How I Travel the World With Only a Carry On
This is going to be a lengthy post where I unpack and share all my belongings, why I have each item and a few tips that may help you travel and pack lighter.
I’ll break this post up into three parts:
Some people may consider me a minimalist however I’ve never been one to care for or let labels dictate my actions and behaviours. What I do is I buy and keep only things that I feel are essential and that I’d actually use.
I’ve been travelling frequently since 2012. In 2017 I left home (Australia) to live a nomadic lifestyle where I regularly travel to a new country to live every few months.
The first few times I travelled I would carry with me a huge 20kg suitcase filled with clothes and dozens of items that I took along “just-in-case”.
You know that feeling right? Before a trip you visualise what you may wear in different scenarios (a certain outfit and accessories for a date, a certain outfit for a casual night out, another set for cooler days, hotter days, in case it rains, in case you go to this place or that place etc) only to find that on your actual trip you barely care about what you wear and just want to be free and have fun — often wearing the same few interchanged outfits for most of the trip because it’s easier.
With each trip I realised there were so many things that I didn’t end up using and with every subsequent trip I would intentionally bring less and less things.
Inside the little suitcase in the picture above is literally everything I own (plus my bamboo flute in its case at the bottom there) and it weights approximately 8 kg. Regardless of where I travel and live in the world whether it’s hot or cold, I have all the essentials that I need.
I’m not a fan of waiting in line to collect my luggage after a flight. I prefer to have all my belongings with me on the plane (so I don’t have to worry about stuff getting lost in transit) and I can get out of the airport much faster which is what appealed to me about travelling with only a carry on.
- My bamboo flute
- Laptop and most electronics go inside here (more details later)
- All my clothes fit in here (more details later)
- Toileties and miscellaneous items (more details later)
- Important documents, cards and cash go in here (more details later)
In the past I had done backpack travelling and used the Osprey Farpoint 40 however I quickly realised after a few trips that backpacks weren’t for me.
Even if you’re only carrying 7kg or under, your shoulders still get quite tired (even with the hip belt) from standing in long queues at the airport, walking around to find public transport etc. Because of this I’ve now switched over to the most lightweight yet durable suitcase I could find: the Samsonite 72 Hours
Knowing how to choose the right clothing will save you tons of space and weight.
Here’s the list of all the clothes I have:
- Slim Dungarees by Outlier — These pants are so comfy yet versatile. I’ve worn them on hiking trips, casual nights out, business meetings, formal events, while playing sports and more. They have a denim/dress style look, two way stretch making them stretchy and very comfortable, they stay dry in light rain as well as repel liquid spills (beer, coffee, water etc) and they dry super quickly making them the perfect travel pants that look great.
- New Way Shorts by Outlier — The reason why I love these shorts is because they’re just so versatile and dry so quickly! One pair of shorts and I can go swimming in them, gym, hiking, anywhere really! They’re tailored like dress pants to look great and double as a swim trunk with water-ready details.
- 3x Merino Wool T-Shirts + 1 Singlet — Merino wool is currently my favourite fabric of choice because it dries quickly and wicks away moisture so you stay dry, has natural antibacterial properties so you don’t stink up, is breathable and keeps you cool during hot days and keeps you warm during cold days. I’m currently on the lookout for more eco-friendly fabrics which tick all these boxes but haven’t come across any as of yet.
- 3x Pairs of Merino Wool Socks — again because they’re merino wool, they stay fresh for longer and have many benefits (dries quickly, wicks away moisture, keeps heat in during cold days and keeps your feet cool during hot days, etc).
- Merino Wool Button-Down Shirt by Wool & Prince — Perfect for more formal events or when I want to wear something with the option of wearing long or short sleeves when the weather is unpredictable.
- Ultra Light Down Jacket — This jacket is AMAZING. I love how light and compact it is while still being super warm and that it can be packed down into a tiny bag not much bigger than my phone (Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge)
- Micro-fibre towel — Quick drying and lightweight.
