Living Lavish Out of a Backpack
I’m in London right now, was in Amsterdam a few days ago, and Paris just before that… but I had just moved to Panama.
I had about 10 minutes notice before I decided to take a flight from Panama to Paris, but I managed to take everything I own with me on the flight… and I didn’t have to check a bag. In fact, I didn’t even have to use the overhead bins!
I can now completely uproot my life and fit everything I need in the economy class seat in front of me.
It took a while to get to this point, and by no means was it easy for me to get here, but it feels like second nature to me now, and I feel like the age of globalism is racing towards us faster than imaginable as airline prices go down and more people become “global citizens”.
I feel like becoming a global citizen is no longer something that you have to be afraid of as there come to be more and more “digital nomad” communities popping up all over the world. I feel like this is an unstoppable wave that will break borders and I would highly recommend, to those who want to explore the world, to consider learning how to live well out of a backpack because now is a great time to get started.
I only got started like 4 years ago, and I now have hundreds of friends spread out across many cities all over the world. It was definitely super lonely at times, but I think it’s important to feel comfortable in loneliness.
As some people have heard of my recent travels, they’ve been asking me about my “digital nomad stack”, so I’ve been inspired to write a blog post about how I’ve systemized a way of living that I like to call the “distributed lifestyle” — a lifestyle of living globally without compromising many of the benefits of staying in one place.
My solution is not going to be your solution, but hopefully by sharing what things I own and why, I can convey my ways of thinking with people to help others to become global citizens as well.
I don’t really know my audience — and honestly sharing my current setup is admittedly not directly applicable to most people — unless you have zero responsibilities and you’re trying to build a globally distributed business. That said, I know of like 2 or 3 people who will get a fair amount of value from this so I guess I’ll tailor it to them: people who are just entering the workforce or have been working for a couple years and don’t like being in the Matrix.
I want to start off by saying that if you’re in a position with very little money saved up, the harsh reality is that you’re going to have to start with working your ass off to save up like 5–10k. You’re also going to have to work your ass off to get some real digital skills. I spent 14 hours a day, working countless 100-hour weeks to build up my own skillset quickly. I wouldn’t advise doing that for most people, and maybe you can do it more efficiently than I did, but I’m just stating that as an example of what it can take.
I would also recommend figuring out what “success” looks like to you — and work for the people you view to be “successful” for free or very little pay if you have to.
A rule of thumb I’d give is that you should strive to become your own version of the people you admire, and the best way of doing this is to surround yourself with either people you admire or colleagues who admire the same people/qualities as you. The rest should just be people you really like.
Also, give far more than you take, but know when to take or you won’t be respected.
View my full backpack list here: https://akagi.co/things (will be updated over time)
Living out of a backpack means that your backpack is super important.
Everyone has different needs. For me, I like to stay in places for at least 3 months at a time so I need a bag that can carry a week’s worth of stuff and can also be used as a daily pack.
I searched through reddit a few years ago and I’m extremely happy with the bag I found — the 5.11 Rush 24(Liter) bag.
This bag is great for not only traveling, but can also be used for camping and as a roaming office for daily use. When I arrive at a new destination, I just take out my clothes and carry it around with me everywhere I go.
Anyone who’s known me for the past couple of years knows that I wear the same thing ever day: a plain black v-neck shirt and black dress pants.
“Alex, does this mean you’re an anime character?”
Warmth & Being Fancy
The setup I’ve been using for the past few years has been: a nice sweater, a light hoodie, and a soft-shell jacket. I recently also got a light and super compact down jacket because London is cold as balls.
If you layer them together, you can comfortably withstand freezing temperatures. That said, if you take my advice on this setup and freeze to death, I assume no responsibility. This setup will not work in NY or Boston in winter, so just buy a coat once you’re there, and maybe leave it with a friend once you leave the city.
Also be sure to wear all of your bulky stuff when boarding flights.
The nice sweater was a great hack that doubles up for semi-formal events so I don’t have to have a collared shirt, and because I wear dress pants in general I can go to fancy business stuff without thinking about what to wear. Oh, and I like to wear dress pants in general because they’re lighter than jeans. I recently took it a step further and got some rather expensive Lulu Lemon ABC pants, which are like dress-pants but made of yoga-pant material, and I love them. Before that I wore ~$25 pants from target.
