40 liters

REI Vagabond Tour 40 Pack = Freedom

This REI Vagabond Tour 40 Pack is all I need for the next 6 months.

For a long time I could stuff everything that I owned into three boxes. It was fantastic. I moved ten times during my early 20s, and each move was a breeze because it would take me about 30 minutes to completely pack up and get out of dodge. Not owning anything provided me remarkable freedom to travel and live anywhere I wanted.

But by the time I was in my late 20s, I started to buy stuff. I was newly married and wanted to set down some roots. Somehow my spending rose proportionally with my income growth. I soon became trapped by the junk I was collecting.

I started to buy nice stuff too. But instead of the nice stuff making me happier, it actually made me more anxious – like how I would internally shriek whenever someone would rest a glass of water directly onto my beautiful wooden coffee table (use a coaster, asshole!).

Owning nice stuff just freaked me out because I was always concerned about what would happen if something bad happened to it.

A few months before my startup was acquired, I created a list of things that I would buy with my newfound wealth. My list included some awesome stuff like: a Tesla Model S; upgraded bedroom set from Room&Board; 60-inch Samsung TV; and other crap – all things that I wanted at one point but couldn’t afford with my meager startup salary.

Then the acquisition went through and something funny happened: the moment I was able to afford all these fancy new items, I no longer wanted any of it. If a ding on my 2005 Honda Accord drives me nuts today, can you imagine what a paranoid freak I would be as a Tesla owner?

I didn’t want to buy new fear into my life.

Rejecting stuff and welcoming experiences

Instead of buying new stuff, my wife and I have decided to invest in experiences.

For the next 6 months, we will be traveling the world in our own version of a walkabout. We have committed to living minimally and will only bring items that can fit into our respective 40-liter backpacks.

When we told our friends and family about our plan, we saw a lot of skeptical looks. How the hell are we going to live out of such small bags?

Packing has been really fun. We’ve had to think hard about what we want and need. It’s refreshing to see that living comfortably requires so little. Here’s what’s going into my backpack:

  • T-Shirts (5)
  • Long-Sleeve Shirts (2)
  • Dress Shirt
  • Underwear (5)
  • Socks (4)
  • Rain Jacket
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Pants (2)
  • Shorts
  • Swimsuit
  • Sandals
  • Scarf
  • Sunglasses
  • Ear Plugs / Eye Mask
  • Locks (2)
  • Laptop
  • Power Converter
  • Camera
  • Kindle
  • Macbook Pro 13in
  • Earbuds
  • Toiletries
  • Travel Medicine
  • Detergent
  • Fast-Drying Towel
  • Passport
  • Compression Bags

I could probably pack the stuff I truly need into a 30-liter backpack, but I want to bring along a few nice-to-haves (like a laptop so I can keep writing!).

Experience > Stuff

One of the great joys of life is sharing new experiences with someone you love. I’m going to do exactly that by traveling with my wife.

We’re kicking things off in the Yukon Territories, then will move on to Asia, then Europe, and finally we’ll round things out with an RV trip across America. I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures and share stories here in subsequent posts so you can join me for the journey. Also, check out my wife’s travel blog to see her side of the story.

During our travels we are going to put a moratorium on buying things (our backpacks have no room) and instead focus on living in the present, soaking up whatever environment we find ourselves in.

I’m viewing this walkabout as a de-tox from Silicon Valley materialism. It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of what everyone else has ($19 billion for Whatsapp, WTF??) and forget about what you already do have, which is probably substantial.

It turns out that a happy life can fit comfortably into a backpack.

21 thoughts on “40 liters

    1. Eric Post author

      Thanks Lalit! Taking off this Saturday so probably won’t be able to catch you. Maybe later in the year when I’m back?

  1. Roger Atkins

    Imagine no possessions – you clearly can! My son Nat and 3 pals spent last summer driving from Bodiam Castle in England to Ulan Bhatar in Mongolia. 8 weeks exposure to people, places, and experiences that were beyond compare in their 21 years to date. They left the vehicle they drove for charity auction – but returned home with something far more valuable….Before we ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’ the last thing on our mind would be putting all our stuff into storage!…we pack everything we need when we leave this place into a single box not much bigger than ourselves ! All we need then and all we need now in truth…

  2. AKR Seminar

    See you guys soon! Totally agree about “stuff.”Humans own stuff, not the other way round. If you can’t use and enjoy it because you’re too busy stressing, something’s wrong.

  3. Beau

    Buy Merino tshirts you can wear these for days on end and they dont stink like Cotton does. Go on any multi day hiking trip and the people wearing cotton stink. Merino is the way!! You wont look back. Icebreaker tshirts are the best!!

  4. gishii

    I would add a few packs of alcohol based hand wipes to use before eating all the street food that you will encounter. And pass on the tap water and ice made for tap water in questionable countries.

    Try to soak in every moment, good and bad, fun and scary, happy and sad. This is an opportunity of a lifetime, and should be experienced as such.

  5. Henny Tse

    Hi, I’m wondering how you like the bag so far? I can’t find many reviews on the latest version of the bag… (Specifically, I’m wondering if the shoulder padding /hip belt padding is enough?)

    Thank you.

    1. Eric Post author

      The bag is pretty good, but the build quality isn’t that great. Kind of hard to zip up and down, lots of snags. Already seeing some fraying in the edges too. But from an overall comfort perspective, it’s quite good. My bag is quite full and weighs 10 kg, but the weight is comfortably distributed once you use the waist and chest straps.

  6. Nick J

    Sounds like a great adventure, Eric. I hope you have a wonderful time.

    You may already be set on your clothing selection, but you might want to consider paring it down, if only to lighten the load so a longer walk with the pack on doesn’t bog you down.

    For instance, your list includes 6 shirts. I’d bring at most two t-shirts and one button-up long sleeve that could work as a dress shirt. I’d also bring 2 pairs of underwear and socks. One to wear and the other to be washed is a good motto.

    Your shorts could double as a swimsuit. One pair of pants is probably fine too.

    A lot of people hike in sandals, especially if they’re carrying a light load, and if the sandals are similar to Tevas. You may look a bit dorky, but socks and sandals works fine. No need for two pairs of footwear this way.

    The key to getting away with so little clothing is to learn how to wash clothes on the road. A large zip-lock bag and some liquid soap works as a perfect washing machine. I’d bring some thin cord, maybe 15′, you can use a laundry line.

    If you haven’t done so already, I’d research the strategies used for ultralight hiking and bicycle touring. You don’t need to go crazy and start gram counting, but these people have a lot of insight how to live well with very little.

    Even if you ignore my suggestions, I’m sure you’ll have a great time. Enjoy!

    1. Eric Post author

      This is tremendous, thanks so much for the suggestions! I am going to be back home in the US for a week in May, and I’ll have some time to re-pack then. I think my packing list will look a lot like what you suggested by then.

      Really appreciate these tips!

  7. Pingback: Eight things I learned from travel | Life After Liquidity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s