The Backpack Experiment

My usual travel prep: wake up, toss clothes in a bag, sprint to catch train/car/plane. It works for 10-day vacations, weekends away, running races, you name it.

My prep for traveling and working around the world for a year, in 12 cities of varying cultures and climates, with unplanned adventures still on the horizon:


Getting ready for Remote Year has been an endurance test for my normally spontaneous brain. I have spent countless hours writing to-do lists, making phone calls to doctors and insurance companies, and scouring travel blogs for the best gadgets and accessories to bring on the road.

It took a few weeks and a lot of money on Amazon (VIP shopper right here) to cross off all the items on my shopping list.

My main luggage is a Deuter 60L backpack with a 10L daypack clipped onto the back. I’ve always traveled with a big suitcase but liked the idea of giving the backpack a shot, so we’ll see how this goes. The Deuter is comfortable and I haven’t packed it to the gills. I’m also traveling with a carry on-sized Samsonite suitcase, which is so old I’ll be lucky if it makes it to July.

I’ll also be carrying The North Face Borealis backpack. This is for weekdays at the office and shorter weekend adventures. It has a spacious interior and protective pouch that comfortably fits two laptops. I’ve been carrying this to work for a couple of months and love it! Granted, it’s not as cute as my normal work bag, but it’s SO much more comfortable.

So what’s a digital nomad to put in all these bags for a year around the world? Here’s (most of) what I brought:

For Work

  • 15-inch MacBook Pro: My gateway to the professional world and primary tool for getting things done
  • 13-inch MacBook Air: My backup if anything happens to the Pro. I am useless without a laptop and decided it was worth the extra weight.
  • Notebook/pens: Yep, really. I’m most productive when I can write things down.
  • MyPassport 1TB external hard drive: in case something happens to both my laptops (hey, it happens!)
  • iPhone 6: Staying in touch with family, friends and colleagues through Google Voice, Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook and Viber with the combined power of wifi and local SIM cards for each country.

For Travel

  • RFID passport case: Baggallini case/wallet from TravelSmith
  • Identification: Two passports, U.S. passport card, international driver’s permit, extra passport photos for visas
  • Money: Charles Schwab debit card (refunds all ATM fees, score!), Capital One Quicksilver card
  • Sea to Summit dry sack for phone and chargers.
  • PacSafe 12L travel safe: fits my laptops, phone, passport, credit cards, and any other valuables
  • Sleeping bag liner: Sea to Summit for camping trips and sketchy hostel floors
  • PackTowel travel towel
  • Travel adapters: I chose to get the smaller individual adapters instead of a massive convertible type.
  • Portable phone charger: Anker Astro 6700mAh, which will allegedly charge my iPhone 6 2.5 times. So far it’s working great.

For Health

  • First-aid kit with a small pharmacy inside (Neosporin, Band-Aids, gauze, ibuprofen, antibiotics, anti-itch cream, anti-malarials, Pepto-Bismol, all that fun stuff)
  • Immunization records
  • Duct tape: for practical everyday purposes, and because few things keep blister bandages intact like duct tape
  • 100% DEET bug spray
  • Mosquito netting
  • Sunscreen
  • Eagle Creek Pack-It Wallaby toiletry bag, which also fits my makeup, moisturizer, shampoo/conditioner, face wash and portable straightener. Yay!
  • LifeStraw water filtration bottle
  • Earplugs. Because sleep.

For Clothes

  • Mountain Hardware rain jacket
  • North Face Hydroball jacket
  • Pullover sweatshirt
  • 5 tank tops/5 tshirts
  • Long-sleeve tops
  • 3 leggings (I swear by Zella leggings at Nordstrom, which I now live in)
  • 3 shorts
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 pairs of workout shorts/3 tops
  • Bathing suit
  • Regular and wool socks
  • Birkenstock sandals
  • Running shoes
  • Black flats
  • Couple of dresses

I feel like I definitely brought more than this, so I’ll add more things that seem important, or things I pick up on the road. Also, stay tuned for more info on fun things like choosing travel insurance, getting vaccinated, figuring out a phone plan, and other annoying-but-necessary travel precautions.