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Whether you think I'm a minimalist or maximalist isn't important to me. In some ways I am quite minimalist, but in others I'm the opposite. I have a lot of teaware, for example. Way more than I really need. But when it comes to packing, I don't think there's much debate. I pack very lightly.
My bag currently hovers right at ten pounds. It's actually at ten and a quarter, which is essentially ten, but doesn't allow me to claim single digits, which would be exciting for no good reason at all.
I pack lightly not because I am a minimalist and must conform to some set of ideals, but because packing lightly is objectively a better way to travel. Almost everyone agrees with this, including heavy packers who "should really get rid of some of this stuff."
Packing lightly is better because it enables you to do more, and traveling is fundamentally about doing. If you don't have checked baggage, you can abandon legs of your flight, which gives you more flexibility. If you have only one carry-on, your hands are always free. If your bag is under twenty pounds or so, you probably won't mind carrying it on long walks or even hikes. If your bag is around ten pounds, you barely notice that it's there anymore.
Nothing makes my way of thinking about it the one correct way, but I think of money spent as three different things: Assets, Experiences, and Indulgences. I do this because it helps me create rules and guidelines for how to spend my money so that I can do well in the long term without having to micromanage finances.
Assets are things that should be worth something significant in the future. Maybe more, maybe slightly less, but nothing consumable or with huge expected depreciation. Examples would be certain high-end watches, art, gold bars, or real estate. Even my motorcycle would count, only because I waited to get a really good price on a used one, and it's still worth the same as when I bought it. I also count anything that will directly affect my productivity. I just sold my last laptop for a $900 loss, but I made a lot more than that with it over the two years I owned it.
Experiences are obvious things like travel and visits to museums, but I'd also count dinner with some good smart friends. My defining line is that an experience is something that has some reasonable potential to impact me long-term. I don't expect that every time, just as I don't expect every asset to increase in value.
And everything else is an indulgence. I choose this word intentionally because it has a negative connotation in my mind. I don't think that any of us can or should go without indulgences, but as the lowest ROI spending, a bias against them can be helpful.
Steam rises from my little glass teapot. It's the fifth brewing of the Tung Ting Oolong, so it's a little bit weak even though the color is still a clear gold. Employees of the tea shop are in front of me, an older couple across the way, and a single girl behind me. In the other room are more groups. The chatter rises above the music, but I can't understand any of it because it's all in Hungarian.
I'm here by myself. Two friends visited, but one had to go home to London, and the other to a conference in Zürich.
I have a tendency, when traveling alone, to stay holed up in my AirBnb. But after a day of that I wanted to get out. This place is perfect. I can drink my tea, feel like I'm around people, but not be distracted by their conversations.
My favorite game to play by myself is to imagine a kid version of myself could see me now. What would he think? Usually he'd just be surprised, I think. How random is it that I'm sitting in Budapest, by myself, writing? It's not significant in any way, but I wouldn't have guessed it, either.
Welcome to the 2016 Gear Post! This is my most anticipated post of the year, which means that it's the one I'm harrassed about the most. Due to popular request, I did individual photos for each item, which takes considerably longer to do. My curent backpack weight is around 10.5 pounds, and as you probably know, this is everything I take with me to 20+ countries per year. A huge thank you to the people who buy items through my Amazon links (which fund more experimentation for the next year) and to all of the companies that give me free products to evaluate.
If you are one of the many travelers who bases your own packing list off mine, consider linking to this post.
My main criteria when choosing clothing is versatility. I need clothing rugged enough that I can blaze trails on the island, yet formal enough for nice dinners. For many years this balance was impossible to strike, so I opted for rugged clothes that got the job done but made me look like a confused alpinist. Now such great options exist that most people don't realize just how versatile my clothing is.
I would have forgotten about my promise to post this in November if it wasn't for, well, everyone else very tactfully reminding me that I said I'd do it. The timing works, though. My bag is packed for a two month trip that will bring me to thirteen countries by plane, train, car, ship, and even bicycle. I'll be traveling with friends and solo, and will be staying with friends, in hotels, and in AirBnbs. Weather will range from warm and sunny to snowy. In other words-- I'm packed for everything.
Despite being ready for whatever, my bag is extremely light. I keep flirting with my arbitrary ten pound goal, but never quite make it. Last time I checked I was at ten pounds and four ounces. Having such a small and light bag is what enables me to move quickly with minimal preparation. It's critical that I can comfortably carry everything with me in any situation. Even if I have a full day in a city with no hotel, I shouldn't be limited in activity.
If you're new to my gear post, every year I post a full inventory of the items I carry on the road. I've been doing this consistently for eight years and have influenced most other nomads who post gear posts. I'm always trying to strike the perfect balance between agility, preparedness, and adaptability. It's not enough to have everything and to be able to carry it, my gear must be able to span short trips, long trips, formal trips, casual trips, cold trips, and warm trips.
