First thing, let’s get this straight: I don’t care how you pack. You want to travel carry-on only? Great. You plan on checking a bag? Excellent. Checking two bags, a bicycle, sports equipment, or a big, beautiful golden retriever? Awesome.
However you pack, I’m behind you all the way. Because, frankly, getting all passionate about whether you should try to fit your life into a carry-on bag and judging people for taking the things that they need seems like a misuse of passion and a big ‘ol waste of energy.
So this isn’t one of those blogs that’s going to try and convince you that there’s a right and a wrong way to pack your bags and head to Europe. It’s not a place where you’ll find one-size-fits-all strategies for making sure you have exactly what you need abroad, nothing more or less.
Because here’s the truth: we’re all different. Our values are different. Our needs are different. The things that bring us joy are different. And your packing should reflect you.
I wrote a packing philosophy post awhile back and one of the things I said sticks with me in a big way: “Don’t let anyone bully you into thinking you’re doing it wrong. If you use the stuff in your bag, you’re definitely doing it right.”
When it comes to packing, that’s the foundational truth: if you use the stuff in your bag, you’re doing it right.
I carry a curling iron, a pair of scissors, and a fancy red dress. Some people would never use these things, but I use them all the time. An acquaintance of mine showed up in my Instagram feed last week in a gorgeous gold-sequined dress; she also takes at least two hats on every trip. Not everyone would pack those things, but she does…and her travels are happier for them. Another friend travels full-time with paragliding and BASE jumping gear, still another with a bicycle, a third carries a chef’s knife, and a fourth a French press coffee maker.
Despite what the carry-on-only-or-bust travel bloggers will tell you, there are a whole lotta different ways to do this long-term travel thing.
But enough philosophy. People ask me all the time what’s in my bag, so today I’m posting an update.
As 2017 unfolds, I’m currently in a slow-travel mode here in Europe. I’ve traded in a car full of my things in North America for a 65-liter backpack, a carry-on, and a folding bicycle in a canvas case on the other side of the Atlantic. Here’s what’s in my bag as I head toward Rome:
What’s in My Bag Now
Clothes: 2 skirts, 3 dresses, 1 pair jeans, 1 pair leggings, 2 pairs tights, 6 tank tops, 2 short-sleeve blouses, 1 vest, 3 sweaters, 1 long-sleeved shirt, 8 pairs cycling socks, 2 pairs thick wool socks that I wear as slippers indoors, underthings, 2 tennis skirts, 2 hats, 1 pair gloves, 1 scarf, 1 winter coat, 1 purse, 1 swimsuit.
Shoes: 1 pair boots, 1 pair sneakers, 1 pair converse, 1 pair flats, 1 pair flip flops.
Office: computer, 2 sets earbuds, external hard drive, tablet, cords, pens, screen cleaning cloth, USB, 2 notebooks, iPod, business cards, book, camera (not pictured), folder with our upcoming tickets, reservation information, passports, etc.
Sport equipment: folding bicycle, extra tire, extra tube, bike repair kit, helmet.
Other: flashlight, tape, medical stimulator machine for my bum shoulder, baby wipes, tea bags, reusable grocery bags (which I use like packing cubes while traveling and then use as grocery bags in each place), small bags of spices (currently: cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, salt, pepper), small bag of baking soda (to clean stubborn pans), 1 spoon (for on-the-go meals), 1 knife (again, on-the-go meals).
What’s in your bag?