Shoes are arguably the least space-compact thing in existence. Only take one pair with you and get over it. I also have a pair of sandals but even sandals are a bit too clunky and I would get rid of them if I were savage enough to walk around hostels barefoot. I also use those sandals for hiking… but that’s a different story.
I do not have a solution for you if you want another pair of shoes with you while traveling, other than to make it your “personal item” when flying, but I don’t do that because then I can’t brag about fitting my backpack underneath the economy seat in front of me and this entire post would become a lie.
Depending on how likable you are, finding couches to crash on is a great way to establish yourself in a city early on because you get to stay with locals.
Hacker houses are great if you’re only in a location for a few months. I’ve lived in 3–4 hacker houses in the last 4 years and they are a fantastic way of meeting others in a similar situation as you. 10/10 would recommend — and living in a bunkbed as an adult is actually kinda fun.
If you’re staying somewhere for 6 months to a year, I would highly highly recommend living in a communal house. Those things are dope and they’re popping up everywhere. A communal house is pretty similar to a hacker house, and there are no formal distinctions, but they typically have 1–2 people per room and longer-staying tenants, which means you develop deeper friendships and really get to know people. I would actually highly recommend any young professional moving to a new city to see if there are any living arrangements like these because they’re a phenomenal way to make tons of new friends in a city.
I recently lived in a 70-person house in San Francisco and it was incredibly fulfilling. One week feels like a month and you’re constantly doing stuff. You experience emotional ups and downs but it’s worth it in the end. I know of many great communities in the SF Bay Area and NYC so let me know if you want any intros or recommendations.
Several months ago, I took a deep dive into the things I own. Even though I claim to live out of a backpack, I still have tons of stuff lying around in a bunch of places. Like, I still claim ownership over my lego sets back in Indy…
Here’s the thing about sentimental things — they’re hunks of stuff that you don’t actually need but your feelings like them and you see them as irreplaceable.
What I typically do with things of sentimental value is either stash them at my parents’ house or with my friends in whatever city I was in. If you don’t have the luxury of parents or friends, then get a storage garage in your hometown? Or maybe dig a hole somewhere secluded and make a treasure map?
Your objective is to simply have the peace of mind knowing that you can get back to it again someday once you have your shit together. Ooooh how about this: “You shouldn’t have shit if you don’t have your shit together.”
The “distributed lifestyle” is just a fancy term I like to use because I’m a huge cryptocurrency fanboy.
You didn’t ask, but all you really need to know as of right now is that cryptocurrencies will be the money of the future as more and more people embrace globalism.
What I really mean by “distributed lifestyle” is that I have friends all around the world who I can rely on for various things, and through my own reputation, they can also rely on each other for various things. This is not a novel concept.
The key to making this work is to 1) be socially aware, and 2) give more than you take anywhere you go, and “giving” doesn’t have to be financial. It can just take the form of building social capital or maybe even an IOU of “let me know whenever you’re in X-City and you’re absolutely welcome to crash at mine!”
One of my favorite gifts left by a friend who crashed at our place in NYC was a massive handle of Grey Goose on our table with a note that said “Thanks for letting me stay”. That’s a FAR better parting gift than just $$$.
Wow it was really fun writing this!
I’ve had these thoughts on my mind recently and I’m really happy to have gotten them out there and I hope a couple of people get value out of this.
It took me a while to feel comfortable with this lifestyle, and I seriously mean it when I say it’s fucking difficult. That said, human beings are super resilient and it’s also fun and fulfilling during the struggle so I say it’s worth it. I’m probably an outlier on the ambition spectrum so this really isn’t applicable advice to most people, but maybe something I mentioned vibes with you somehow, and that’s really all that matters.
Anyway, thanks for reading my ranting Medium article and let me know if you have any questions!
Assuming I’m not a bad programmer, you should be able to shoot me an email by filling out the contact form I just built out at https://akagi.co