Packing, as a (homeless!) long-term traveler

All my worldly possessions and I have hit the road.

Ready for an adventure.

It’s Wednesday right now and we’re on a bus from Gwangju to Incheon Airport.  I’ve always thought the adventure starts with the first step out the front door – by that calculation, we’re four hours in.  The green tea is flowing, and morale is high.

On Monday morning, Minah came over to my apartment and helped me pack up the last of my stuff.  My place was provided  through my job at the teacher training center (JETI), so I only had till Feb 29th to vacate.  I had — a lot more things than I thought I did.  After donating some, passing others on to friends, and dumping a couple of giant trash bags at the corner, I ended up with 6 bags of clothes, books, etc that I wanted to save.  And two bags I’m taking on the road.  My worldly possessions in 8 bags – not bad!

Special thanks to Minah’s parents for storing these bad boys on their balcony.

I see people writing blog posts like “we sold everything to work from the beach on our laptops!”, and yeah, this post is pretty much one of those.  But maybe my story isn’t as extreme as a lot you’ll read.  Since graduating from college I’ve bounced around Asia and back and forth to Boston, always keeping things light.  I’ve stuck with Craigslist and the occasional Ikea furniture, I’ve never bought a car (though I drove my mom’s old one for a few years) or even a microwave (though I used my roommate’s when I lived in Boston).  I spent about 3 years without a computer; I bought this MacBook Air last summer with this trip in mind.

The biggest change I guess is that I’ve lived in Gwangju for 5 years – 2 years with Gwangju University, and 3 at JETI.  As I started planning this trip, I felt the inertia of the comfortable life I’ve lived in Gwangju pulling at me, telling me that maybe this trip was too much trouble.

Five years is the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my adult life, and the inertia to stay and keep spinning in the same grooves was strong.  For good reason – I’ve formed deep friendships and enjoyed a very good life in Gwangju.  But as strong as that inertia was, the urge to throw on a big ol’ backpack and hit the road was always there as well.

Bet you can guess which one won out.

I geek out over backpacks in the same way some people do over cars.  Backpack companies give their bags sexy car-like models and names just for guys like me.  So, how do you pack for long-term travel?  Here’s what’s under the hood —>



A) document binder,  B) bag for socks and underwear, opaque, how modest  C) bag for shirts and pants, I had room so I stuffed some other stuff in there too,  D) hiking sandals wrapped in a shoulder bag,  E) mesh toiletries bag, that one’s really well designed,  F) bag for medicine and misc health/hygiene,  G) swimsuit in a plastic travel bag, can hang this off the bag if it’s wet,  H) hat, deck of cards, sunglasses, and — remember hacky sacks??,  I) cute little lobster mini-soaps I picked up in Maine last summer, a “New England gift” to pass around while traveling,  J) Korean comic book (translated from Japanese),  K) travel tissues,  L) pens & pencils & misc desk-drawer necessities,  M) red and blue bags w/ chargers and electronic sundries,  N) flip-flops in an old tent pole bag,


O) my ancient Canon G9 camera,  P) a really nice ear plug / eye mask set gift from Minah,  Q) 11 inch MacBook Air,  R) “the cube” – a set of 300 Magic: the Gathering cards I put together,  S) can’t travel without DICE!!  T) enormous USB hard drive courtesy of my friend Jake,  U) chargers,  V) more travel tissues,  W) passport, wallet, notebook, bluetooth headset, mini notebook, a little blue friend I picked up in Hong Kong a couple years ago,  X) iPad 2,  Y) book, notebook, pens,  Z) pouch for eye drops, gum, headphones, change, etc.

Minah bought us both these “Bags in a Bag” set (mine is gray in the picture above), and it’s really worked wonders.  I remember backpacking in Europe in 2004, just cramming clothes in a sack.  Repacking my bag took ages whenever we moved between cities.  I love backpacking any which way, but switching to this “Bags in a Bag” system – it’s only when you get that first sense of civilization that you realize you’ve been living in savagery.  That said, I know I packed too much, that always happens, especially when I haven’t been on the road for a while.  I might take another look at my bag in a few weeks when I’ve shed the last of my apartment-living inertia and picked up a good layer of road grit on my boots.

I want to take a moment and say — I couldn’t be doing this sort of open-ended travel without support from friends and family.  My buddy Lucas is hanging on to an acoustic guitar.  My friend Steve’s got the rest of my Magic: the Gathering collection, and some camping equipment.  Minah’s mom has those bags with clothes and essentials that will help us kick-start a more settled life.  And of course my parents have a few boxes of old childhood memories at their new place.

Putting my bags in order feels like putting my thoughts in order.  And now, all thoughts turn to our flight this afternoon.  Till next time — in Bangkok!

2 thoughts on “Packing, as a (homeless!) long-term traveler

  1. This is your first blog I’ve read and it was good to catch up with you. I’m drawn now to continue to follow your adventurous life through your blog. Very impressed you are able to keep the dream alive 🙂


    1. Thanks buddy! We had some great hijinx on Koh Phangan way back in the day. 🙂 You keep up with any of your Thai students from that year? You were outside of Chiang Mai right?


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