Traveling Light

what I pack for trips local & abroad

life: examined is an exploration of curiosity and a compendium of ideas, thoughts, and questions about how to live a creative, intentional life. Thank you for your support.

As I prepare for a two-week trip, I thought I’d share this encore post with you. You know, like American public radio stations do when they re-broadcast a piece.

This essay is not completely recycled; it was half-written, sitting in my WRITINGS IN PROGRESS folder. So I updated, edited, and completed it and now it’s ready for the light of day and my discerning readers’ eyes.

”But you must have checked a bag, right?" asked the woman wearing red cowboy boots as we queued up to board flight 483 to Portland. No checked bag, I said and reiterated that I was only traveling for a week, and a carry-on was plenty.

This particular bag is about half the size of the airline-approved carry-on I use for longer trips (up to a month, just one bag). It’s the holy grail of carry-ons for packing-light geeks like me.

The manufacturer calls this bag a mobile office owing to the amply padded laptop sleeve/section and its squat shape. It's designed to carry a few work essentials, a change of clothes, toiletries, and not much else. 

I explained to surprised boot-wearing lady that I travel light. Very light. I travel light out of both want and need. 

First, packing and traveling light is a game for me—how can I get everything I need into a tiny bag with room to spare?

Second, can I look semi-stylish, in domestic cities and foreign towns without looking like a tourist?

And third, will people come up to me and ask for directions because I look like I belong there—wherever there is? Hell yeah, I can (and do)! 

Most importantly, I pack light because I know I may not have the strength to sherpa my stuff from point A to point B (bodies are finicky and weird). 

I live by the commandment that if you pack it, you have to carry it, so I make sure that in all but the direst of situations, I can manage my bag o' stuff on my own. 


Although my carry-on has wheels (not cool with the digital nomad set), rolling is not always ideal. There are things to consider like cobblestones, torrential downpours, and dog poop-lined sidewalks (hello, Paris!).

For instance, have you ever had to dead-lift a bag and carry it up eight flights of stairs in a crowded metro because both the escalator and lift were broken? Oh, and you were nauseated, AND you don't like elevators, anyway? Just, you know, as an example. 

So, I travel like I live—light, nimble, and uncomplicated. 

Uniforms Eliminate Decision Fatigue

My clothing choices are built around a uniform, or as some would call it, a capsule wardrobe

Everything pretty much goes with everything else. I keep my colors to a limited palette: black, white, and grey with shades of blue for interest (don't tell anyone, but I might start adding green to the mix). I stick to solids and stripes, mostly, with patterns showing up in my favorite accessory—scarves—and sometimes in my socks, too (I know, I’m reckless). 

So what do I pack for a week or two away?

Depends on where I'm going and the climate, but let's say it's a reasonably temperate climate with not too many dramatic swings in temperature. Likely some sun, clouds, breeze, and rain, cool or cold-ish evenings, but no blizzards, giant tropical bugs, or century-mark humidity (preferably). 

Here’s what you’ll find in my bag for that hypothetical climate (quantities vary to account for 7-14 day range): 

  • 2-3 pants

  • 2-3 long-sleeve teeshirts

  • 2-3 short-sleeve teeshirts

  • 1 tank top

  • 1-2 long-sleeve button-down shirts

  • 1 zip-up hooded sweatshirt and/or pullover sweater

  • 1 light or mid-weight jacket

  • 1 scarf

  • 1 beanie, if necessary

  • 4-7 pair socks (hand-washing for the win!)

  • 4-6 pair underwear (more hand-washing)

  • 1-2 bra-like contraption thingies :) 

  • 1 pair of pajamas or PJ bottoms to pair with tank or tee

  • 2 pair shoes

  • 1 pair flip-flops

  • 1 travel-sized umbrella

  • 1 pair of earrings (in my ears)

In addition to clothes, I take essential toiletries, glasses + contacts, and snacks—that's the most important part!

I pack light to allow for maximum snack-packing space. 

My in-flight/on-board travel uniform is composed of items from the appropriate category in the above list—I don’t wear an additional outfit in-route. 

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You’d Never Know I Once Had a Career in Fashion

I dress simply, probably boringly, comfortably, and fairly androgynously.

I don't like fussy or excessively girly things; I try to keep my wardrobe, and thus my decision-making, effortless. I don't wear fancy dress-up clothes or shoes—those days are long gone! But that doesn't mean I don't clean up nicely—just no high heels, dresses, etc. for me, thank you. 

How about you? What makes up your core travel wardrobe? Do you pack light, or do you always arrive with too much stuff, despite your best efforts?

P.S. If you’ve been waiting for an announcement for my small group Move to Portugal sessions, I haven’t forgotten you! With upcoming travel and juggling life’s daily demands, I am running behind—but fear not! News is coming soon!

Something new!

Favorite Auto-Translation of the Week

When I scroll Facebook for events in Portugal, the copy is often auto-translated to English from Portuguese. This is the best thing about Facebook! I’m not a fan of the social media Goliath, but I love the quirky translations. This is an announcement from an art gallery in Setúbal called Casa da Avenida:


New race, new ride!

Lots of small people, some grown up and above all, a never finish cats, fish and too much buggers, socks, hats and other suit, glasses, toys, (some) books, ideas, heads (few) in the ′′ section ′′ of the lost and lucky but lesser amount also some finds.

And we're still waiting for you!

“too much buggers” and “heads (few)” I love this!

It cracks me up and I like to imagine what it might be about, especially when I don’t know the venue. I’m familiar with this place, but still, the translation doesn’t give clues to what’s actually going on. It’s a fun way to make up a story about a mystery activity or event.

What do you make of it?

Muito obrigada, to these generous readers: 

Ken, Heather, Bryan, Sheri & John, Tim & Gayle, Caleb & Tim, Eileen, Barbara, Linda, Jim, and anonymous humans for supporting life: examined through Buy Me a Coffee

Whether a coffee (or two), a like, or a share—I’m grateful for all the ways you support me!

Until next time—be well, stay curious, and thanks for reading life: examined