This article originally appeared on ThisIsInsider.com.
You have not witnessed frustration until you've seen a 24-year-old woman trying to stuff her life into one measly, 50-liter backpack.
A few months ago, I packed up everything to travel the world. You may think that leaving your job, home and friends are the hard part, but really, it's the packing.
What am I supposed to pack for a trip around the world? And how am I supposed to fit it all into a medium-sized backpack? That was the real (minimalism) challenge.
So with very little sanity intact, I organized everything I needed and packed my life into one 50L backpack before jetting off to travel the world.
Here's what I brought.
I started with a big packing list that included everything I was taking with me.
Naturally, I made a huge packing list before I left for my trip. I kept adding to it every time I thought of something else to bring. For some reason, it's easy to forget that you can buy things while on the road.
I usually have to slap myself with a reality check that unless I'm going camping in the middle of the desert, hanging out in a rainforest, or shivering my way through Antarctica, there will be some sort of civilized store to purchase items from. That puts things into perspective.
I got rid of all the stuff that wasn't on my list — as well as some stuff that was — and then got to the actual packing part.
I chose to sell, donate, or throw out everything that wasn't in the multi-page Word doc that was my list. This was me trying to embrace minimalism. And it did help me declutter my life and take into account what I really valued. With most of my possessions out of the way, I felt pretty good — until I actually had to pack.
I prepared for this packing adventure as I would prepare for any other grueling challenge such as running a half marathon — with research and practice. I read a lot of blogs from other travelers who embarked on the same kind of journey. They made it seem effortless to part ways with their belongings and meticulously pack their bags. If they could do it, why couldn't I?
I laid out everything from that list onto my living room floor. It was a lot. It included things like cosmetics, electronics, clothes, and shoes. I remember looking at it all of it and thinking, "This all better fit." I was kidding myself.
I did three practice packing runs with my bag, and each time I lost my sanity. The first time I barely fit all of my clothes into the backpack and there was no room for anything else. So I cut the number of clothes in half, and that made room for about two non-clothing related items. I cut the number of clothes in half again.
Here's what I was left with:
- 9 tank tops
- 2 pajama shirts
- 2 dresses
- 1 pair of black leggings
- 4 pairs of shorts
- 1 pair of jeans
- 4 pairs of socks
- 2 sports bras
- 2 bathing suits
- 15 pairs of underwear (might have been too much)
- 1 skirt
- 4 pairs of shoes (definitely too much)
- 1 jacket
I should note that I began my trip in Southeast Asia during July, so I knew the climate would be hot and sticky. With that in mind, I focused on packing relatively light, warm weather clothing. If need be, I could always purchase a touristy sweatshirt at the airport.
After my clothes were arranged neatly into two packing cubes, I had to figure out how to pack all of the little things into the many zippers and compartments of the backpack. It was like a puzzle. I had to make room for cosmetics, a laptop, chargers, an international adaptor (can we just have one universal outlet for the entire world, please?), an external hard drive, a fast drying towel, a first aid kit, a GoPro plus selfie stick, headphones, journals, books, a purse, a hair straightener (I will never part with this), and of course, my cat.
I ended up with a backpack that fit everything I needed and weighed about 40 pounds.
After multiple test runs (and turning into a crazed monster), I finally packed everything I needed for my world adventure into one 50L backpack. It was quite the project , but I felt free and light afterwards (although the backpack itself weighed about 40 pounds, cat not included).
I had everything I needed to travel for who knows how long. And it felt good. The only thing I wasn't excited about was reaching into my stuffed bag to get just about anything.
Let's just say I wore the same outfit for a few days.