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Lugging our backpacks to yet another bus station

Packing for 365 days of travel around the world wasn’t easy. We were forced to anticipate our potential needs for an entire year and pack appropriately for the varying climates, seasons and activities we had planned. The fact that we had to carry everything we needed for the year, on our backs added yet another layer of complication.

We’d already decided that we wanted to travel light, so to minimize our loads, we followed the sun as much as possible. By reworking our itinerary over and over, we managed to avoid winter completely, but would still have to face spring, fall and summer.

My Osprey with it’s original contents

After a lot of deliberation and some frantic last minute shopping on the Texas leg of our trip, I ended up with a 46 litre carry-on size Osprey backpack. The Bear was satisfied with an 85 litre pack (15 litres in the form of a detachable daypack). The full details of these can be found here.

So, how did we do?

Here’s what we originally packed, and our thoughts about their usefulness on this trip so far.

Six Months Into the Trip: My Updated Pack

The following items were in my original pack, and I’ll be keeping them with me for the duration of our travels.

  • 1 Columbia fully waterproof and breathable rain coat
  • 1 pair of Lululemon Stride long pants
  • 1 pair of capris
  • 1 long sleeve zip up hoodie
  • 1 knit cardigan
  • 1 stretchy black pencil skirt
  • 1 pair of flip flops (still surviving, but may have to buy a new pair soon)
  • 1 pair of New Balance Minimus Trail running shoes (lightweight and comfortable)
  • 2 weeks worth of underwear (the right amount)
  • 3 tank tops
  • 5 sports bras (maybe a few too many, but they take up very little space and I’d rather have extra than not enough)
  • 2 pairs of socks (I started out with 4, but now that the Inca Trail trek is complete, 4 is too many)
  • 1 bikini
  • 1 pashmina scarf (soooo useful)

The following items were in my original pack, but I’ll be offloading them or leaving them behind as soon as I can.

  • 2 pairs of long pants that convert to capris (too cold for fall, too heavy for summer – should’ve brought shorts)
  • 1 maxi dress (never worn)
  • 2 leggings/thermals (never worn)
  • 2 long sleeve technical shirts (used during the Inca Trail and now taking up space)
  • 6 t-shirts (the original t–shirts that I brought from North America proved to be too heavy for the European humid summer).

New purchases

  • 4 lightweight t-shirts (all new and made for the hot, humid Mediterranean climate).
  • 2 pairs of linen shorts (also perfect for the hot climate)
  • 1 sarong for the beach (purchased in Brazil)
  • shoXmaxi Portable speaker (purchased in Cape Town and good for the beach. Tiny and perfect for traveling but gets incredibly loud for it’s size.)

Our HP Netbook and new shoXmaxi


Some of the items we brought with us have been super-practical and useful, especially the $300 HP Netbook we bought last minute. We use it for blogging, storing our photos, researching hotels, paying bills at home and even as a telephone, with Skype. With the availability of free wi-fi basically everywhere, it’s made planning out our trip on the fly, extraordinarily easy.

And though I am solidly in the Apple camp when it comes to computers, I have to tip my hat to the HP. It’s proven to be much more useful than our iPad for traveling, not to mention less envy-inducing. People all over the world really lust for that thing…kind of an uncomfortable feeling.

Technology we’re using consistently

  • 1 Sony NEX-5 camera (lightweight and awesome for traveling)
  • 1 16mm pancake lens (perfect for walking around everyday)
  • 1 HP Netbook
  • 1 Kindle (a travel necessity as far as I’m concerned)
  • 1 iPad with Zaggfolio keyboard and case (good, cuz the Bear and I don’t like to share! plus useful when the HP is unable to connect to wifi – vice versa for the iPad)
  • 1 Samsung 500GB external drive (used for backing up our photos)
  • 1 iPhone (Google Maps is just amazing and it’s a great secondary camera)
  • 1 worldwide adaptor (duh) we got one that also has a USB charger port, and we use it all the time

Our ‘useless’ Steripen Traveler Mini

Items that seemed good in theory, but aren’t in practice

  • 1 55-210 telephoto lens (useful during our safari and not really anywhere else. Plus it’s heavy. Will be offloading and trading it for my 18-55mm lens when we meet my parents in Italy next month).
  • 1 Canon point and shoot camera (brought for taking pictures in ‘dangerous’ locations, but we never use it. We look around and sneak a quick pic with the iPhone if we feel like we’re in a dodgy area).
  • 1 Steripen Traveler Mini UV water purification system (totally awesome in theory, and it really works, but we just don’t use it, though we have run into other travelers that do).

