At the start of this summer I gave myself the challenge of traveling for 3 months with only a carry-on bag. I call it my Minimalist Summer. I was planning on taking a few low-cost flights, hitchhiking and traveling by bus and train around Europe.
Why do it?
- You are more mobile. You don’t have to lug a large backpack around.
- You save time. You don’t have to wait for your bags to arrive on the turnstile or worry about the airline losing them.
- You save money. With most low cost airlines in Europe, you now have to pay for checked bags.
Now, I could have used a backpack like Michael’s but I wanted less hassle from the low-cost airlines. If you have ever had any experience with Ryanair, they lure you in by appearing to be cheap but then screw you over at the last minute. (Kind of similar to a few girls I’ve dated in the past.)
This time however, I was smarter. I even went as far as buying the approved Ryanair carry-on bag to maximise my free allowance (or what I like to call “The Ryanair bribe”). The benefit with these kind of bags is you have more accessibility than with a backpack. But more importantly, while everyone else was made to weigh their bags or put them into the baggage-sizer, I was allowed to walk on by.
What Did I Take
Traveling this way is not without it’s disadvantages of course. You need to be heartless about what you leave out. When I started my trip, this is all I had on me:
- 1 x travel towel
- 1 x sarong
- 2 x shorts
- 7 x underwear
- 4 x socks
- 6 x t-shirts
- 1 x sandals
- 1 x shoes
- 1 x jeans
- 1 x hoody
- 1 x belt
- laptop (& cables)
- toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, cologne, soap, shaving cream, deodorant, razor, body power, moisturizer)
- laundry detergent
- small nylon daypack
- eye mask & ear plugs
- pen & notebook
Now that I’m half-way through my trip, I’ve managed to have lost a few things:
- 1 x underwear
- 1.5 socks
And I’ve also accumulate a few things:
- drawing paper and color pens (for hitchhiking)
- disposable camera
- a loofah (because my skin was getting dry and I needed to exfoliate. Shut up.)
- Wacom graphics tablet (because I like drawing)
- a book called “The 100 Best Vibrators In The World”. (Okay, this is awkward, let me explain. It was on sale when I was in Paris and I thought it would make a good gift. But my Couchsurfing host wasn’t too impressed so now I’m carrying it around until I find someone to gift it to).
What I Wish I Had Packed But Couldn’t Fit
- Another pair of jeans (having just one pair is a bit rough).
- Sleeping bag (sarongs are only useful as a sleeping bag replacement if you are less than 5 feet tall).
- Running shoes (not that I run but who knows, I may want to start one day. If only I had shoes).
What You Need To Consider Before Doing This
There are a number of issues you need to consider before attempting this.
- What are your deal-breakers? Do you need to travel with an overly large stuffed animal which serves as an ice-breaker, as well as a traveling companion on lonely nights? If so, it may be too much of a pain to travel with only a carry-on bag.
- You can’t buy much stuff. Because you have such limited capacity, you won’t be able to buy many things along the way. Well, you could always lose things along the way like how I lost 1.5 socks, making room for my shiny new Wacom tablet. If you are on a budget this is more of an advantage than disadvantage.
- You will need to do laundry often. You will probably need to handwash your clothes often so you always have clean “unmentionables”.
- In Paris, you will look like a dirty hippy. Most the time you can get away will looking decent with just a few things. Unless you go to Paris where you will be shunned by the local hipsters.
- You will look funny if you try hitchhiking with a carry-on bag. A few people asked me when I was hitchhiking if I was trying to get to an airport. So yeah, you may confuse some people.
- If you decide to take your own laundry detergent, you are better off bringing a laundry soap bar rather than put the powder into a ziplock bag. Because customs may think it’s drugs.
Do you travel with only a carry-on? Why or why not? Have any extra tips?