Travelling worldwide with 1 carry-on bag

By Michael – Once I decided to begin traveling in May 2016, my itinerary started to take shape almost immediately, mainly going where I had friends. By August, after a trip to Montana to visit family, I was on the road.

I started in Paris then London, Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Milan, Lugano and Copenhagen in Europe. I flew back to LA from Copenhagen and had dinner with a friend during a flight layover en route to Mexico to begin the Latin American leg of my travels. I took the cover photo above deep in the darkness of a sleepless night through the window of my plane over Greenland.

I was in Guadalajara in order to follow up on discussions about teaching a seminar at the University of Guadalajara. Although I knew about the city’s role as a center of tech innovation, I did not anticipate the extent to which this sprawling urban complex of 4.5 million people, sometimes erroneously labeled the “Silicon Valley of Mexico,” would become a poster city for Donald Trump’s complaints about NAFTA and Mexico.  However, I also discovered one of the most vibrant and innovative civic cultures of my travels so far, and there will be more detailed reports about Guadalajara in the coming weeks.

I have wonderful friends in Mexico City (CDMX), so after Guadalajara, I spent two weeks there in December before flying to Buenos Aires for a month. My time in Buenos Aires included a trip of several days across the Río de la Plata via ferry to Montevideo, Uruguay, where I did a live interview with the Los Informates talk radio show about the “retrotopian” zeitgeist that produced Trump’s victory. I then spent a week in Bariloche in Patagonia, six weeks in Santiago and Valparaíso, Chile and another five weeks in Lima, Perú before wending my way back to CDMX.

By the time I returned to México, I had traveled by car, plane, bus, ferry, tugboat and bicycle. I was determined from the start to travel light, with only one carry-on bag and a MacBook Pro computer, and it took more time than I had anticipated to figure out how I would make such a transition.

In preparing for the trip, I suddenly entered the strange new world of learning to live with no more than 4 pants, 4 shirts, 3 pairs of socks and one pair of shoes; of packing cubes; feature-laden lightweight travel clothing that accomplishes its purpose without looking geeky, repels both odor and water and dries within minutes of washing; and tiny natural deodorant sticks made of pure ammonium alum crystallised salts that last up to a year, among many other similar discoveries.

The new breed of “digital nomads” who live on the road became my best friends, and their blogs were often a rich source of useful information! One of the best resources I found was a Kindle ebook on Amazon titled “The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light,” by Erin McNeany. I have subscribed to Erin and her husband Simon’s newsletter from their “Never Ending Voyage” travel site for several years.

They left England seven years ago and have not looked back. Erin writes, and Simon produces a terrific iPhone app called Travel Wallet that I also use. Their website is full of useful information for anyone planning a long journey, from detailed budgets to great photos and travel tips, and Erin’s book is a must read for anyone who is truly committed to reducing the clutter in their lives. It is more than a book about packing and travel. Quite unintentionally, it is a practical meditation on the art and joy of living simply.

For a camera, I decided to buy a new iPhone and learn to live with its limitations rather than carry a separate point-and-shoot or a bulky DSLR. See here for Apple’s tips on getting the best possible stills, panoramas and videos from your iPhone.

Photos of my travel gear are featured in the slideshow below. All of my clothing, toiletries and electronic gear besides my computer fit into the expandable and compressable REI packing cubes, and the cubes fit easily into my carry-on suitcase. The clear plastic sack in the photo is a compression bag. Just stuff your dirty laundry into the bag, roll it up, and it will be compressed almost completely flat, as if it were freeze dried and vacuum packed.

During nearly 10 months of travel, I have never had to check a bag or been denied boarding. Everything I am packing is lightweight, so I can easily trundle up stairs or over cobblestoned streets in Paris or Buenos Aires or any other city.

And best of all, I haven’t missed any of the excess junk that I jettisoned to begin traveling like this. In fact, it has been so liberating, I wish I had done it years ago.