Travel the World With a Backpack

Arguably one of the most difficult aspects in finding true happiness is travel. However, now there are ways to make that process much easier with a new form of currency called AirTokens. This token allows travelers to collect points for various attractions around the world and redeem these points for experiences like international flights or hotels.

Traveling with only a backpack is possible. I would recommend traveling the world with a backpack, as it’s cheaper and more efficient. Read more in detail here: traveling with only a backpack.

Editor’s note: David Danzeiser contributed this guest article. David took all of the shots. 

The travel agent was on the other end of the line when I hung up. I’d just completed reserving 45,000 miles worth of international tickets. It would be a year-long journey that would take me to 23 different nations.

A phone call had concluded almost a year of planning and saving, and everything had been scheduled smoothly.

The journey led me to frigid northern Norway near the Arctic Circle, Indonesia’s wet and humid islands, and Australia’s bright and sandy beaches. I went hiking, swimming, sleeping outdoors, eating at good restaurants, and going to clubs.

Basically, I traveled across a wide variety of temperatures, cultures, climates, terrain, and activities, all while carrying a bag that you’d take to school (my pack was 26 liters and weighed 20 pounds).

I was ecstatic at first after hanging off the phone with the travel agency.

However, the reality of what I’d just agreed to gradually dawned on me, and I knew I still had a lot of work ahead of me.

Specifically, what was I planning to bring?

In this essay, I’ll explain how I did it and what worked for me – it’s not the answer, but it’s a start.

It was a solution that required a lot of thought, work, and study, but in the end, the gear I chose was based on mobility, efficiency, and invisibility, and I’ll go over each of these features in depth later in the post.

Overall, traveling light was one of the finest choices I’ve ever made, and the number one piece of advise I recommend to anybody planning a trip is to pack small.

But why, and more importantly, how is this possible?

Mobility

Supplies for backpacking around the world.

Because there’s a certain freedom in knowing that everything you need is with you and available, mobility is the bread and butter of traveling lightly.

When I told people I was going to travel for a year, they couldn’t believe how little my bag was. I had everything I needed, but not in large quantities.

“Anyone can build a bridge that stands,” as the adage goes in architecture. An engineer is needed to build a bridge that barely holds together.”

I intended to pack my bag around the concept represented by this quote: finding the bare minimum of stuff to ensure I was comfortable in whatever setting I would encounter while also optimizing my mobility.

As a result, I concentrated on locating high-quality, multifunctional, and small equipment.

Clothing

When it comes to wearing little clothes on a daily basis, you have two options:

  1. Purchase less expensive clothing that you can discard and replace as they become worn out, soiled, or stinky.
  2. Purchase high-quality apparel that will need more maintenance (cleaning and repairing) but will last considerably longer.

Option #2 was my choice.

My socks, shirts, and underwear were all made of Merino wool, and I chose dark hues to hide the inevitable filth and grime.

 

Merino wool is a fantastic fabric. It has excellent flow and insulation capabilities (keeping you warm when it’s chilly outdoors and cool when it’s hot), dries fast, has strong odor resistance (allowing you to go longer between washes), isn’t bulky or irritating, and, unlike cotton, will keep you warm even when wet.

I’d often hop into the shower with my underwear and shirt, give them a thorough wash, wring them out in the sink, wrap them up like a burrito in my towel, and walk on them (to get more water out). Then I’d put the moist clothes back on and walk about for a few minutes, and they’d be dry and clean.

For the minimalist traveler, it’s the ideal material.

I brought the following items for routine use:

  • T-shirts (two) (Icebreaker)
  • socks (two pairs) (one by SmartWool, one by Icebreaker)
  • 3 pairs of underpants (2 by Icebreaker, one by Exofficio)
  • 1 pair of trousers (Prana)
  • shorts for running (Prana)
  • (Arc’teryx Spiro) cap
  • shoes
  • pair of sandals (Invisible Shoes)

I packed the following items for the frigid weather:

  • Merino wool shirt with long sleeves (Icebreaker)
  • jacket with down feathers (Montbell EX Light)
  • a raincoat (Patagonia Super Cell)
  • mittens
  • bottoms with long underwear
  • beanie
  • scarf/face-mask

Cold-weather clothing was designed to be worn in layers and was compact.

I could, for example, wear a t-shirt, a long sleeve shirt, a down jacket, and an outer shell rain coat if it was frigid outdoors.

This outfit kept me warm in the coldest weather, could be combined and matched to suit various climes, and was much more compact and adaptable than a huge overcoat.

