When I committed to traveling internationally for a year the feeling of pure joy and elation flooded me. It was not until a week before my departure date that I realized one small hiccup, packing one suitcase for an entire year while traveling through every climate imaginable may prove challenging.
I am by no means a fashion plate, but I do have a certain aesthetic that may not always lend itself to winter in Japan, volcano trekking in Bali, or hiking Machu Picchu in June. I had to make some very serious decisions about what would and would not come with me. I was also against purchasing any new clothing – this year ahead would be about minimalism and leaving behind all the “extra” I found myself tied to.
I began with the suitcase itself. Through all my research I was continuously lead back to the luggage company Away as their bags are exceptionally light. I went with The Large and am very happy I did so as I also packed and needed a “weekend bag” for extra carrying capabilities as well as having a bag for longer side trips from my home base each month.
A backpack was also a necessity as a carry-on and for shorter side trips. I started and ended this search at REI. I found that the best way to find the right backpack was to physically try on all of them. Osprey seemed to be best for what I needed and they also have bags designed specifically for women. I went with the Tropos – for me, it was the Goldilocks of all backpacks, not too big and not too small. Last but not least, I am working while traveling, so a basic tote for carrying my laptop and daily necessities to and from my workspace (café or coworking office) was extremely important. It is not the cutest bag, but the Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Tote has proved itself time and again. My 13” MacBook Pro fits inside along with my wallet, chargers, phone, notebook, and any other small items I may need throughout the day.
All set with the things to carry all of my things, the real struggle began – clothing. I started with a limit for each type of clothing I would need keeping in mind I would be living in all four seasons, some more extreme than I was used to. Everything also needed to be durable, basic, and something I could easily part with if I no longer had a use for it.
I thought it best to stick to a singular color palette that would help mask my penchant for spilling things, like coffee or pizza grease (I also have a penchant for pizza) - dark grey and black it was!
The following is my final list after what I call “The Great Culling of 2017” where I took out everything I wanted to bring and then culled that down to just the essentials. Any pops of color or flares for style-purposes could be bought while abroad and would most likely be more interesting than those statement earrings from Topshop I kept wavering on.
- 5 t-shirts
- 2 long sleeve shirts
- 5 tank tops
- 3 sweaters
- 1 sweatshirt
- 1 winter jacket – this one is great because it is very light and rolls up to fit into the hood
- 1 jean jacket
- 1 rain jacket
- 4 pants (jeans and slacks, etc)
- 10 socks (2 pairs of wool socks, 4 pairs of thin socks, and 4 pairs of sockettes…the little guys that you cannot see when wearing sneakers)
- 10 pairs of underwear
- 4 bras (1 nude underwire, 1 black underwire, and 2 racerbacks)
- 3 sleeping shirts
- 2 sleeping pants (which also included a pair of sweatpants for those “active-wear” days)
- 2 leggings
- 2 sports bras
- 3 pairs of shorts
- 1 knee-length skirt
- 1 scarf
- 1 beanie
- 5 pairs of shoes (1 running sneaker, 1 regular sneaker, 1 leather lace-up, 1 pair of Birkenstocks, and 1 bootie)*
As far as toiletries go, those squishy bottles for liquids are a must. I am not a huge product user myself, so toiletries were fairly easy, however; even the basics can add up quickly and are heavy. Remember that almost everything can be bought at pharmacies and Duty-Free shops across the globe.
I threw everything into a hanging toiletry bag that is also useful for side trips and organizational purposes. Additional plastic bags are very helpful when packing liquids, bring a few just in case and thank me later.
Pack for yourself
I would lastly like to emphasize that only you know what to pack for yourself. As I have learned while traveling with and meeting other women along this journey, we all have our own style and needs.
My lack of statement necklaces may drive you crazy, however; your need for three dresses instead of sensible slacks will absolutely blow my mind. You know what you like to wear day in and day out, grab those items (though not too many of each), some compression packing cubes, and go for your first packing test run. It took me three trials, but after folding versus rolling and one vacuum bag for sweaters, everything fit perfectly. It has been nine months and I have gotten rid of a few things, picked up a few others, but have never felt I was missing anything essential. It’s actually one of my proudest moments!
*I rarely wear heels at home and slippery cobblestones streets across the world make them somewhat obsolete when traveling.