About once a week I get asked the question, how does one pack when you don’t know exactly where you’re going or how long you’ll be gone?
My method to packing wasn’t anything fancy, but I’m glad I took a few steps leading up to packing to make it easier. So far, I’m really happy with what we’ve got and how we’re operating, so I wanted to put together a few tidbits of information for you to save in case you take a trip by car like this yourself.
This trip didn’t exactly happen on a whim. We had time while we were still living in Chicago, before we even thought about packing, to go through a de-cluttering process. COVID helped a little with this. By spending a ton of time in our apartment over the last year, I routinely tried going through closets, drawers and shelves and get rid of items we didn’t use. I never spent a whole day on the task, but here and there, over the course of a few months, my mindset was less about acquiring and more about finding homes for items, donating to good causes, and/or recycling anything we didn’t love.
When it came time to think about packing, we had a two-part packing job. First, to pack for our trip, and second, to decide what and how we were going to store anything that was going to be left in Chicago. Since we were going to be traveling by car, we could get creative with the types of bags/containers to hold our stuff. Save for a couple suitcases, we used a lot of cloth, canvas, even trash bags to pack things for the car so that the bags themselves wouldn’t take up as much space and be easier to pack. All the other boxes/containers we had, I saved for the stuff that was going to stay in Chicago.
At first when I thought about what I’d need for months on the road, I considered clothes, toiletries, my computer … the things you pack for a vacation. But this wasn’t a “vacation” per se, so my mind shifted to “what are the staples that are part of my daily routine?” I went through each room of my house in my mind and wrote down what from each room was essential (more on what’s “essential” in a moment).
This nomad thing isn’t all that new. I have friends that have been doing it for quite some time. So why go at it alone? I called up a friend and asked her what things she was super glad she had with her. She confirmed a few things on my list and gave me some insights I had forgotten about (don’t forget a power strip and extension cord, and leave your hanging clothes on hangers and pack them in a space-saving garbage bag so you don’t have to spend time re-hanging up your clothes each time — are just two of the tips I got from Drayton! PS THANK YOU Drayton!)
It sounds annoying and repetitive, but it really helped put everything I thought I needed into perspective. I gathered what I thought was “essential,” and then as I unpacked it all I took a closer look, removed a couple items, and packed again. Depending on the “room” I was packing, this took anywhere from a couple extra minutes to a couple hours. But it was worth it.
After all that I attempted to do to organize our life in a very minimalist fashion, our little car was packed to the gills on the morning we drove out of Chicago. I was so overwhelmed. After our first stop in Bend, I packed up 2 more boxes of things and sent them to live at my dad’s.
I ultimately decided that I really wanted this time to be as simple as possible and with as little as possible. So even though we could fit it all in the car, I still wanted more space to breathe. There’s nothing wrong with packing however it makes you happy, and prioritizing whatever you want with the space you’ve got (I mean, ask Stephen and he’ll still tell you I have too many pairs of running shoes with me but I. Need. Every. Pair. 😆)
I also did a little inventory of our packed items in case it helps you in your planning, if you’re ever planning anything like this. Enjoy, and happy packing! And if you’ve got any other packing tips and tricks, please share them in the comments!
The essentials of a home gym for me are as follows: yoga mat x 2, yoga blocks, 1 pair of 15lb dumbbells, 1 25lb kettlebell, jump rope, mini bands, Yoga Tune-Up therapy balls – and that’s it!
Our adventure kit includes: Hydroflask cooler (thanks to a recommendation from Colleen – thank you!!), beach blanket, GoPro, reusable silverware, sunscreen, portable speaker, DoubleNest ENO hammock from REI, tennis rackets and tennis balls, swim cap and goggles, bike lights & bike locks, and the Everywhere Belt Bag from lululemon – a staple for all the bike rides we’ve been taking in new cities). We keep all this stuff in a backpack so that it’s all right there whenever we’re about to hit the road for a day of adventure.
For clothes, obviously what anyone needs is totally unique to them. I approached it from a “workout” clothes standpoint first. Because my job is teaching yoga + training, that’s what I wear most of. I brought enough to go a 10 days without laundry if need be. For “regular” clothes, I already wear a lot of the same colors so it was easy to select things that naturally kind of go together. I’m no fashion expert but when everything already matches or goes together, it naturally makes sense that 8 possible outfits can become 16 outfits (fashion math). I opted for a lot of layeres. Light sweaters, over shirts, things that can be worn together or solo, and things that cross from what I can wear being active on my bike during the day and can also go to a casual meal in.
I only brought two “nicer” outfits, like the older version of this jumpsuit which I can dress up or down.
I have one pair of boots, two pairs of heels, two pairs of sandals, and one pair of flats. I could have ditched the brown heels, in retrospect. Full disclosure: I did pack five pairs of sneakers but, like I said, that was where I drew the line 😆.
In terms of other personal items, I packed very minimal toiletries. Refrained some single-use plastics (Plus body wash, for example) and remembered to bring a few household items like a small First Aid kit (which, shockingly, has gotten more use in the past 6 weeks than it has ever gotten in 8 years in Chicago – so it has skyrocketed to the top of my “don’t forget” list if anyone is asking!). We also brought our Branch Basics kit, a large bottle of the concentrate makes laundry detergent, hand soap, dish soap, and everyday cleaner so it’s a great addition to the list of must-haves.
I packed 2 small purses, two pairs of sunglasses, a sleep mask (helps when you’re on the move and your sleep schedule gets out of whack), 1 yoga towel and 2 beach towels. I packed 3 pairs of earrings, 4 bracelets and 1 necklace. We also brought our light alarm clock because we aim to sleep with phones out of the room.
Since my job is all about teaching yoga and training, and right now all of that is virtual, a fair amount of space is dedicated to tripod, lighting, mic, and other tech accoutrement required for filming, recording and making sure the virtual class experience is as good as possible.
And probably the hardest thing for me to whittle down was my selection of books to bring with me. I love my textbooks and reading materials from the trainings I’ve done. I constantly go back to them. I miss the rest of my books, but it’s helpful to have at least a few on hand (and there is that other thing – the internet – I can use if I’m in a pinch).
We covered bedroom, bathroom, living room, office, and home gym, which leaves only the kitchen. Just in case any of the places where we’re staying doesn’t have a stocked kitchen, we brought the bare minimum of items to constitute a working kitchen on the move. One pan, one good kitchen knife, a couple cooking utensils, two to-go storage containers, one to-go coffee mug (arguable the most important item in the car), as well as spices + oils. I had too many back in Chicago that would go bad, and why buy an $8.99 spice I already have? We opted to make space for these items, but again, there’s no right or wrong choice here. Our goal is just to cook 3-4 nights a week so these items have already proven helpful for us.