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As a long-term traveler, your budget, timeline, and travel goals are light years away from those of a casual vacationer.
You’re not trying to see 11 countries in as many days, spend an exorbitant amount of money in a short amount of time, or return home exhausted, not quite knowing where you’ve been or what you’ve seen.
No, as a long-term traveler, you need to focus on sustainability and financial choices that will let continue your travel lifestyle.
So why are you still packing like someone doing a package tour?
Here are my Top 10 Packing Tips,
… for digital nomads, aspiring expats, and other long-term travelers unsure of when – or if – they’re ever coming back.
#10. Observe the Rule of Two’s
You might be tempted to believe that since you’re traveling long-term, you should bring a lot more stuff than a short-term traveler.
In fact, the opposite is true.
Limit yourself to no more than two of every item you pack. For example, bring two pairs of trousers, two long sleeve shirts, two jackets, two t-shirts, and so on (no, this rule does not apply to underwear!).
Trust us – any more is overkill and a burden in your backpack.
- You can always buy it there
Why do we need packing tips in the first place? Because many travelers are under the mistaken impression that in other parts of the world, nothing is available for purchase.
As long as you’re traveling to a destination where other human beings can be found, you’ll be able to buy pretty much anything once you arrive (and quite frequently for a lot cheaper than you got it back home).
- …..unless you can’t buy it there
Ok, so there are certain things you may want to pack if you’ll be traveling to so-called “developing” countries.
Things like toiletries (moisturizer, body wash, makeup) aren’t always up to par, especially in Asia where nearly everything is infused with “whitening” power (AKA bleach!).
If your skin is sensitive, bring your own stuff from home and make a plan to have it shipped to your wherever you end up.
Other rarities in non-Western nations: high-quality running shoes, dairy products, certain prescription medications, and just about anything related to technology.
- Take stock of your technology
Technology is another area where you’ll want to stock up and secure items before your journey begins.
If you’ll be traveling in Western Europe or North America, you’ll have nothing to worry about. If you’ll be traveling in parts of Asia, Africa, or South America, take care to purchase and pack hardware that will be hard to come by elsewhere: iPhone chargers, ear buds, laptop batteries, etc.
Yes, all of these things are available for purchase abroad, but you’re certain to run into low-quality knock-off’s that will break almost instantaneously.
If you only follow one of these packing tips, make it this one. There’s no need to spend $250 on a new backpack if you’ll only be gone a month.
If, however, you’re in it for the long-haul, investing in a quality REI backpack will pay for itself time and time again.
- Roll, don’t fold
Save space in your backpack by rolling your clothes instead of folding them. Be sure to do this for small items as well (hand towels, underwear, even purses/handbags).
- Bring cash and credit cards
Having money and the ability to get more money is much more important than packing the perfect bag.
Make sure you have cash, as Cash is King in most other parts of the world. Keep some on your person and hide more in the secret compartments of your backpack.
Store your credit cards in different places as well. That way if you get robbed, you’ll have a backup card in the hotel, and if your hotel room gets broken into, you’ll have a backup card in your wallet.
- Don’t forget travel insurance
Just like having an extra credit card for emergencies, you need to “pack” some travel insurance to cover you on your trip.
Even if your long-term travel involves a work abroad opportunity with insurance provided, you should still purchase some travel insurance to cover your initial journey.
- Pack a backup plan
The airline lost your luggage and the ATM just ate your credit card.
Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Give someone back home Power of Attorney over your financial accounts. In case of an emergency, they’ll be able to transfer you money quickly by accessing your bank account back home.
- Don’t be afraid to say “no”
”Should I take ______ with me?”
“What if I run out of ______?”
If you’re hemming and hawing about whether or not to pack a certain item, chances are you don’t need it.
Perform this simple test: would you get on the plane without your debit/credit card?
Of course not.
Every item you pack should be that essential to your survival.
And remember – you can (almost) always buy it once you get there!
So if you are planning a one-way ticket, we can pack for that!
Some questions for you:
What are your essential packing tips for long-term travel?
Have you ever had to pack when you weren’t coming back? What did you bring? What did you leave behind?