Electronics

Small, light, and compact electronics were prioritized once again, and I replaced several unwieldy charging cords with 3-inch equivalents.

Electronics I brought:

  • charger for laptop (Sony Vaio Z-Series)
  • charger for camera (Sony NEX-5)
  • camera for sports that is waterproof (Kodak Play Sport)
  • Kindle (Amazon)
  • flashlight in a pocket
  • universal adaptor for travel
  • 3′′ USB mini-cables for phones, Kindles, and Kodak cameras
  • External hard disk with a capacity of 1.5 TB
  • 8-gigabyte flash drive
  • iPhone is an Apple product.

Unusual Equipment

When it comes to being mobile on the road, I hope you’re starting to see a pattern. This motif continues in the miscellaneous gear:

  • water bottle with insulation
  • clothesline for travel
  • ear plugs with a sleep mask
  • slumber sack made of silk
  • tripod (tripod) (Gorillapod)
  • aviator sunglasses (Ray-Ban Foldable Wayfarers)
  • a pen (Inka Expandable)
  • a hand towel (PackTowl Ultralight XL)
  • notepad (Moleskine)
  • toiletries

That covers the essentials of what I brought with me in order to squeeze everything into a single backpack and be as mobile as possible (if you want even more detail, check out my gear list).

With mobility comes flexibility, and flexibility is what I found most enjoyable, which is why it’s my top piece of travel advise.

The Advantages of Mobility Packing

It enabled me to plan on the fly, stretch my budget, and avoid airport hassles:

On the Go Planning

I appreciate preparing as much as the next A-Type personality, but it may be taxing while traveling long-term, and planning isn’t always feasible owing to poor/non-existent internet connections.

 

You can be mobile and adaptable with a little bag, allowing you to plan on the run.

Because I wasn’t held down by enormous quantities of baggage, several of my best trips and tales came spontaneously and organically:

In Petra, Jordan I met a merchant selling souvenirs and she invited me stay with her and her family in their 2000-year-old cave. I ate dinner, played card games, chatted over candle light, and slept there. I was carrying everything I owned with me, so I didn't have to worry about all of my luggage back at the hostel being safe when I didn't come back.

Jordan’s Petra I met a woman selling trinkets who asked me to stay in her family’s 2000-year-old cave with her. I slept there after eating supper, playing card games, and chatting by candlelight. I was carrying everything I had, so I didn’t have to worry about my belongings being safe at the hostel if I didn’t return.

Sydney Australia Skyline at night.

During a very dramatic weekend in Sydney, Australia, I happened to be there. I was free to go around all day, visiting the city and trying to see if any of the 15 hostels had any openings. There was no such luck. But, while out exploring, I stumbled upon an amazing roof deck, so I purchased a box of goon (boxed wine), drank it, then blew up the wine bladder and used it as a cushion while sleeping on the roof deck. To say the least, the vista was breathtaking.

Finally, on my trip from Brussels to Bruges, I stopped at Ghent for the day. I was able to rent a locker at the railway station and spend the day seeing Ghent before taking the evening train to Bruges since my suitcase was small enough.

Affordability

When you’re traveling on a budget, transportation will most likely be your biggest expense (39 percent of my spending for the year went to it). Saving money on transportation in any form means more money for amusement and adventures.

Taking public transit, such as subways and buses, is one of the finest methods to save money. However, dragging huge baggage about and keeping track of it on a crowded bus/subway is not enjoyable, and it’s often impossible in major cities’ subways.

Instead of spending additional money on a taxi with enough capacity for all of your belongings, you can negotiate busy transportation zones with minimum baggage.

Airports are a breeze to navigate.

In instances when airport travel would ordinarily be the most stressful aspect, packing for mobility makes it a snap. Among the advantages are:

  • You don’t have to check bags, so it’s simple to check in and you won’t have to wait in line at baggage claim when you arrive.
  • You may change flights at the last minute without worrying about your bags.
  • You don’t have to be concerned about airlines misplacing your belongings.
  • No money was squandered on checked-bag fees.

The next step is to pack your luggage as effectively as possible once you’ve pared down your packing list to the necessities.

Efficiency

Of course, everyone has their own preferences, but this is my setup after roughly 6 months on the road and all the bugs had been sorted out.

The key to packing effectively is organization and compartmentalization.

 

You want items you use often to be easily accessible, and it’s wonderful to be able to swiftly repack everything without having to refold clothing or hunt for each pair of socks when you need anything at the bottom of the pack.

The organizing skills of my backpack (the Tom Bihn 26L Smart Alec) are one of the reasons I picked it.

