A Woman’s Retrospective: Two Months Traveling Packless

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Our two month journey to Hawaii and New Zealand is now sadly over. But, having done it, I can authoritatively answer the many questions and concerns I had at the beginning:

Will I get sick of wearing the same clothing day after day for that long?

Not at all. In fact, I was amazed to find that I enjoyed it. I never went to a school with a “uniform”, but I imagine it must feel a little like that. With the huge difference that this was a “uniform” that I had picked out. Clothes I was comfortable in and felt looked good on me. On the trip, I had no daily decisions to make about what to wear. The only change from the day before was “the other tee-shirt” or “just the blouse.” I could be dressed and out the door in minutes on travel days. No setting an alarm to get up early to pack – because there was next to nothing to pack. I will say that having multiple different earrings, a few necklaces, and a scarf helped. At least I did feel I could change the look a little each day. And it was fun to be able to shop for more earrings and necklaces, knowing it would hardly effect the weight of my shoulder bag.

Will the clothing handle 2 straight months of wear? Will they come clean with hand washing or will they develop an odor over time?

Most of the clothing I took still looks practically new. The Travex pants and blouse look just like when I bought them. The REI tech tee-shirt is just a little stretched out in the banding around the neck, but not enough for anyone else but me to notice. These clothes were all designed with travel or hiking in mind. However, the other tee-shirt, the cotton one from Horney Toad, did not last as well. It couldn’t take the every-other-day hand wringing and hanging up to dry. The neckline stretched to the point that it became too low cut for my comfort. The texture of the fabric also started to fray a little. I discarded the top after 7 weeks and just went the last week with one tee-shirt. Nothing developed an odor or became stained. We were absolutely consistent about washing underwear and shirts every day, however. We had been warned never to skip washings and let odors stay in clothing overnight, for fear they would “set”. We never wanted to test that advice, so just did laundry.

Will I get sick of washing every night?

Yes and no. It only took, at most, 10 minutes. It was always one last thing that had to be done before bed, like brushing teeth. However, that hassle was so much more than off-set by not having to pack and carry and check a suitcase or backpack! We did do laundry in a machine when one was easily available down the hall – once a week or so. On these occasions we washed the pants, over-shirts, and my nightgown, as well as our daily tops and underwear. One night, when I was tired, Roger did my hand washing as well as his. One other night, when he was tired, I returned the favor and did his. Otherwise, we each were responsible for our own things.

Will I feel like I am dressed well enough for everywhere we go?

I took quick-dry, but conservatively styled black slacks. My blouse/over-shirt was silky, as was one of my tee-shirts. Nothing I took wrinkled with wear. I had dressy jewelry if needed. The only thing that made me not look dressy was my shoes. My black leather walking shoes would never cut it in a business or formal setting. I wouldn’t want to wear them to a dance or reception. However, we were tourists. We went to “nice” – but not formal – restaurants. We did not go to an opera or a nightclub. If I had planned on those activities, I would have needed dressy sandals, at least. As it was, we blended in just fine with the range of clothing others there were wearing. Most people dress more casually these days.

What if we get drenched in a sudden downpour, or I spill spaghetti sauce in my lap, or my clothing doesn’t dry? Where is my back-up outfit?

I did feel a little like we were traveling “on-the-edge” in that we had no back-up for our slacks. We never got drenched, but if we had, we would have had to just be wet or return to our room until the clothing dried. Next trip, I will look harder for a pair of light “convertable” pants like Roger wore, to take as a second pant. I would then be able to wear them as shorts (and not take the shorts I took) and also have the ability to zip on lower legs and wear them as long pants. This would have given me more security and more variety in outfits with very little additional bulk or weight. I will also take a second pair of socks. Occasionally, my wool socks didn’t completely dry overnight and I had to put them on damp. Roger had brought 2 pair and he could give them 2 nights to dry. My cotton tee-shirt also didn’t consistently dry overnight in humid areas. Next time, I’ll only take synthetic, quick-dry clothing.

Will I need more toiletries, or over-the-counter meds?

Sharing basics with my husband meant we only had to carry one (un-scented) anti-perspirant, one small toothpaste tube, one small shampoo. We just bought more when they ran out. I did carry a small zip-lock sandwich bag with about 10 Tylenol and Advil tablets – which we took as needed. However, I did not take other “just in case” meds. When I got a cold in Wanaka, I just bought cold meds there and then discarded them when my cold was gone and it was clear Roger wasn’t going to get it.

Will I need a hair dryer, a curling iron?

My hair is short and naturally curly. Many places we stayed had hair dryers, though I usually just let my hair air dry. As long as I washed it every day, it looked fine as long as my haircut lasted. Eventually, my hair was long enough that the curl was hanging out by the end of the day. At home I can solve that problem with a curling iron and usually go 6 weeks between cuts. A “trim” by a New Zealand beautician after 5 weeks revived my cut.

