Nothing More Than I Can Carry


Yesterday I boarded a plane in Melbourne, Florida, after a stay of nearly six weeks. I was trading temperatures in the 70s for temperatures around zero, give or take. Because I was traveling with two hoops that wouldn’t fold down far enough to fit the standards for carry-on, I checked a cardboard box, and because that offered me empty cargo space around and inside the circles, I unnamedpacked some of my clothing into that box, which lightened up the carry-on bags I would be hauling around the Atlanta airport while I awaited my connecting flight.

My carry-on consists of a backpack made by Osprey, purchased at an Omaha store called Backwoods, which features a detachable daypack. It almost meets the allowable size requirements for carry-on, and so far I have been able to board with it, as have many reviewers of the product. The main backpack has a cover that zips up over the straps and hip belt, transforming it into a duffel with nothing dangling. The daypack attaches to it with a zipper and cinch straps, kind of a kangaroo version of a backpack. The daypack can also be attached from the front, so it can be worn with one part behind you and one in front, balancing the weight and allowing quick access to the smaller daypack, while walking around hands-free. Granted, this looks a little weird, but it works.

In the two months since I started my vacation-from-my-car, I’ve been forced to think more about what I transport and why. Not only is storage space limited on the road, but I must be able to physically carry all the possessions that are traveling with me. And frankly, I’m not that strong, when it comes to upper body strength. So everything that is going to be tucked into my backpack is eyed carefully for bulkiness and weight. Some things seem necessary despite their lack of good portability, for example the extended cord for my computer, which allows me to plug in even if my table in a public restaurant isn’t right next to the outlet. My fleece jacket is bulkier than I’d like, but indispensable for personal temperature control and coziness. But other things have failed to make the list.

I no longer carry shampoo. A household and hotel staple, it has always been supplied wherever I may be. Besides, after getting educated about what it does to my hair, I’ve greatly reduced my frequency of use anyway. On the other hand, I do still carry a small, leak-proof bottle of conditioner, small enough to meet TSA guidelines for transporting fluids in carry-on luggage. I have not been carrying soap (bar or otherwise) though I may reconsider this when I go to Spain for two weeks, as I expect to be hand-washing some clothing in hostel/hotel sinks. I stopped carrying hair gel, which was previously considered indispensable, when a stylist let it slip that regular conditioner can be used as your leave-in product. I’ve been using it ever since, with good results, though I should say this is only recommended for curly hair. I have given up all cosmetics, with the exception of lip balm and face lotion with sunscreen. Eliminating these liquids/gels reduced weight and made my TSA experience simpler, as well.

So what am I still carrying? The contents shift some depending on where I am heading and how long I’ll be out there, but items that I typically have with me include: one notebook, three pens, my tiny computer, an iPhone, cords for both, my passport, driver’s license, insurance card and credit card, cash, medicine, a leak-proof two ounce container of coconut oil, a small bottle of lavender essential oil, a pharmacy bottle filled with bobby pins with four pony-tail holders wrapped around the outside, a tiny slingshot, a super loud whistle on a lanyard, a set of tweezers, a nail clipper, a nail file, several tank tops, several pairs of leggings, Under Armor cold gear tights and shirt, a pair of New Balance Minimus shoes, four or five dresses, socks, underwear and bras, a pair of thin but warm winter gloves, a shell layer winter coat, the fleece jacket previously mentioned, a swimming suit, a fleece neck warmer, a base layer shirt made by Smart Wool, headphones, glasses, sunglasses, two pairs of compression shorts, one cheap pair of nylon shorts, black cotton capris and a cotton tank top (for yoga-type activities), a pair of work gloves, electronic toothbrush and charger (heavy!), a standard toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, one pair of earrings, seven spices in tiny, inter-locked containers that total about six inches high, a small, light-weight container filled with trail mix or walnuts, a couple of flowery handkerchiefs from my Aunt Eunice’s collection, a baby washcloth, a bandana, a tiny S-hook carabineer, a small Ziploc bag with Band-Aids, moleskin and toe cushions for long-distance walking, a larger Ziploc bag with whatever paperwork I deem necessary to carry at any particular time, a Camelbak hydration pouch with attached straw, a pair of sweat pants and a pair of pajama pants (in spite of the fact they duplicate each other), a few Dri-Weave athletic items of clothing, a couple of shirts, a little striped purse, and any gifts I might be traveling with.

I normally have some food along besides the standard trail mix/walnuts container I already mentioned, which might include dried fruit. A packet or two of Emergence-C or electrolyte mix is usually in my possession, as well.  I have a pair of black boots that I have been wearing while traveling so they don’t weigh down my backpack, and a pair of cowboy boots that sometimes make the cut and get carried along.

Obviously, staying primarily with friends and family, I’ve been supported in this effort. I have not had to carry a sleeping bag or pillow since being carless, and have benefited from the staple supplies of the households I’ve visited. For instance, I am a fan of salt and pepper, but I don’t carry it with me.

I plan to take a tiny travel clothesline and a set of miniature clothespins to Spain.  I’ll also add a universal adapter and a travel towel before I head there. I have my eye on a little magnifying mirror with suction cups, sold by The Container Store, which might also be worth transporting. Recently I’ve been traveling without a water bottle, in part because I don’t have one I’m completely happy with, so I am on the hunt for that, as well. I do not currently travel with a pair of jeans, though I have my sights set on a particular pair from Old Navy. If I purchase them and travel with them, they’ll most likely be worn on travel days to keep them out of my backpack. Also, I am on the look-out for a silk scarf. I have some (you may recall them as the curtains in my vehicle when I sleep in it) but want a different color for wearing with my travel-friendly clothes.

I have listed all of these items to capture this stage of my movement-toward-simplicity for my own records, since my lifestyle has been changing much faster than I anticipated. I posted it here because I am so frequently asked about my belongings that it seemed it might interest a few of you. If you made it to the end, you are one of them, I hope.

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