Living Abroad Part Time – Packing For Super Long Trips

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Living Abroad Part Time – Packing For Super Long Trips

Packing for a weekend trip, or even a week long trip, is one thing. Packing for when you’ll be out of the country for a month is a completely different concept. I travel the world and am gone for three weeks with just one small bag. Yes, I’m perfectly happy and 100% prepared for anything with this one tiny bag, and nothing else, for a three-week trip. If I’m gone for four weeks or longer, I sometimes have to add one more small bag. This one: That’s it. I’ve been gone a month (or longer) with just those two bags. Here’s how I do it.

-By Caleb Jones

Shifts in Mindset First you need a shift in mindset. Here are the mindsets you should adopt:

1. “I never check any bags on any flight. All my bags are always carry-on. That way there are no delays getting off flights and there’s never the possibility of losing a bag.”

Checking bags every time you travel is a nightmare. If you want to be mobile and efficient and have peace of mind, you need to learn to pack small enough where you never need to check a thing. I’m sure you’ve heard of some checked-bag horror stories; here’s mine from before I learned this concept.

On the very first international trip I ever took, I was the typical traveler and checked a giant bag with all of my clothes. (This was in addition to two other giant bags of course.) On my return flight, I had a layover in San Francisco airport before my final flight back to my home in Portland.

In a half-asleep, zombie-like state from the 15 hour flight (where I didn’t sleep) and the massive time zone change, I stood like a rotting corpse at baggage claim, waiting for my big fat bag to come out of the conveyor belt. I waited 5 minutes. Nothing. 10 minutes. Nothing. 15 minutes. Nothing. WTF? Longer and longer I waited. Then I checked my watch. I had to catch my next flight in an hour. I figured I had plenty of time. Longer. And longer. Still nothing.

50 minutes later my bag finally came out of the fucking machine. Furious as I was tired, I grabbed the bag and ran, yes ran, half-asleep, through an airport I didn’t know well, looking for my next flight. I barely made it onto my connecting flight. I was the last guy to board the plane. I was lucky. I vowed then and there, never again. If the airports and airlines are this incompetent, I can’t depend on them to get my bags to me in an efficient manner so I can have a smooth, international travel experience. Plus, when you travel internationally, often you get your big, stupid checked bags opened twice by security and/or immigration. No thanks. Don’t check bags.

2. “I’m going to have to wash my own clothes about once a week while I’m gone. This way I don’t have to pack one outfit for every day I’m travelling.” If you’re gone for a month, are you seriously going to back 30 pairs of socks, 30 pairs of underwear, 10 shirts, 10 pairs of pants, etc? Of course not. That would be insane. (Yet I know people who do this, or at least try it!)

This means you’re going to have to learn how to wash and dry your clothing on the go. On most 3+ week trips I pack 5 pairs of socks/underwear, one or zero pairs of pants (remember, I’m already wearing one when I board the plane), and four shirts at the most.

I use those travel detergent packets to wash my own clothes about once every 5 or 6 days during my trip. If I don’t have access to a washer and dryer (and usually I don’t), I just use my bathroom sink. You plug it, fill it with hot water, put the detergent in, agitate your clothes in there, soak ‘em for a while, then rinse with cold water.

To dry them, you rinse them out as best you can, then roll them up tight in a dry towel, then hang them up using a bungee travel clothesline (that I always pack and takes essentially zero space). Within 24 hours at the most, they’ll be dry and clean.

If this is too much of a hassle and you are traveling to a locale where clothes are cheap, another option is to just throw away your socks and underwear after wearing them and buy new ones. In Singapore recently I bought six pairs of socks for less than $4 US. Underwear was even less. So I just threw my socks and underwear away and wore new ones. All I had to wash was my shirts and pants, which is much faster (and they don’t need to be washed nearly as often, unless you’re really getting dirty or sweaty).
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Packing List
I can’t tell you exactly what to pack, since everyone is different, but below is the list of stuff I pack whenever I’m away internationally for three weeks or longer.

- 5 pairs of socks
- 5 underwear
- 3 T shirts
- Flossers - 2 per day gone
- Earplugs (1 pair per 5 days gone)
- Cell phone charger
- Eye covering (for sleeping)
- Laptop charger
- Mini power strip (matched to the plug type for the country I’m going to; I have a wide array)
- Vitamins - 1 set per day gone
- TRT Stuff (vials, syringes, and alcohol swabs, based on how long I’m gone)
- Sunglasses inside a clean cloth
- Small bungee tie
- Toothbrush
- Electric clipper shaver with charger
- 1 razor per two weeks gone
- Fingernail clipper (careful with this one, some countries don’t like those)
- Travel clothesline
- Condoms (just in case; usually don't need them)
- Laundry travel detergent packets, 1 for every 5 days gone
- Compass
- Electrical plug adapters
- Tiny collapsible duffel bag
- Shaving Mirror
- Hairbrush
- Laptop (completely cleaned and backed up before I leave, and with some digital movies copied to the hard drive)
- Trackball mouse
- 2 AA batteries and 2 AAA batteries
- Noise-canceling headphones
- 2 extra laptop batteries
- Cell phone
- Cell phone headset
- Phone USB cable for tethering cell phone
- Pens
- Book (just one)
- Boarding pass (often in my phone instead of a ticket)
- Hotel info (often in my phone)
- Wallet
- Passport
- Ipod with charger cable
- Liquids  (all in one large clear ziplock bag, all under 2.5 ounces each)
- Chapstick
- Toothpaste
- Hair Gel
- Exfoliant
- Face wash
- Face Moisturizer
- Cologne
- Eye Moisturizer
- Sunblock (the hardcore kind, waterproof, 70+ SPF)
- Shaving Gel (careful with this one, some countries don't like aerosol cans, even tiny ones)
- Sometimes items - I don’t always pack these below items but sometimes I do, depending on what I’m doing when I travel.
- Suit (jacket, slacks, and 1 tie)
- 1 business shirt
- 1 pair of shorts
- Portable mini-VGA projector with cables
- Business cards
- HDMI cable

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This article was originally published on November 11, 2015


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