Stolen Items

Never underestimate the lust for Apple products around the world. I left my absolutely ancient iTouch on my seat for 5 minutes on a long distance Andesmar bus ride between Salta and Iguazu Falls in Argentina, and it was promptly stolen. Careless of me, but when there’s only 6 seats in the cabin, and it’s empty save for 1 gentleman and the staff person, you’d think the thief wouldn’t have had the nerve. Clearly I was wrong. 🙁

The worst part is that I lost all the music I’d carefully loaded onto my iPod for my year of travels. Double 🙁

Collecting dental floss around the world.

Packing List Tips

  1. Bring enough dental floss: Okay, this seems ridiculous. But I cannot explain how difficult it is to get good dental floss in other countries. Not to mention that it’s super expensive. As much as $10 expensive!! We couldn’t fathom paying $10 for dental floss, so we asked the Bear’s sister to bring us some from Canada. We were lucky to have a relative meeting us on the road, but if you don’t, bring enough. It’s lightweight, and doesn’t take up any space, so why not?
  2. Buy clothing in the region you’re visiting: I don’t have scientific proof of this, but in my experience, a t-shirt from North America is not the same as a t-shirt from Turkey. The fabrics are lighter, more breathable and adapted for the 44 degree summer temperatures. I was really suffering in my made for North America t-shirts, but in my made for the Mediterranean shirts, I feel like I can breathe.
  3. Don’t get your iPod stolen: I know. No brainer, but I say this not for obvious reasons, but because the cost of replacing it, is much higher outside of North America. In a more general sense, make sure you’re all geared up with technology before you leave the US or Canada. You won’t find a better price in another country.
  4. If you happen to be visiting Cape Town, South Africa or Istanbul, Turkey on your travels, shop there. Shopping was confusing and frustrating in most of the countries we visited, but these 2 cities offered the most “North American” shopping experiences. I’m all for visiting the local markets as a traveling experience, but when you really NEED to buy something, walking into a familiar mall-type environment is really helpful.


Overall, I think we did a pretty good job with our packing. My pack is relatively light and I’ve still got some space available. I haven’t really faced a day where I have nothing clean to wear. I suffered a little this summer because of my lack of foresight in packing shorts, but this was easily remedied.

Running out of dental floss a month ago? Not so easily…


  • September 13, 2017

    Thank you so much for pulling all this information together. I am always looking for innovative ways to pack more efficiently and also for frugally on my trips. And I must say I am constantly learning tips from posts like yours

    • September 19, 2017

      Honestly, ever since that trip I try to travel only with a carry-on as much as possible. It makes life SO much easier. Granted, its a bit difficult to do that with a baby, but still, we try to pack as light as possible.

  • January 18, 2015

    Thanks so much, your insights on what you packed and actually used are super useful!

    • January 18, 2015

      I’m glad it was helpful to you! 🙂 Are you traveling long-term?

      • January 18, 2015

        no just whenever i can get time off work really but i’ve been playing with the idea of taking six months off for a few years now and i’ve been wondering how i could condense all my stuff…

        • January 20, 2015

          If you’re able to swing it, I think long term travel is really life-changing. It really showed me how little “stuff” I actually “need” to live in the world. A great lesson in minimalism.

  • October 2, 2014

    its so hard to believe it. any plan for coming raja ampat papua indonesia?.

    • October 2, 2014

      Hi Nandito! 🙂 Well, the trip was super fantastic and we were so lucky to be able to travel like that! Haven’t been to Papua yet, but would definitely love to visit there one day. Have you been? Is it difficult to get there?

      • October 14, 2014

        hi Shel.. not yet. i think not. but the problem ticket so expensive :D.


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