12 For 12: Items I Should NOT Have Brought On Remote Year

In which the author realizes Justin Timberlake lied about the virtues of suits and/or ties.

Remotely Interesting: 12 For 12 is a series of a dozen articles covering everything I learned during my time in Remote Year. All educational content is entirely accidental.

When I was accepted into Remote Year, I handled this life-changing news in the usual way: I procrastinated until I had a month left, and then based all of my packing on the first article I found on Google.

Due to a lack of experience and time, I ended up making a ton of rookie mistakes. I overpacked, I packed the wrong things, I bought a poop shovel. Learn from my mistakes. Do better than I did.

1. A Goddamn Electric Hot Pot

I was being optimistic here. I was picturing a world where I ate soups and ramen dishes of my own creation on the daily, and I was hailed as a genius and visionary by my newfound friends around the world.

Turns out the world has kettles. Pots, too. Lots of them.

So I was left with a $30 appliance that took up a non-trivial amount of space in my luggage. I never used it once in 6 months, and ended up shipping it back home to Canada in a Box Of Shame. Lesson learned.

2. A Gigantic Microfiber Travel Towel

Travel towels are hot garbage, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar or was raised in a full-service car wash.

So naturally, I brought a giant one with me on Remote Year.

Absorbent pieces of fabric are available outside of North America, and they were actual towels, not glorified full-body laptop screen wipes.In a full year, I used mine twice all year before donating it in Asia.

3. A Three-Piece Suit

When packing, I needed to prepare for all climates. South America in the late fall and winter, followed by Europe in the summer and fall, and Asia in the winter. I needed a versatile collection of clothing options.

“But,” I thought to myself, “What if I befriend some sort of Duke or Baron and am invited to a formal gala? What if I’m invited to a wedding? Better bring a suit.”

While I was invited to a Malaysian wedding (and had a great time), I never wore the full suit. When you’re playing tourist for a year, the world generally gives you a free pass in the fashion department. Don’t overdo it by bringing your entire wardrobe with you.

4. Dress Shoes

What, was I going to wear my running shoes with a three-piece suit? Come on.

5. A Suction Cup Clothesline

I don’t want to say I couldn’t figure out how to use a clothesline. But I did throw this away in a fit of shame and frustration, so you be the judge. Travel means never having to say you’re sorry for covering an entire dinner table with your boxer-briefs.

Is it possible to disappoint an inanimate object? Yes!

6. A Podcast Microphone

On top of learning to live on my own and travel the world, I also decided that this would be the year that I grew a beard, got super ripped, learned how to DJ, and created my own podcast.

The real moral of this list is: “Set realistic expectations for your year. Also, you’re not Drake.”

So I bought the (excellent) Blue Snowball microphone and used it a handful of times for Skype calls. In some alternate universe, I got my shit together and created “Open Mike,” the world’s best comedy-travel podcast with a Canadian twist.

7. A Pop Filter For My Podcast Microphone

Because when you have a hypothetical podcast, you need to make sure your audio levels are clean. I am a sentient pile of unfulfilled side projects.

8. A Knife, Fork, And Spoon Set

As we all know, the world at large is suffering through a tragic utensil shortage. Restaurants and hotels praised me for having the foresight to bring my own pair to every meal. I’m a folk hero.

9. An Absurd Amount Of Layering Options

Why did I buy so many thick hoodies?

Why do I own more coats than I did in Canada?

I dress myself like a toddler who aspires to be a lumberjack one day. Instead of paring down for the sake of travelling light, I decided to never wear less than two shirts at a time.

10. A Sewing Kit

I. Can’t. Sew.

11. Three Separate Leatherbound Journals

I have never kept a diary or a journal, but I believed this would be the year where all of my wittiest thoughts and most profound asides were enshrined forever in my trusty Moleskine(s).

FOR SALE: Three (3) gently-used pocket journals. Price negotiable.

12. A Jump Rope

My main fitness goal for Remote Year was to achieve any level of fitness. Taking a cue from my days in the world of boxing, I bought a high-quality jump rope in my first week.

Sorry, a speed rope.

One cardio-induced-physical-breakdown-on-an-Argentinian-patio later, and I’ve mainly been using it to tie clothes together on travel days.

The Takeaway:

Before packing for Remote Year, be extremely, almost unflinchingly (and possibly cruelly) honest with yourself about what you can achieve this year.

Pack for who you are right now, and if things change, you can upgrade.

I packed for the best version of my future self, and it left me with a ton of baggage. If I could do it all again, I’d have brought half as much and been twice as happy for it.