This year I am going to talk a little bit more about how I make gear decisions and provide some alternate choices where they make sense. As I've traveled more and seen investments in expensive gear pay off, I'm more willing to spend lots of money on gear I know will last. However, if you're on a budget or just don't travel as much, you might not get as much utility from the gear as I do. I'm also making an effort to use gear than anyone can buy (unlike the mythical Versace Wool Jeans of years past that are impossible to find). I believe that there is only one item this year that is impossible to get, and one more that requires a trip to Japan.
My friends and I do a quarterly accountability group. We come up with our own individual goals and pair them with punishments and rewards. For this quarter, I have a list of ten things to do on CruiseSheet. It's halfway through the quarter, and although I've made progress on a few, I haven't completed any of them.
This is alarming for me, because I pride myself on not procrastinating and on getting things done. But recently I haven't lived up to that standard.
When I'm at my most productive, I have a strict routine which I follow. I set times for things like meals and tea, and the rest of the time I spend working. Besides giving me structure, my routines are organized to give me an optimal environment in which to work. Over the past few weeks, my schedule has not been optimal. I've flown to Japan and back twice, and I spent a week on the island.
I've noticed a troubling pattern. I sit down to work, take a few of the first couple steps, and then decide to finish later, when things are more conducive to work. Excuses I've come up with that I can remember on the top of my head are:
Here's an idea for people who are done with school and aren't too excited about the standard life staring them in the face. Instead of grinding through life to retire later, why not work as hard as possible to retire first, and then live the rest of your life on your terms.
There are probably a lot of ways to do this, but I'll suggest one that seems sort of obvious to me.
Your first goal is to buy a place in Las Vegas. Livable places can be had for $35-50k, and then you own it for life. Property taxes will be a couple hundred a year. HOA fees will be $1500-2000. Add in electricity, and maybe your monthly burn is $250 total. Don't get too hung up on Vegas if you don't like it. I just suggest it because I bought a place here in that price range, and I think it's a city that has a lot to offer. Taxes are low, as are flights to other places, and cost of living off the strip is low as well. Detroit probably also works.
You can't get a mortgage for these places, which is part of why they're so cheap. So you'll have to pay cash (or borrow privately). To save up the cash, work for three to five years and save everything. Eat cheap food that you can make yourself, live with your parents or roommates, take the bus. You'll miss out on a lot of stuff that your peers are doing, but that's the tradeoff.
We were all excited about this most recent island trip. Brian, Elliot, and I would be flying together from Tokyo directly to Halifax, and would be joined there for a few days by Todd, and then by Ben for a couple days afterwards. It was to be the first island trip with no critical imminent deadlines. We would work and do projects, but at our own pace.
Of course, if we wanted to be warm, we'd need to prioritize the woodstove. This was our most off-season trip, and temperatures were scheduled to get down into the thirties. In reality, they hit around twenty degrees.
As soon as we landed, we went to pick up the rental car. The agent apologized that they had no full-sized cars, and that we'd have to take a minivan. All of us appreciate the robust utility of such a large vehicle, so we were excited about the swap. That excitement grew when we realized that every seat was heated.
We drove away from the airport, looking up where we could buy a wood stove on the way. We got there right before it closed, but managed to completely fill the minivan with the stove and a very complicated series of stovepipes.
When I was a kid, I had flannel blankets. Blue and green, if my memory's accurate. My bedroom had big french doors to the outside that made my room cold when it was winter. Even before computers, I was a night owl. My parents would make me go to bed at ten, I'd crawl into my flannel sheets, I'd swish around to get them warm, and then I'd stare at the ceiling and think.
That was some of my favorite time. I loved going to bed and thinking until my thoughts became nonsensical and I fell asleep.
I liked to come up with ideas. That's where I had the idea to build a toaster onto the back of my bike. It's where I had the idea to make a mini-carnival in my neighborhood. It's where I had all sorts of other ideas that didn't happen. I loved coming up with ideas because anything was possible in my cozy bed, and some of those things were even possible the next day when I woke up.
Then the computer came, and I stopped thinking at night. I was still a night owl, but then I had games to play. And I was on AOL, so I had information coming in, other people's thoughts.
A couple years ago I became obsessed with the idea of buying an island. I mean, I'd always been obsessed with it, but my obsession shifted from the idea of buying the island into the action of buying it. I wasn't fantasizing about the things I'd build on the island-- I was looking up property tax rates.
When I'd pull myself away from the tax tables and go back to thinking about what it would actually be like to have an island, all of my imagined scenarios involved my friends. I wanted it to be like a summer camp that we built and enjoyed together.
So I found an island off the coast of Halifax, put in an offer, and emailed twenty of my friends, asking if they wanted to buy this island with me. Nine said yes, so we bought it.
The whole process felt familiar, like deja vu. Then it hit me-- I'd done this exact same thing before in college when I organized five friends and we bought a huge school bus together. We gutted the bus, rebuilt the interior, and traveled all around the US and even to Canada with it.