It features O-rings inside the pack that you can connect smaller organization pouches to, allowing you to remove the smaller pouches out of the way while still keeping them linked to the pack so you can retrieve what you need at the bottom.

When you’re in a rush, this compartmentalization is fantastic for avoiding forgetting stuff. Imagine attempting to catch the first bus out of town after waking up late and having to rapidly pack your belongings in a dark hostel dorm room while everyone else is still asleep (may or may not be a true story).

Within the backpack, I have the following additional pouches/bags:

  • bag for toiletries
  • bag for chargers and cords
  • external hard drive cushioned pouch
  • vertical laptop bag with padding
  • a storage cube for cold-weather clothing
  • bag to store clean clothes
  • bag for soiled clothes

When I needed anything (like my camera or a diary with instructions written in it) when I was wandering about with the pack on, I had a dilemma.

I’d have to remove the pack, retrieve what I wanted, use it, put it back in the pack, and then reassemble the pack.

I was in Australia for about a month when I discovered I wasn’t adhering to my $50/day budget, so I decided to start cooking more of my own food, but I needed a means to transport the meals.

I ended up purchasing a 99-cent reusable shopping bag, which was possibly the most helpful item I have ever purchased for a $1.

The bag survived the remainder of the trip, and I now carry it with me anytime I travel.

I use it to contain meals/groceries, my camera, diary, maps, or even my long-sleeve shirt since it’s handled and has an open top; it also avoids the need to take off my backpack to obtain things while I’m out and about.

Inconspicuousness

Finally, I wanted to fit in as much as possible with whichever society I was in:

  • I chose unobtrusive colors (browns, blacks, and grays) to avoid standing out and being mistaken for someone carrying valuables.
  • Instead of storing instructions on my iPhone, I’d write them down in my diary by hand so that I wouldn’t have to whip out my phone to figure out where I needed to go if I was in a dangerous place.
  • Instead of carrying my camera in a camera case or around my neck, I’d carry it in an opaque shopping bag.

When you see a young person with a large bright backpack, you can pretty much assume they’re carrying something valuable in the form of technology (phone, camera, computer, tablet, etc.) or, at the very least, cash, credit cards, and a foreign passport, which can be a dangerous signal when you’re in a larger city known for theft.

 

I found that having a tiny backpack helped me blend in, and since it was so little, I didn’t even stand out as a hiker.

Final Thoughts

As I said at the outset, electing to live out of a 26-liter backpack for a year was one of the smartest choices I’ve ever made.

Not only did it provide me the freedom and flexibility to go on some great and organic excursions that I would have missed if I had been tied down by annoying baggage, but it was also an incredible lesson in being satisfied with what I already had and learning about what matters most to me.

It also taught me to be very conscious of my intake.

Any purchase I made would require me to carry it for the remainder of my trip. Was it all worthwhile? Was it truly necessary, or would the money be better spent on something new?

When I returned to the US, where I am continuously encouraged to purchase and spend, living for a year out of a bag and never feeling like I was lacking anything really brought things into perspective.

I realized that the more things I had, the more freedom I gave up in order to preserve and maintain it; sometimes it’s worth it, and sometimes it’s not, and this year-long journey out of a 26-liter bag really helped put it in perspective.

My purpose in writing this essay was to provide you with some advice from someone who has done it before, as well as what worked for me. Obviously, everyone is different, and everyone travels with different beliefs and objectives, but I hope that the next time you pack for a vacation, you try to be satisfied with less and explore what type of experiences you can have with the more flexibility.

My purpose in writing this essay was to provide you with some advice from someone who has done it before, as well as what worked for me. Obviously, everyone is different, and everyone travels with different beliefs and objectives, but I hope that the next time you pack for a vacation, you try to be satisfied with less and explore what type of experiences you can have with the more flexibility.

The Quest for Awesome was founded by David Danzeiser with the objective of connecting with individuals who are pursuing their own vision of excellence in whatever they do. He’s motivated to become location independent so he may continue traveling full-time, and he’d want to meet similar-minded individuals along the road to learn from and assist in any way he can.

 

 

Backpacking is a great way to travel the world. It’s also a good way to save money and live like a local. Here are some tips for planning your backpacking trip. Reference: backpacking the world checklist.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I travel the world with just a backpack?

A: This is a difficult question as travel can be tough. Youre always going to need something that you dont carry with you which means either renting or buying it before leaving the country.

Are backpacks good for travel?

A: They are not recommended for travel.

Can you live out of a backpack?

A: I do not know.

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