- 5x Merino Wool underwear — Merino wool makes a huge difference especially on those long flights or train rides when you don’t get to move much. If you’ve been in those situations then you’ll understand how amazing it is to stay dry and fresh after hours of being in one spot. You’ll notice that I like all my stuff to be quick drying because if I’m moving around a lot, I like to be able to wash my clothes (sometimes in the sink if I have to move around frequently), let it hang and have it naturally air dry and ready to be packed away the very next morning.
- 2x Boxer Shorts — I wear these when I’m at home and they’re a handy backup in case I forget or don’t have the opportunity to wash my underwear in time (camping or going away for a week for example)
- Tilley LTM6 Crushable Hat — After spending a lot of time outdoors especially in places with a lot of sun I realised how important it was to have a good hat. At first I bought a regular hat but decided to give it away because when I would pack it away in my bag, it would be all wrinkly, wouldn’t hold it’s shape and looked awkward when I took it out — that’s how I found out about crushable hats and am beyond satisfied with this one for the ultimate sun protection.
- Wool Beanie — When I go into colder climates, it’s essential to have a beanie to keep the heat in my head (your head is where the most heat escapes) and my ears warm.
- Thermal top and pants — Instead of going with thick layered clothing that’s heavy and bulky, I prefer the layering method of keeping warm. Wearing these thermals and layering other clothes on top along with my Ultra Light Down jacket is enough to keep me warm in most colder places. I camped out overnight in the Himalayas and this was more than enough to keep me warm and happy.
13. Warriors Sandals by Shamma Sandals — Super lightweight and barefoot. I’m a huge barefoot style footwear enthusiast although I won’t go into details about it here. If you’ve ever had back pain, care about your posture and don’t want to develop bunions (deformed toes) research into the benefits of barefoot style footwear.
14. Body Measuring Tape — I use this as a portable ruler and it has come in handy so many times when I needed to measure the size of a bed to buy bed sheets and to measure a variety of other things before I needed to buy them.
You’ll notice in the picture of my clothes that there’s a certain colour pallete going on — they’re all basic neutral colours. This makes them really easy to interchange with each other to make a variety of different outfits.
The basic neutral colours are grey, navy, black, white, khaki, brown. Different shades of these colours can also work well and be versatile.
The two images below will help you see the power of having an interchangeable wardrobe (because sometimes less is more):
- NEXSTAND — Since all of my work is online, I need a portable work station that’s also ergonomic so I’m not constantly straining my neck looking down at my laptop. The NEXSTAND raises the laptop up so you can look at your screen in a more posture friendly way.
2. Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon — in the past my laptop was the heaviest part of my gear so when it was time to upgrade I did a lot of research for what would serve me best and chose this since it was lightweight, durable and had the right specs for everything I needed to get work done.
3. Logitech K810 Bluetooth Keyboard — I previously had the Arteck HB030B bluetooth keyboard but found the keys too close together and flimsy (typing on it felt really awkward), so when the space bar broke, it was time to find something that would provide a more satisfying typing experience, had a backlight (if I needed to use it in the dark — such as watching Netflix at night =D) and was also lightweight that could be charged via a USB port (no batteries — yay!)
4. Laptop charging cable
5. Logitech M235 Wireless Mouse — lightweight, sturdy and long lasting battery so it was a perfect and cheap choice for me.
6. Skross Universal Power Adaptor — Allows you to charge your electronic devices anywhere in the world. The one I got features dual USB ports as well.
7. Tronsmart 10400mAh USB-C Power Bank — Very handy for long flights or trips where you won’t have access to power to charge your electronic devices. I’ve used it plenty of times to charge my phones and kindle on long trips. If your phone has fast charging like mine then you need a Power Bank that supports fast charging otherwise regular power banks will charge very slowly.
8. USB Charging Cables
9. Double plug adaptor — with this I can plug up to two electronic powered devices to my Skross Universal Power Adaptor to charge. Since my universal power adaptor has dual USB ports, two power plugs is enough for my devices. Those who need more should get a power strip to plug into their universal power adaptor.