Will I miss having a purse and all its “just in case” contents?

Emphatically no. I will probably never carry a purse again, even when I’m home. It worked amazingly well to just put my ID and credit card in one zippered leg pocket, my small comb, a Kleenex, and cash in another, and my iPhone in a third. My travel pants had 3 pockets, which not all my pants at home have. But at home, I have begun carrying my ID, credit card, and cash in a little travel wallet like Roger had used on our trip. When I got back, I bought it at the Rick Steves travel store. It fits in one front pants pocket with my phone. The other front pocket carries my comb, a Kleenex, and car keys. What else do I really need? The smart phone serves as my notepad, calendar, book, camera…. And did I really need to be carrying every day all those extra credit cards to stores I only go to a few times a year? One Visa card works just fine. Never again will I worry about leaving my purse hanging on the back of a restaurant chair or at someone’s home. Or on a public bus!! (I did that once.) Who hasn’t had that awful sinking feeling when you realize you can’t find the purse that you know you had with you on an errand? Never again.

Will I travel packless again, or was this just a once-in-a-lifetime challenge?

Before this trip, I saw this approach as an experiment – an adventure. We had usually traveled with a small (22”) roller bag for clothing and a carry-on for toiletries, book, and meds. I had always carried a purse. This packless thing was going to be a challenge, for this trip only. Roger was really excited about the idea. I was less sure. Now, I am sold. It was amazing how easy it was to travel without the hassle of the usual suitcase or backpack and purse. No checking bags on airlines or buses. No pulling a suitcase over curbs or stairs or cobblestones. No weight to carry to tire you out as you walk to accommodations. No need to go directly to your motel when you arrive in a town. (My nylon shoulder bag weighed about 3-5 pounds fully packed. What does your purse weigh?) I felt so free!

 

Our next trip in May is an Alaska cruisetour. 7 days on the boat, 5 more on land. A different challenge with 2 formal nights I will not miss, too small a room for doing laundry, seeing the same people day after day, cooler weather to accommodate. Two years ago when we took a 2 week cruise, we each took a full size (26 inch) suitcase and a carry-on. This time, I hope to take everything in just the carry-on. Including my formal-wear and dress shoes. Check back for future posts to see if we can do it……

2 Comments on "A Woman’s Retrospective: Two Months Traveling Packless"

  1. patti July 16, 2012 at 11:22 pm · Reply

    hi kyanne.
    i am not quite down to packless travel, but i am certainly a minimalist when it comes to travel wardrobes!
    for me, the keys are:
    mostly synthetic fabrics; clothes in two or three solid and complementary colours (no patterns); and separates that layer, mix and match, drip dry, and look great when taken from the bottom of a bag and worn.

    so, i favour viscose/elastane blends, in black/red/gray.
    i wear loose pyjama style wide-legged pants and they are dressy, but very practical.
    on top, i wear layers: a long sleeved close fitting T or a shoestring camisole, then a sleeveless tunic, then a cardigan OR a sleeveless wrap, if required.
    this covers a range of climatic conditions comfortably.
    i have a couple of marvellous wraps that can be worn in six different ways, but they are really just a big rectangle of stretchy fabric with armholes and a few metal snaps.

    i say mostly synthetics, but i have invested in a fine merino wool cardigan and a matching singlet for an upcoming uk/europe trip where i expect to feel the cold.
    merino and silk jersey are wonderful fabrics for travellers….they look and feel beautiful, they wick moisture, they breathe, they are crushable, and they don’t retain body odours nearly as much as synthetics often do.

    i like to wear a lot of black and gray.
    they are neutral, don’t show a lot of dirt, always look smart, and mix and match effortlessly.
    and they make a great foil for jewellery and scarves!

    your five pound shoulder bag has inspired me!
    i took 4 kilos to new zealand a few months ago, and i had a couple of items i didn’t even wear.
    so, i am pretty sure i can shave a kilo off the total.
    less than that, i don’t know.
    i will be travelling alone, so i will be carrying my minimal toiletries on my own, not to mention an pad and iphone and a couple of different adaptors.
    three kilos would be fantastic to aim for! i’ll keep you posted.

    • Kyanne July 17, 2012 at 1:41 am · Reply

      Great to hear from you Patti!
      You summarize so well the basic concepts of careful choice of fabric for dry-ability and wrinkle resistance, layers for temperature responsiveness, and solid colors and neutrals for variety. I am intrigued by the idea of a wrap and would love to see a picture or web source link if you have one! We also ended up with merino sweaters which we bought in New Zealand and I was surprised how well they traveled. We wore them on our recent trip to Alaska where the temperatures were in the 50-55 degree F range (10-13 C). When worn under a waterproof shell jacket to block the wind and rain, the sweater kept us warm enough for most outdoor activities. I bet you find the same in the UK. I hope you have a wonderful trip and let us know how it goes! Kyanne

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