Maximalist Travel Packing, or a strategy to carry almost everything you need with you while traveling
This is a strategy for travel packing in which the traveler seeks to lessen their dependence on outside infrastructures, lessen the hassle of not having what they need, lessen trips to the store, and, ultimately, lessen the cost of travel itself by carrying all of the gear that they think they could need at all times. I call this maximalist travel packing, the idea behind it is to carry and be able to unpack a complete home at each stop. This is now how I travel with my family — we carry a complete set of living, not travel, gear.
It is true that the only gear a person really needs to travel is a toothbrush, all else can be handled on the move.
But who wants to have to go to the store and buy something each time the need arises? Who wants to buy something ten times when they could just buy it once and carry it with them? I don’t. I also know that some of the worst personal interactions of travel occur when doing commerce with people, there is a sickly feeling that arises when the traveler realizes that they are just traveling the world buying things all day long. I want to limit the amount of times I am a consumer throughout the day — I say this idealistically, I really just want to save money and have everything that my family wants with us.
I want to carry my home with me.
The girl in the above photo travels and sells jewelry in the street. She carries all of her travel, living, and working gear with her in bags and backpacks bungee corded to a dolly. As I talked with her and took an inventory of her travel gear, it seemed as if she carry with her everything she needs to live and work. She does not travel light, but she seems to have what she needs to live well — truly a maximalist travel packer.
There is an underlying rule in travel:
The less gear I carry the more I have to rely on other people, infrastructures, commerce systems to get what I need and want. If I travel with nothing, then I need to buy everything. I hear of people talking about the simplicity and freedom of traveling light, and I only hear of the complications of needing to go to stores and restaurants all the time. I was once a minimalist travel packer, I once graded a traveler by how little stuff they carried with them. I walked a lot in those days, I needed my load to be light — I had no intention of making homes, no thought of creating hubs, I was simply moving through the world. But now my criteria is a little different, I grade travelers by if their gear meets their needs. Some people traveling in some places can tactfully carry everything they need in a small package, they truly know the art of minimalist travel packing, and I look through their stuff and I realize that they have managed to pack all essentials within a small volume of space. Good on them.
But, as I travel with a family, as I rent rooms out by the month and make homes, I want more things with me. I make true transitional homes now, we travel more like Gypsies or Tinkers than backpackers. My baby likes to have a blow up bathtub, my wife likes to have a few changes of clothes, I like to carry cooking supplies. We carry this stuff with us so that we do not have to buy it all again at each stop, so we can have what we need to make a home. I do not want to go without just because I am traveling. No, I want it all, I want to be able to stroll into a town, and empty a home out of my bags.
What I now carry with me
- Cooking gear- I like to be able to cook at least one meal a day for myself. I do not like having to rely on restaurants every time I get hungry. It takes up a massive amount of time each day if I eat in restaurants three times, it also makes me feel like a lazy oaf. Petra also does not like sitting around restaurants, she wants to break things, throw silver wear, smash plates after being cooped up in an eating house for more than a few minutes. Cooking my own food also saves a lot of money — upwards of $5 a day in most parts of the world — and I can be sure that my food is prepared properly. I will write more about turning a hotel room into a kitchen and how to make an alcohol stove in upcoming entries.
- Water filter pump- I do not want to have to go to the store each time I want to drink water. I carry a hiking style water filter pump with me.
- Multi-climate clothing- I travel “the world,” I go between vastly different climates, so I want to carry clothing to accommodate these changes in weather. I carry more clothes with me now than I ever did. I once would just discard my warm clothes when going into a hot climate, and then buy new warm clothes when the weather gets cold again. This was an alright strategy, clothes often sell cheap, but then I realized that I do not need to keep going shopping if I just kept a well rounded set of clothing with me.
- Baby supplies- We want Petra to have what she needs as she travels. This means lots of toys, a blowup bath tub, tons of clothes (babies have the tendency to get themselves real dirty all the time, and the more clothes we carry for Petra the less we need to wash them), big bags of diapers, extra packages of wipes, blankets, a portable toilet, other supplies. Petra’s gear takes up at least 75% of Chaya’s large backpack, and she has another tote bag full of her travel gear.
- Electronics- I work on the internet, this website is my job, I have an entire bag that is just about dedicated to electronic gear.
- Footwear- Both Chaya and I carry two sets of footwear: boots and sandals.
- Additional clothing- When you stay somewhere for an extended amount of time (one to three months) it is often a social necessity to have additional sets of clothing. If we want to work, we need more than one set of clothes. Chaya also likes to look pretty. I have been told that clothes chosen for travel are often not the most attractive clothes for most women. Part of the maximalist travel philosophy is to not only carry what you need, but also a little of what you want.
- Recreational gear- This means balls, books, tobacco pipes, the additional recreation gear that makes life a little more enjoyable which we can now carry because we are not consumed with traveling light.
What I need to complete my travel gear set
- Two dollies- As my wife and I carry a nearly complete home in our bags, they are now uncomfortable to carry. We can still cart them on long walks between hotels or bus stations, but it is not very enjoyable. We each need to purchase cheap, light weight, metal dollies — which are just little carts with wheels — to bungee cord our bags onto. Our bags and gear can be attached to a dolly in a secure enough way that we would could just load them on buses, trains, etc as solid units — there is no need to remove anything from a dolly when going on public transport. Once we have these dollies weight will no longer be much of an issue, and we could further expand our gear set.
- An electric burner- I sometimes travel with electric burners for cooking, they are a good idea if you are able to bear their size and weight. I do not have one now, but we have not needed one in the past 8 months of travel, as we have found hubs that had stoves and other cooking facilities. Carrying an electric burner — which can be purchased incredibly cheaply almost everywhere in the world — would complete our gear set a little further, and allow for easy cooking on the road.
- Cooking essentials- As of now, we cook out of one pan when we don’t have rights to a kitchen. We also only have two bowels, a spoon, and a fork. We would like to add a stainless steel soup pot, more bowels and a few cups and a towel or two to complete our mobile kitchen.
- Two heavy duty plastic storage boxes- I would like to get two medium sized plastic storage boxes to be able to keep cooking gear, toys etc, separate from the backpacks. These can be connected easily and securely to a dolly, and could be done in such a way that they could be positioned flush beneath the backpacks.
The more pertinent travel gear I carry the less I need to rely on outside sources to obtain and procure what I need. I no longer want to reprovision myself at each stop, I want my home with me — a home that I can pack and unpack in the matter of an hour. The main premise of maximalist travel packing is to travel with virtually everything you need to create a functional home at every stop. It means having what you need to be able to show up anywhere in the world and not need to buy anything other than food.
It costs money to buy things, it is free to carry things.
Maximalist travel packing to make temporary homes