The long-awaited nomad packing list is here! Please keep in mind that this list has changed several times over the past few months and is likely to change again. Part of minimalist packing, at least for me, is staying flexible and taking advantage of local resources to solve problems. The core principles that drive my list have remained the same, though: 1) pack as little as possible, 2) pack high-quality gear, 3) wash often.
I traveled from Toronto to Vancouver on Via Rail’s The Canadian train, with a stop in the Canadian Rockies. Here are some tips for booking and enjoying this train trip.
I met Jennifer at WordCamp Montréal this summer and really enjoyed talking to her about travel and packing, so I asked if I could interview her to learn more about her travel experiences. Her blog, Moi, mes souliers, is a thoughtful and comprehensive guide to traveling anywhere and she’s been called one of the top travel bloggers in Québec. I asked her about her travel style, travel blogging as a business, working from the road, sight-seeing in Montréal, packing light, and more.
I didn’t expect making the transition from long-term traveler to digital nomad to be as bumpy as it was, but it turns out working remotely full-time and staying put for months at a time is a completely different mode of travel. Normally after I’ve been traveling for a few weeks my phone is full of photos, but I’m a few weeks into this trip and it’s full of productivity apps. When someone asks me what sight-seeing I’ve done recently, I have to stop and think, and all I can remember is a series of cafés with wifi. I seem to spend a lot of my free time at farmer’s markets and in grocery stores. I still haven’t tasted the local delicacies because I’m usually at home cooking at mealtimes. And instead of being surrounded by communicative fellow travelers like I would be in a hostel, I’m almost always alone or surrounded by busy locals. I’m still adjusting to this way of life and the mindset it requires, but I thought I’d share what I’ve learned from my experiences so far while this is all still fresh and new to me, too.
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.
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