Like any good spy, I think travel is an integral part of experience the world. Whether you travel your own country or hop on an airplane, I think everyone should travel once a year. And like my minimalist and freedom thought process, I don’t take a lot with me when I can travel if I can help it. Last September I took a 24 day trip to Europe where I visited 6 different countries. And for this 24 day trip, I took a single carry on sized piece of luggage and a backpack. The benefit of this is multi-fold.
By having a carry on suitcase, you don’t have to check your luggage. That means you don’t get lost luggage and you don’t get delays waiting for the luggage to come out. This is especially useful when you first get to your destination. We checked our luggage on the way back and when we got to San Francisco, we had to collect our luggage, go through customs and then re-check our luggage. If your connecting flight is tightly scheduled, its possible to miss your connector.
How do you travel a long time with just a carry on suitcase?
Traveling light involves choices. Ironically, as good as I did with my packing choices, I might take even less next time. There were several things I didn’t use on this trip and I could have gotten away with less. But that being said, I didn’t want for anything. I had my laptop, I had a high quality camera and I even had a microphone and lapel mic to do my recordings.
For the most part, you can avoid those “travel” clothes. You can find every day clothes that work just like travel clothes but you can use every day. Mainly you want things that dry fast and don’t wrinkle. So you will be wearing a lot of synthetics. You also want neutral clothes you can mix and match. The one thing I didn’t bring and I might next time is a high quality pair of flipflops (or slippers as we call them in Hawaii). I use a pair of Adidas Slides. Here are the ones I have used since college. They just fit. http://amzn.to/2o3OJTm
For luggage, getting yourself a good rolling carry on suitcase is what I recommend. The problem with Europe is there are tons of cobblestone streets and the regular roller bags you use just don’t work as well. I would recommend one of these:
This is a what I used from Rick Steves: http://bit.ly/2ivtjco
Any of those will work just fine depending on your budget. I also used an Osprey Back Pack (link: http://amzn.to/2iK5UTx) but to be honest, I recommend heading over to a local REI store if you have them, and trying on backpacks. My wife chose a different backpack that fit her better. Finally packing cubes (link: http://amzn.to/2iKaCAT ) can help you compress things down. This pack comes with three but I used one for shirts, and the other for underwear and socks.
What to wear
Let’s start with shoes. I used a good pair of running shoes from Asics (Link: http://amzn.to/2ivsfFr ). That have a ton of support. But with all the walking we did, they actually started to break down over time. I think I might look at a pair of trail running shoes next time that, while a little heavier are more durable. I then splurged for a pair of Cole Haan Loafers (Link: http://amzn.to/2iiSoY9 ) . Cole Haan makes super comfortable shoes though expensive and this allowed me to dress things up a bit.
For pants I got these great pants and shorts from REI called Adventure Pants (Link: http://bit.ly/2incqDa ). If you know your size and don’t have an REI by you, then Ex Officio makes pants like these (Link: http://amzn.to/2nJEUt8 ). I like the hidden zippers and the fact that they will dry overnight when I wash in my hotel room. For every day shirts, I just got some plain workout material shirts that seemed to work really well and I now wear all the time. While I didn’t buy underarmour, these are examples of the shirts I bought (Link: http://amzn.to/2oe8K77).
For dressier and colder weather shirts, I brought one black short sleeve Perry Ellis shirt. It is polyester so it doesn’t wrinkle but is also a really nice looking shirt. This is not the exact version but it was similar to this (Link: http://amzn.to/2nJFN4W). Alfani makes these really nice “Sport” style button down shirts. They are a little thinner material, doesn’t wrinkle so bad and have more of a English Spread collar which lays nicer along my neck (Link: http://amzn.to/2oeji6b).
Lets talk underwear, t-shirts and socks. For underwear, I finally get it. I finally understand why everyone likes Ex Officio Underwear. I love these things so much, its all I wear anymore. I try and wait till they are on sale but for something you wear every day and will hold your junk, don’t skimp. For undershirts, I spend a little extra money and get these from Calvin Klein (Link: http://amzn.to/2iKm1ot). If you are out of shape they look horrible on their own as they show every bulge but they are super thin, hold you in and keep your shirts clean. Because they are so thin, they dry over night. For socks, I found this company called Wright Socks that, while thin, have a double layer to stop blisters (Link: http://amzn.to/2ij4YXy).
For a belt I used this one from Croakies that, while it gets some bad reviews, I love mine and will buy another one when this one dies. It is all plastic so no worry with metal detectors (which practically every museum and airport has). It is super long and you cut it down to size and burn the ends with a lighter to seal the ends.
As long as it’s not winter, a windbreaker jacket is the way to go. I bought this one from Marmot. It is not cheap but it worked great when we were in Germany and it was raining all day. Columbia, North Face, whatever works for you.
The less toiletries you can take the better. Deodorant, Floss, Toothbrush and a comb was all I needed. I get my hair cut extra short so I don’t have to deal with it. I do use an electric toothbrush so I use something like this http://amzn.to/2ij2sk2 which uses a AA battery.
In this day and age, electronics will be coming with us. It is just a given. It was especially important to me as I needed to work on client stuff during down times and was trying to do more videos for a course I was working on. We brought our smartphones ( we use iPhones) and an older model iPad that works great for laying in bed at night, or reading on the bus and trains. Your phone can take really good photos and videos if you frame it up.
To be honest, unless you have the inkling to understand manual mode and set it up, I would avoid a DSLR. I know how to use Manual and you are moving so far, you don’t have a lot of time to get your settings properly. Instead, I opted for a fantastic little point and shoot from Canon called the G7X. It is almost the perfect travel camera. It takes great low light photos, great video, timelapse and if you have time, a great manual mode. It’s auto white balance I found to be superb. Plus it will fit in your pocket if need be.
I was able to get absolutely beautiful pictures and videos with this camera. I had a little travel tripod that worked great with and used it throughout my trip. There only two things missing from it. The first is an electronic view finder but I am not sure if I would have even used it. And I wish it had a microphone input.
When I am doing video, I think audio is one of the most overlooked parts of any video. Poor lighting, out of focus, these are all ok, but poor audio will destroy video. And while I have more expensive audio equipment I use when I am not traveling, I don’t want to bring that expensive stuff when I travel. So in that case, I bring a Zoom H1 and a wired lapel microphone. (Zoom H1: http://amzn.to/2ij2loH ). I like this because it is so versatile. I can use it as a hand held mic, a shot gun mic, or plug my lapel mic into it and I have a quasi wireless microphone. But, what adds to is, if I keep it turned off and plug it into my laptop, it turns into a USB microphone.
To be honest, this is not a recommendation for any particular OS. If you like Mac’s, use a Mac, if you like Windows, use a Windows Machine. I personally use a MacBook Pro Retina 13″. This little workforce does everything I need. But my wife has a Surface Pro that we absolutely love as well.
With this set up, I could travel for 1 month to 6 months. Because we were literally changing hotels every two days, I couldn’t pack more and I wouldn’t need to. We did laundry twice. Once in the Cinque Terra and once in Paris. And while we did laundry, we just worked on everything we needed to get done anyway.
Try not to over think things. Get good quality, comfortable stuff to use and wear, but don’t go overboard. I could care less if I lost my $99 voice recorder, but would be very upset if I broke my $600 Sennheiser Lapel mics. And half the things I bought for the trip, I wear almost every day.
Leave a comment below on what you feel are the essentials to take on your trip.