I hope the following list may help you pack for a nomadic existence, a long backpacking trip, or an extended stint abroad. At the very least, I hope it gives you a glimpse into the very practical side of long-term vagabonding, and makes you smile.
I get all of the stuff below into my 65L Osprey pack plus my overpriced but amazing Victorinox laptop bag.
Take these as suggestions. You’ll invariably find your own list through trial and error.
For when it gets chilly:
- Bright blue wool socks for which your friends will mercilessly mock you
- A shower-resistant outer shell (when it rains, you will wish it were rain-resistant too)
- Bright blue fleece jacket, because there’s no such thing as too much turquoise
- Sturdy boots/shoes (I have found trail shoes or trail runners to be ideal)
- A sweater, preferably stolen from a friend
For all the time:
- 1 pair hiking pants
- 1 pair yoga pants
- 1 pair harem pants
- 1 pair jeans/passably normal pants
- X pairs socks and underwear (how many? it depends how often you want to do laundry…)
- 5-6 shirts (some for hiking, some for exercise, and some for normal life-ing)
- 1 bathing suit
- Toiletries (pure argan, coconut or almond oil, natural bar soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, tea tree oil, natural deodorant, comb, nail clippers, lip balm, sunblock—that’s it!)
- First aid kit (which you will never use but carry around forever “just in case”)
- Sunglasses and glasses
- Passport, expired driver’s license, bank card, and other assorted bits of paper that sometimes come in handy
- Birkenstock sandals
- Reusable bags (for food-shopping, beach day-ing, or hanging on doorknobs to look at and wonder why you’re carrying so many extra bags)
- Sarong (which serves equally well as scarf, towel and pillow cover)
For women who likes dresses:
- 1 long skirt.
- 2 dresses, neither of which are as practical as they should be, and one bright red
Me-specific things (yours will be different):
- Yoga mat
- Climbing shoes
- Dance shoes
- Books (rotating)
- Notebooks and many, many pens (you will lend them to people and not get them back, so it’s good to have 5-10 on hand at any given time)
- Laptop (for work; if you don’t work online, maybe skip the laptop—it’s a hassle)
- Sleeping bag (and sometimes, but not right now, tent or camping hammock)
Unnecessary but still important things:
- A large quartz crystal
- A large quantity of jewelry
- A large camera
- Smartphone (for staying up-to-date with loved ones and total strangers)
- Gifts (for people in the next place you’re heading)
- Oversized purple headphones
- Smaller-sized purple headphones
- Pretty scarves to put on top of ugly tables
A few caveats:
I chase the sun. If you expect your life to include winter, you’ll need more warm things.
I have my hobbies; you have yours. Your “extras” will likely be completely different from mine.
I leave things, give things away and pick things up near-continuously. It is useful to have friends and family, in whose basements, attics and closets you can leave things you don’t want to let go of but don’t want to carry with you (especially books). It is also useful to get used to giving away something old to make room for something new.
I carry many extraneous items. I suggest it to you, too, even if it’s impractical. It’s the difference between going on vacation and carrying “home” with you.
We actually can fit everything we need into one bag—for life, or at least for a few years. It’s probably going to be too heavy, and we’ll probably find ourselves missing variety (of shoes especially), but not nearly as often as we’d expect. We’ll get accustomed to accumulating more belongings when we pause for a while, and equally accustomed to shedding them when it’s time to move once again.
And one more thing… good food is always money well spent. So are experiences. Our stomachs are like endlessly refillable backpacks, and our brains are like slightly leaky, expandable suitcases. Fill them.