I tried a new type of travel last month: unconference travel. I took Amtrak’s Adirondack train up to Montreal to attend the AdaCamp unconference, an event dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. As soon as I heard about this conference I wanted to go: it’s invite-only, but anyone who identifies as a woman in a way that is significant to them, participates in open tech and/or culture, and believes there should be more women in these fields can apply. There’s free childcare, a gender-neutral bathroom, name tags that you can use to specify your gender pronoun preference, the option to opt out of photos, and tons of delicious food and frequent meal breaks in which to eat it. But it was the people I met and the sessions they hosted that were incredible.
I’ve been packing and traveling light for a little over three years now. My list hasn’t changed drastically, but the way I approach packing and travel certainly has. When I started my goal was just to pack the smallest amount of stuff possible and still have what I needed to be appropriately clothed, clean, and connected. I accomplished that by sticking to the minimum (2 shirts, 1 pair of pants, etc.) and leaving out any “what-if” stuff. But now I’m interested in packing items that have a minimal and/or positive impact on the environment and communities they come from. I’m also trying to strike a balance between comfort, style, good design, and the inevitable minimalist urge to reject materialism and waste. Here’s what I’ve learned from pursuing this new approach so far.
In this video I demonstrate how I wash and dry my clothes while traveling. I use a plastic bag (usually a 12×12-inch Loksak bag), Dr. Bronner’s soap, and a towel.
If you’ve visited Earth recently, you may have noticed that a lot of things suck. There are people without homes, people who can’t leave their homes, people without food, people with horrible diseases, people getting shot, people with guns who like telling other people what to do, people getting bombed, people doing the bombing, people without water, people without security, and so on. If you’re fortunate enough not to be one of these people, it’s nice (albeit depressing) to think about these problems from the comfort of your own home. It’s a little more terrifying to think about these problems as you travel.
There are a few different ways to cross the US by train. I went west via New Orleans (the Sunset Limited) in February, and east via Chicago (the Empire Builder) in March. I also traveled up the west coast by train in-between (on the Coast Starlight). I was never bored with the scenery, which ranged from Louisiana wetlands to frosted Texas desert to Arizona mountains, and then from California farms to the lush Pacific Northwest to the snowy Midwest. Here’s my six-week itinerary.
The more I travel, the more I realize that an itinerary is just something to do during the day. It doesn’t have much to do with why I travel, or why I enjoy my travels. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’d be better off without my itinerary. It gives my trip structure and gets me up in the morning. Here’s how my itinerary works for me.
I’ve recently been paring down my home wardrobe to be more like my minimalist travel wardrobe. I’ve noticed that one of the characteristics that my travel clothes all have in common is that they’re durable. Unlike my regular clothes, they still look almost-new and haven’t developed any unsightly holes. Only problem is, durability costs money. So how do you find durable clothing, and how do you convert your wardrobe on a budget? Here’s my strategy.
No one visits Washington, D.C. for the weather. It was built on a swamp, which isn’t uncommon as far as cities go, but there’s something offensively swampy about D.C. overall. The summers are ghastly, and the entire year is prone to sudden, drenching downpours. Add in the droves of tourists that flock to the city to soak in its historic and political significance, and you’ve got an exhausting, sticky mess. That’s how I felt after my first couple visits, anyway. I’ve since been back a few times and actually enjoyed my time there. Here are some places I’d recommend visiting.
In 1963 Dervla Murphy set out from Ireland with her bicycle (“Roz”), a .25 pistol, a map, and a compass. Her goal: to reach India by cycling through France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. We can’t replicate her journey today, but we still can (and do) take “escapist” or “off the beaten path” journeys that force us to rethink how we live, interact, and get around. And I think the experiences and observations Murphy describes in Full Tilt are just as if not more crucial for today’s escapist travelers to absorb.
These days, long-distance American train travel is for dreamers. Here are my tips for making the most your Amtrak trip, whether you’re riding in coach or sleeper class.
Get the latest articles delivered to your inbox.