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Packing: Hype vs Reality

I'm definitely going to need this pair of shoes...

If you’ve ever considered long-term travel then I’ll bet you’ve googled the term ‘nomad packing list’ or similar. Your search will have come up with pages of aspirational tips about using only carry-on luggage, taking only what you really need according to the insanely beautiful and insultingly youthful blogger. Gentlemen will be told that all one really needs in life is a pair of smart brogues and some running shoes, and don’t forget your leather passport case; for the ladies, just take a couple of skirts and tops in a soothing beige paired with a robust walking sandal and you’re sorted for all occasions.

Sod that.

Having started our nomad journey later in life, Chris and I have accumulated a ton of stuff. We have a storage unit full of furniture, books and clothes. I have a full set of horse riding gear, Chris has approximately 15 pairs of trainers. We both have ski gear, hiking gear, tents, running wear… I have scented candles and blankets, he has a Playstation. I’m sure you get the picture. How can we possibly cope without any of our stuff!?

There’s no way that we’re ever going to fit our things into carry-on only, especially not if we ever take a Ryanair flight. We’re also lucky at present that we have family that we need to visit in the UK from time to time, so we can get to our storage and do a seasonal ‘switch up’. Having said that, in the few months we’ve been travelling, we have reduced our checked bags to one each – this will probably go up and down depending on where we are and what we plan to do there. We have started to realise what is a necessity, and what is a luxury – and we’ve realised that we like our little luxuries, and that’s ok.

Never knowingly under 30kgs...

What do you actually need?

With this in mind, here’s a list of what you actually need:

  • Your laptop and phone.

Seems obvious? It is. Consider taking a phone with dual sim trays so you can grab a local sim card and use that instead of paying enormous roaming charges and in case you need a local phone number for visa applications (or the local food delivery app!)

The set up that goes with them is also important to keep you healthy and sane. In particular, your back might suffer from working on tables and chairs that are not meant for it.

  • A lightweight laptop stand – we didn’t do this for the first few months. Our backs are shot as a result. Do yourself a favour and get one, it may take up a couple of kilos of allowance but it’s worth it.

  • Wireless mouse and keyboard because laptops are small and awkward and not made for long hours of work.

  • An external hard-drive because things will get sticky if you chuck a pina colada all over your laptop and it stops working. Back it up.

  • A plug adaptor or two – you can buy in the country but there’s nothing worse than arriving in a place and remembering that you can’t charge your phone.

Apart from this, really make sure you're well stocked up on the following!

  • Your meds or other personal essentials - contact lenses, supplements etc may not be easy to order in your home-for-now.

And that’s it! No, honestly! Obviously you’ll want clothes to suit whatever climate you’re heading for (and a lightweight waterproof or down jacket is always useful) but that’s so dependent on where you’re going that there’s no point following an influencer’s beige packing list for Coluombia if you’re going to be hiking through the Carpathians. Also, you can usually buy suitable clothes for the country you’re in, in the country itself, and often quite cheaply, so no panic if you forget something. We’ve realised our packing is about the season and the type of thing we want to be doing – a good pair of hiking trousers and boots for the shoulder seasons, a couple of bikinis and shorts for beach time.

Pack for you!

As long as we have the basics that we need to actually work, everything else is personal choice. I probably don’t have to carry a hot water bottle with me, but it’s good for comfort and bad backs so I will. You do you – and over the first few months you’ll work out exactly what you need. I suspect it won’t be an insta-ready capsule wardrobe.


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