home, you probably won't wear it on the road. Try everything on before you leave in as many combinations as you can. A cool tech shirt that is 'great for travel' won't be great if you hate wearing it.
TECH YOU WON'T USE
Technology promises a lot of things: convenience, certainty, entertainment. We've found that the way things function at home is not how they work on the road. Priorities change. Habits change. Having a great camera or tons of space was not a priority when we bought Jess' cell phone, but now we seriously wish we could go back and buy a newer iPhone. I was sure that I wanted my tablet with me but without ready and consistent Wifi connection, it turns out it wasn't of much use.
When you think about whether to bring a laptop, DSLR camera or a GoPro consider a few things:
How big is it?
A GoPro takes up much less space than a DSLR. We only use our GoPro intermittently, but it takes up so little space in our bag that carrying it isn't a big deal.
Is this an aspirational purchase?
You might want to be someone who create and edits videos of your travel, but is this something you do already? Seeing new things everyday eats up a lot of energy and time. Demanding or planning to develop a whole new hobby may not be the best use of your time while traveling and may not create as much pleasure as you are hoping.
How much does it cost?
Technology can drastically increase the cost of your trip. If you don't end up using it, you may regret not spending that money on experiences on your trip.
DISCLAIMER: this is strongly an area of personal preference and you need to exercise careful judgment when thinking about your own travel. Were I a woman traveling alone, my conclusions about these type of items would be very different. Where you are traveling and at what level of spending is also something you should consider. If you are traveling with friends or your partner, it's significantly easier to manage your safety or your belongings.
When we left we had Pacsafe security nets for both our bags, doorstops for hostel bedrooms and a whole host of fears about how dangerous traveling would be. What changed wasn't how those things worked, it was how much safer the world really seemed to be. The more time we spend out in the world, the less dangerous traveling seems and the less necessary all these things seem to be.