Okay, okay, okay... I'll write the gear post before the year's over! One of the things that keeps me from writing all year is that it never really feels like the stuff in my pack has changed all that much. I switch one item at a time, never thinking I have much to write about. Then the end of the year comes, the citizenry demands a post, and I'm always surprised to see just how much has changed.
I called last year's gear post the Style Edition because although it was 100% functional, I also made a few choices to have slightly better looking clothing. That trend has continued a little bit this year, but I'm calling this one the Zen Edition because my already minimal packing list has become even shorter.
When I first started traveling, the minimalism aspect of it was pure coincidence. I had intended on buying a normal backpack, but Todd convinced me to go smaller. Our first 28L Deuter Futura backpacks seemed impossibly small at first, but after a year of learning what is and isn't necessary, space gradually opened up. My response was to fill it with new gadgets-- eventually I had a portable kettlebell, a full cot with silk sheets, and who knows what else.
As the years went on, Todd continued to get smaller backpacks, which influenced me to get smaller backpacks as well. I would always pack them completely full until recently. Last year I had some empty space, and now my pack is less than halfway full. If I could find a well organized and designed 12 liter pack, I would use it.
Part of the reason I have less stuff now is because technology keeps getting better. My laptop is tiny and light. The camera I have now couldn't exist five years ago when I started all this. Everything charges with the same cable. The other reason I've continued to reduce what I travel with, though, is because carry unnecessary items makes your trip worse. They weigh your pack down, clutter it up, and make it take longer to pack and unpack. The less I travel with, the better my experience is. At this point my pack weighs 10.7 pounds, which makes it trivial to carry it all day, even when climbing through the mountains.
Being comfortable should be a warning sign. It's not that being comfortable is a bad thing by itself, but if we agree that growth comes from pushing your comfort zone, then any time we're within our comfort zone we're not growing. Whenever you find that you're comfortable, ask yourself what you aren't training. The answer will vary from case to case, but the question to ask yourself is: would being comfortable or training be better for me?
I'll give you an example. Six weeks ago I was bundled up in my jacket and hoodie, walking through Beijing. I was warm, and I was... comfortable.
The opposite of being comfortable is training. What could I be training by giving up that comfort? Well, I could be getting used to cold weather, which would mean that I could feel warm in a wider range of climates and possibly even pack less clothing. That seemed like a win, so I took off my jacket. As I walked, looking for a restaurant, I noticed that I was warm again, so I took off my hoodie.
And that's how life's been for the past six weeks. I remove articles of clothing until I'm wearing just pants and shirt, or until I'm slightly cold. Already, it's working. I spent Thanksgiving in D.C. and Virginia, and even though I brought it everywhere with me, I didn't wear it once. Most of the time I was a little bit cold, but if the wind was still enough, I could be okay even when it was forty-five degrees.