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Packing for a year on the road

by Michael

One of the frequent questions we get is, “How do you pack for a year?” The short answer is that you don’t. It would be pretty burdensome to carry every item we are going to use or wear for twelve months. The last thing we want to do is travel around the world looking like a laden down pack mule scaling the high Sierras. Basically you have to treat long-term travel like a 10-day trip that you are going to repeat many times in a row; in our case over 50 times.

Accordingly, you only need enough clothes for about ten days. When we were shopping for clothes for the trip we realized pretty quickly that most of the stuff we were looking at was made in the countries we’ll be visiting (China, Vietnam, Indonesia) so why not just buy it there instead at a much cheaper price? Granted we’ll still have to carry it around but since we’ll have spent so much less for the items, pitching what we don’t need along the way will be much less painful.

Leaving for the airport on Day One - this was too much so we soon pitched a few items

We’ll be traveling to either warm or moderate climates and will (hopefully) avoid the extremes of freezing weather and snow. That eliminates the need to pack bulky items like fleece jackets, hoodies and sweaters. If it does get chilly someplace then we’ll buy something to use at that location and give it away when we leave. You don’t have the luxury to carry something to deal with every contingency and, really, why would you want to? 

We are renting apartments most places so we’ll have access to a washer and dryer. A few rinse-and-wash items will make the final cut for those times when the sink in the room is the only nearby laundry facility.

Our backpacking days are behind us so we are at the wheelie phase of our lives. It’s much more comfortable than schlepping everything you have on your back. So we are each bringing a 21″ rolling suitcase and a carry-on bag that can hold a laptop, items for the plane ride and items we don’t want to risk checking. We will also bring one extra day bag for us to share to hold miscellaneous items.

One of the bulkier items tends to be reading material and guidebooks. Michael the Luddite broke down and bought a Kindle so that will cut down on many of the books we have to carry. Larissa prides herself on being an extremely efficient packer and clothes folder. On her many business trips in the past she always had the smallest suitcase among her colleagues. It helps that she’s rather small and compact herself.

The old rule of thumb, pack what you think you need, and then get rid of half of it, applies even more to long-term travel.

Here’s a list of what we packed.

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