10. Phone Power Adapter — to charge my phone (fast charge).
11. Spare Smart Phone — this is my backup phone in case my main phone breaks or gets stolen. When I’m out riding on a motorbike in some countries, I have a phone mount that holds my phone and use my backup phone for navigation so I don’t risk my main phone potentially getting damaged if it accidentally falls out.
12. In-Ear Headphones
13. Ledger Nano S — for storing my crypto investments
14. Kindle — I enjoy reading every once in a while and having the Kindle is handy so I don’t need to carry around physical books.
- Harbinger Gym Gloves — where ever I go I like to take care of my fitness and health with a nice gym routine. I don’t like having blistered hands so these are handy.
- Collapsible Water Bottle by Platypus — I care about the environment and want to do my part in less plastic usage so whenever possible I refill my own water bottle. It’s great that it’s collapsible and can be rolled up for efficient space storage in my bag.
- Rubix Cube — this is the only item I keep that is not an essential. Many years ago after thinking it was impossible to solve, I dedicated some time to learning how to solve the Rubix cube by heart. I carry this with me as a reminder that I can achieve anything I set my mind to. It’s also a fun brain exercise every once in a while.
- Memory Foam Travel Pillow — helps provide a little extra comfort with getting some sleep on long flights. I’ve found myself rarely sleeping on flights lately and instead just planning movie marathons and catching up on sleep when I land so I may get rid of this in the future.
- Bamboo Flute (Bansuri) — some people like to buy material gifts as souvenirs to remember a place by. I like to gain skills and experiences that stick with me for life. The Bansuri has become a tool for me to express my creativity and carries along with it beautiful memories from my time in India.
- Packable Daypack by Osprey — YES that is a backpack! When not in use it folds down to a tiny pack the size of my palm and weighs only 85 grams. It’s perfect for when I need to do some grocery shopping, have a day trip or to carry a jacket and some spare things around with me for short trips.
7. Spare cash — sometimes you run into situations where you can’t find an ATM but there are currency exchanges around. It’s always helpful to have some spare cash available to exchange.
9. International Drivers Permit — if you’re planning on driving while overseas, make sure you have an International Drivers Permit which allows for your drivers license back home to be valid in other countries.
11. Nail Clippers
12. Toiletries — toothbrush, toothpaste, tongue brush, floss
13. Pacsafe Citysafe CS75 Cross Body Bag — features RFID protection to protect your cards from being stolen, slash proof, and has special zips and locks to prevent theft. It provides me with peace of mind that my important belongings are safe when I’m out and about in crowded areas or cities that are known for pick pocketing. I also keep a pen in this bag at all times since you never know when you might need one.
14. TSA Approved Locks — to lock my suitcase and comes in handy if I go to hostels or places that provide a storage locker and requires you to have your own lock.
16. Portable washing line — I forgot to add this one in the photo. Good for hanging and drying clothes when you don’t have anywhere to hang them.
The 8 Out Of 10 Rule
I give all my possessions and before I decide to buy and keep anything a rating on a scale of 1–10. 10 being I’ll definitely use it regularly and 1 being I most likely won’t use it at all.
Anything that scores below an 8 then I don’t buy or keep. Some rules are meant to be broken, so if you find it tough, start with keeping things that get a score of 7 or above and if there are some things that hold sentimental value and you want to take along (like my Rubix cube) then go for it!
Do I Still Buy Stuff Anymore?
I definitely do buy items that I need, most of the times just temporarily. Over the years of travelling I’ve learned to emotionally detach myself from material objects so if I do buy something that I only need temporarily, I’ll perceive it in my mind as if I’m just renting that item and once I leave I can sell or donate it.
If I go to somewhere extremely cold for example and need a much thicker coat then I’ll buy one and at the end of my trip I’ll sell or donate it.
The money I save from not paying for extra flight check in luggage and other ways that I save money (you can read more about that here) easily covers these once in a while expenses.
I hope you’ve found this helpful and if you’ve got any tips of your own to travel lighter and more efficiently, leave them in the comments section below.