Packing has got to be the number one most discussed thing in traveller land. Deciding what, and just as importantly, what not to take on a trip has been occupying traveller’s minds since forever (I assume).
The tendency, especially (but not only) among new travellers, is to overpack. You naturally want to bring everything you’re used to having around you and it can be quite daunting to think of forgetting something. However, life will be much easier the less you bring. The less you have in your bag the less you have to think about, and more importantly, the less you have to carry.
As a digital nomad there are going to be some non-negotiables in your bag, namely your laptop and chargers and anything else you need for work. This will take up space that others might use for more toiletries or clothes, but trust me, you don’t need the extras!
When you’re travelling for a year you honestly don’t need anymore than when you’re travelling for two weeks. Maybe even less! If you’re going on a two week holiday where you’re staying in one place you can get away with bringing a bigger suitcase because you know you’ll only have to pick it up once on the way there and once on the way back. On the other hand, if you’re going away for a year and moving from place to place, the easier your bag is to sling on and go the freer you will feel.
I am starting my suggestions in reverse order to most blogs because THESE are the things that I have noticed on my travels get neglected or take up the most space. All of the extra stuff beyond clothes are the stuff that make your travels easier and are basically the essentials.
General tips and stuff
My first piece of advice, especially if you want to be nomadic, is BE MINIMALIST. As this way, you can travel lighter and also make space for new amazing treats along the way.
Buy stuff on the road unless you have some really special products, and girls, less is more with make-up. Get a really good quality Argan oil, mascara, eye-liner, sharpener, foundation and blusher. That’s literally all you need on the road and I usually get these in the airport or whilst travelling. This is literally all you need. It takes up so much room so don’t overpack.
I carry glasses, monthly and daily’s. Keep a record of your eye sight measurement so you can pick some up in shop if you lose them or run out. I have special eyes, so sometimes it’s best to focus on buying contact lenses in big cities rather than towns. If you are staying somewhere for a while, you can always get family to send them to you.
Guitar and other instruments
You can usually carry a guitar for FREE on flights AND in hand luggage! The staff look at you funny as it’s such a big item, but it works so if you are musically talented or learning… lucky you! You can do this with most instruments, except a double bass or piano for obvious reasons.
You can carry you camera on you if you have a strap, leaving more room in your bag for stuff. Take a 18-200mm lens as your staple lens as this will help you in almost all instances. I’d also recommend a 50mm (or the Sony 55mm) for portraits, a wide angle for landscapes, and I have a 35mm (which isn’t necessary) because it’s small for landscapes too.
Kindle or iPad
If you enjoy reading or having a Lonely Planet, I’d recommend getting yourself a kindle or iPad because this way you can have a whole library of books for little space. However, sometimes I like to have a paper book. When I’m done, I have passed on the book to someone who I’ve met who I think may enjoy it. iPads are also a great tool as you have access to a computer, apps, etc… and they are slim. They are easier than always carrying your laptop when you don’t have so much work. However, phones can be just as good and you can downloads the Kindle app to read on your phone. Depends what you prefer and how much money you have.
Depends on you. How often will you be using your surfboard or skateboard? Is it worth it? What locations are you focused on?
I really recommend taking a speaker with you on your travels. Music is so powerful and transforms the mood, connects people, and you can make an awesome playlist to inspire you on your travels and remind yourself of your travels when you come home. I use a UE Boom because it is easy to connect, waterproof and gives a bassy sound.
Wires and useful tech stuff
Make sure you check plugs or carry a versatile plug so you always have access to energy. There is nothing more annoying than not having one of these, especially as a digital nomad. But good news! You can buy them everywhere across the world. I usually carry a couple of extra USB wires and charger wires just in case I lose any. I also carry around a hard-drive. ALWAYS back stuff up. You’ll hate yourself if you don’t and lose everything. You can also use sites like Dropbox to keep things safe.
Always have a passport cover to reduce the chance of your passport getting ruined or broken. This is so important. Nothing has ever happened to mine, but a friend of mine had her passport ruined in Portugal and had to spend money getting a new one. Best to be safe and ensure that your passport is protected.
As I said earlier, be minimalist. Less is always more when it comes to packing clothes. Here are some suggestions based on climates, and always pack and buy items that are multi-purpose.
Now to talk climates…
Big bulky clothes and coats take up a lot of space, so try to minimise those things in your case. Vests, long sleeve t-shirts and leggings that you can layer up underneath your outer clothing to keep warm are great as they take up little space but they can be used multiple ways.
Stuff your shoes
Socks are always important in cold weather climates and, like underwear and other small items can be stuffed inside shoes and empty corners of your pack to take up less space.
Wear bulky items to travel
Travel in your coat and winter boots and any other items you really only need to take one of, and that don’t need to see the inside of your suitcase at all like gloves, hats and scarves.
Take clothes that you can mix and match
As I said before, get clothes that are multi-purpose… especially for winter clothes, as they take up SO much room, make sure that your clothes are something that you can use, re-use and mix and match. That way you can get maximum results from the little space in your suitcase.
If you go cold, stay cold for a season
So one thing, that I would recommend is that when you go cold as a nomad, stay cold until you are ready to go hot again, then go home and change your bag completely to focus on hot. Carrying both at all times is silly and infeasible.
Don’t over indulge
People often think that as warm weather clothes tend to be smaller they can pack more. Try to resist the urge, the future you that has to lug all your stuff about will thank you!
Always pack a jumper
You never know when you’ll need one and nights can sometimes get cold. My tip would be to choose black or white as they go with everything.
Always pack a scarf
Scarves are amazing for travel as they help out in so many different situations. Same as before, scarves are great for cold nights, but they are also good for visiting religious places, and even work as a beach towel. I have a fuchsia pink one which I love and have had for years, but also a white one as it goes with everything.
Pack items that multitask and that you can mix and match
If you’re a beach bum trunks that double as shorts are great, as are beach dresses that can be thrown on over bikini or swimming costume when you want to cover up. Some skirts can also become dresses with the right belt.
Carry one decent pair of flip flops and one set of trainers
This should cover you in all situations: hiking, running, walking, sight-setting, cold-feet, beach.
Only couple of shorts and more t-shirts
Let’s be honest, t-shirts get messier than shorts and are more noticeable, so focus on diversifying your t-shirt game.
If you absolutely LOVE something, but it doesn’t hold real value, take it away
So if you really love a sparkly dress, but you never see yourself wearing it, take it away. It’s always nice to have it in case you need it. But don’t do this with everything you own, just a couple of pieces… so be disciplined.
Pack for all eventualities
If you’re going to be seeing all the seasons in a country or are moving from a warm climate to a cooler one (or vice versa) you’ll need to pack for all eventualities. This means packing a bit less for each. So anything that can double up and get worn on each part of the trip definitely deserves a space in your bag. Leggings and vests and things that can be worn as is in warmer places and layered up in colder climes are great.
Invest in new clothes when you get there
If you are going to a hot place first you may not be able to to travel in boots and a coat so consider investing in new ones when you need to.
Dispatch useless items
If you’re starting in a cooler destination you can always shed clothes (donate!) that you no longer need, or even post them back home if you don’t want to lose them. Think of it as a lesson in letting go.
Ready to plan your first trip, but don’t know where to start? Why not take my Go Explore course where you can work with me personally on planning your trip.