The 10 Stupidest Things I Packed For A Year-Long, Around The World Sabbatical

It's hard to pack for any long-duration trip when you know the weather will change. So you can imagine the complexity of packing appropriate clothing for a trip that would span northern Europe in January, the tropics in high summer, and various climes and locales in between. And then do it all with only two bags. Yeah. That's hard. 

I thought I had done a great job keeping things nice and light. We sold off everything before we left, keeping our personal belongs down to what we thought were just the bare necessities. Some 90% of my clothes went to Goodwill. My electronic footprint shrunk by a factor that would make Gordon Moore jealous. And most of the accoutrements that helped defined me were judged, found unworthy, and scrapped.

Or so I thought. Today, I'm three months into this at-least year-long journey, and I've grossly overpacked. Here are the things that I've discarded, sold, or sent back to the mostly-unused 5'x5' storage unit in the off chance we decide to return to our old lives in the States.  

  1. Three pairs of jeans - Seriously? Hell, I didn't wear three pairs of jeans in any calendar month when I had a 600 square foot closet. Odds are, I wouldn't even _wash_ jeans in any calendar month. So now I'm down to two. Idiot.

  2. American-style swim trunks - My ancestors left Victorian England long ago. Why the hell am I lugging around swim trunks that drape past my knees? No more. I'll risk not having the excess fabric to make a tourniquet in favor of my new skimpy European-style budgie smugglers. (They're bigger on the inside!)

  3. Fancy shoes - Can you believe I packed four pairs of shoes? Boots? Makes sense. I totally needed them the first two months of the year. Sneakers? Check. Almost year-round usage provides great versatility. Sandals? Roger. And not cheap flip-flops. Mine can double as water shoes and are solid enough to handle hikes (when it's warm enough). That leaves the fancy leather deck shoes that, I admit, look quite nice and are comfy. But they take up space, serve zero purpose, and were a foolish extravagance. Gone.

  4. Fancy reading glasses - My reading glasses were pretty cool. They click from the front, look great, and have started more than one conversation while we've been traveling. You'll note the use of were in the first sentence of this section. They aren't made for the abuse of backpacks, coats on and off, slogging through tight spaces, and other advanced wear that happens when they're worn outside of an office setting. They broke on me two days ago. Luckily, readers are a $2 item just about everywhere. If they break, they break.

  5. Bulky base layers - I mentioned northern Europe, right? That means base layers. But it doesn't necessarily mean woolen long johns, and fluffy cotton pullovers. I can fit 2-3 lightweight, super-thin upper and lower layers in place of each those big things, which I've been dropping like flies during the journey. Sure, the fancy stuff costs more, but it saves space and weight, making them worth the cost.

  6. A weeks worth of clean undies - At the risk of TMI... I've rarely worn underwear for the last three decades. Sure, I've owned underwear and have been known to don them from time to time. But the last time I wore them seven days in a row was when my mom was dressing me. Seriously. Dumb. I'll make it quite fine with a couple pair, thanks all the same. Idiot. 

  7. US-configured USB power adaptors - Figuring out power plugs across multiple continents is a pain, to be sure. But you know what I'm never without? Something that has a USB plug. My laptop. Televisions. DVD players. It's not like we're living in a tent in the middle of the Sahara. The U in USB stands for universal. They are all around me. Still, I packed at least FOUR large, two-prong plugs that have been completely useless  and taking up space since I left. 

  8. Discs for golf - I really enjoy disc golf and have played off and on for more than twenty years. The game helps me relax and unwind, and it gets me a little exercise. I did mention I'm on an at-least year-long sabbatical, right? I'VE NOTHING BUT PLENTY OF TIME TO RELAX AND UNWIND. And if I find myself near a disc golf course while I'm away, I'll buy a couple of disks. They're less than $10 each. I spend that on an afternoon at the pub! 

  9. Acoustic bass guitar - I'm pretty sure my rock-and-roll -- or in my case, ska punk -- stardom days are 15 years behind me. Before we left, I sold off every guitar but my acoustic, assuming that I'd have plenty of time to get back to my groove on the trip. In reality, I can count the number of times I took it out of its case on one hand. Two fingers, actually: One to take the picture for the classified, and another so the guy who bought it try it out. Nice base. I have fond memories. And memories they shall stay. Goodbye extra baggage fees, too!

  10. Extra suitcase - With all that stuff gone... I can drop a suitcase, too. It's a really nice suitcase, the perfect carry-on size. But I no longer need it, so it's going back.

In seven days, we'll pack up from this place and travel to the next. And I'll do it with one bag -- the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 -- on my back, and nothing in my hands. Even better: it's carry-on sized. Can I make it around the world in a single bag? Well... there's no turning back now!