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Pack What You Value

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 07:33 PM

(This is part of an ongoing series of articles and stories about becoming a digital nomad that I’m writing in partnership with Workfrom. You can read part one and part two.)

When you decide to become a nomad, be it for a couple of months or a couple of years, you make the choice to live with much less. The limitations of airline baggage regulations and what you yourself can carry require you to carefully plan what to take on a trip. While challenging to do, this paring down of belongings can be a blessing as it forces to you clean clutter from your life.

Whether you take a couple of bags with you or decide to pack light to facilitate easier touring, there are decisions you must make on what comes and what goes. Choosing a nomadic lifestyle creates a radical shift in what you value. You begin to understand what is important and what you can live without. Your essentials shift to line up with what you value deep down. Is that staying connected with family? You’ll want to take a device to video chat. Is leading an active lifestyle important? Then make space for hiking or athletic gear. Or maybe you’re planning financial freedom for your own family and retirement and need to bring what’s needed to run a business. What is essential? The answer to that is as unique as each person and trip.

I arrived in New Zealand mid-February and while I’ve started purchasing a few items, I was excited to pare down the stuff in my life when I was packing up in the USA. My closet was full of clothes I no longer wore and there were boxes in the garage of things I hadn’t touched since moving into that home. It was the perfect time to de-clutter.

As I thought about what to take, my determining factor was a little mental algorithm I stepped through that compared an item’s weight and size to its cost and ability to be procured in New Zealand. My sleeping bag may have taken up a good portion of my suitcase, but it was worth bringing since it is expensive enough to not want to buy a new one here in New Zealand. I’m not planning to country hop every month or two, so I was able to bring a bit more. Here is what I decided to take:

What about everything else that doesn’t make the cut? There’s more to it than just throwing a couple pairs of clothes and a laptop in your bag. Will you be storing the stuff you can’t take with you? If so, will it be with friends, family, or in a storage facility? Maybe you’ll decide to sell or donate some of your things.

Lastly, get a friend to help you. Not only should you be hanging out with people you won’t be seeing for a while, but having someone else around while you pack and purge can be highly motivating. They can also help you decide that, yes, it’s okay to throw out things you haven’t used in two years.

As a final thought, I’ve always thought the fact that we have to use the words “stuff” and “things” when talking about our possessions is indicative of how important they really are. This may be something to keep in mind as you start writing up your own packing list. If you’re in a privileged enough position where you can take the leap into this nomadic lifestyle, I would recommend getting rid of most anything that doesn’t hold sentimental value. Consider how each item lines up with your values.

Personally, the less cluttered my spaces are, digital or physical, the more mental clarity I have. