We’re packing for our RTW trip as full-time nomads. This post is about getting real with one main suitcase for the next two years. Can I do it?
Background: It was helpful before we began packing for our RTW trip that we had downsizing experience. We combined two households when we married, and then transitioned from a large house to a smaller townhouse. Then we sold everything and moved to a tropical island. None of it was easy. It is amazing the attachments we make with stuff!
Professional organizers will tell you to sort: keep, sell, donate, or trash. With the Kauai move, we had more decisions to make: keep and take, keep and store, sell, donate, dispense to family (keepsakes), trash. The whole downsizing process took us a year. If that seems daunting as you start, keep your eye on the prize. In our case, the prize was paradise.
Packing for our RTW trip is upping the downsizing ante. We’ll be completely nomadic with no home base to return to, much less store stuff.
Even though we arrived with very few possessions, and have been living a far more minimized life, this coming RTW trip is the big kahuna. We’ve already donated a surprising amount of clothing. Pete has been selling things on Craigslist and in our 2 Year Around the World Adventure Sale page. Since we’re giving up our furnished rental here, everything in it that’s ours has to go someplace else.
The suitcase dilemma: Earlier this year, we spent 5 weeks in Europe and Russia. We’d each purchased this American Tourister suitcase, the “Splash” 21 inch upright roller, anticipating we’d be carry-on only people. Reality check: this suitcase exceeded size specifications on European budget carriers (and now United Airlines) so we were forced to check our bags. By the end of the trip we were so tired of schlepping, we willingly checked.
Even with such a small bag, I found I had overpacked; I could have easily done with about 25% less clothing. I gave away a lot of stuff to a new friend in Russia to lighten the return load. What I did like about this suitcase was the color, easy to spot in a sea of black, and the exterior compartments.
If I get tired of carrying extra stuff around in 5 weeks, how am I going to feel after two years? We decided we’d pre-pack and live with a reduced wardrobe over our last few weeks here on the island, to get as minimalist as we could. So far, I haven’t felt deprived, but I’ll admit to boredom.
After downsizing from the first pre-pack’s even larger roller duffel (which we’ve already sold, so no pic), I got my second pre-pack into this green one.
I like this green duffle (here’s a similar one) because the fabric is heavy duty, and it has a couple more exterior zipped pockets. Otherwise, the concept is sort of the same as the larger duffel I’d started with. There are two sections that are independent of each other, yet accessible via interior zipper. This means if you’re on the go and somewhat organized, you’re not rooting around through your entire belongings. The downside to this green monster: he will not stand upright on his own, but needs to lean.
And even only half-packed, he weighed a lot. Hello, overage charges? Gah!!! I don’t think so. And here we are today.
surprised I’d been able to cram pleased with the bottom half’s organization on the first try. Contents:
- three pairs of jeans, rolled (denim,
white – in a clear space bag, and a fashion color worthy of Nathan Lane in The Bird Cage). Update: okay, stop the insanity. Only denim comes along.
- medium packing cube (from this set)
- large packing cube (from this set)
I’m a huge fan of packing cubes, and I use several different kinds.
Let’s take a look at what’s in each, and what goes kaput:
Medium packing cube:
- 2 bathing suits
- 2 pareos
- 2 oblong print scarves
1 souvenir t-shirt from the Winter Olympics– which I have never worn, helloooo
- 2 s/s solid t-shirts – wht, blk
- 2 s/s novelty t-shirts
I rarely wear the short sleeve t-shirts on Kauai – too hot! – but for now, they’re coming along.
Click on each photo to expand:
Large packing cube (click on each photo to expand):
- 1 denim jacket (you can see me in it on our home page, nice Indian beading on the back)
- 1 ultra-light anorak (fits into a ziplock bag – make-it-yourself space bag!)
- 2 sheer dressy scarf print tops (fit into a ziplock, too)
- 6 solid v-neck 3/4 sleeve T’s: wht, turq,
red, blue, brown, black – these are my cooler weather go-to’s, good alone or under a cardigan or jacket (in clear recycled zip case from a set of bedsheets) Update: the three that are crossed out? Kaput!
- 2 silk knit cardigans – blk, print
1 heavier black waterfall cardiganout! 1 l/s t-shirt, purpleout! 1 brown leggingsout!
- 1 knit capri – blk
- 4 pairs footie socks (I’ll be throwing these away on the road, but like to have them for strange floors)
With a little bit of repositioning, the bottom half of the duffle is organized and closes easily.
The top half of the duffle must hold the remainder of the clothing I anticipated taking, and a foldable cosmetic organizer (Vera Bradley – great design, here’s a similar one), shoes and incidentals I don’t want to carry on.
Frankly, this was worrying me. For this section I’m using narrow e-bags packing cubes (set of three, in yellow), the small packing cube from the teal 3-piece set above, and a variety of recycled zip cases from cosmetic giveaways and other packaging.
Narrow packing cubes (set of 3):
- #1 – 6 tank tops (I like this microfiber tank and have it in many colors)
- #2 – 6 tank tops
- #3 – 12 undies – 6 natural, 6 black
Click each pic to expand
Small packing cube – frequently worn linen items. I find linen, rayon, and microfiber more comfortable in humid tropical climates. Cotton-y fabrics absorb moisture, remaining clammy and damp:
- 3 cropped pants – white, natural, print
- 1 print dress
Square clear zip bag from something I bought at ABC Store:
- 2 sleeveless maxi dresses – green, purple
- 1 rollup waist maxi skirt – teal
- 1 Flax linen tunic (serves as casual dress or swimsuit coverup)
- 1 embroidered voile peasant top
The cool thing about the packing cubes and other containers is that you can reposition multiple items at a time without having to refold. So with a few changes, everything above fit with room to spare.
I added 4 bras, 3 pairs of slippers (flip-flop sandals for you non-Hawaiians) and a bag of assorted greeting cards and stationery, thinking it would be fun for recipients to get snail mail from foreign lands. There is still room in the top of the duffle, even after all this!
Thoughts: This is still a lot of stuff. A real minimalist would laugh, but we’ll be gone for two years! If I haven’t worn something in six months, it’ll get left behind. We don’t want to be purchasing clothing regularly. We’ll be traveling much more slowly, so I’m hoping the schlep part won’t be as much of a pain.
Following warm weather around the globe, we won’t need winter things. Those go back to the mainland, where our
long-suffering (love me that strike-through function in WordPress!) daughter kindly manages our 10×5 foot storage. Again, not completely minimalist. Pete is threatening to get rid of it when we return to Minnesota in 2016. We’ll see. 😉
We’re each taking a bag for technology/business and a second item (which I’m going to call my purse) as carry-ons. In a future post, we’ll talk about that.
Just for fun, here are a few items Amazon thinks are relevant to this post:
Note: product links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links, which means we’ll gratefully earn a small commission should you purchase via our click.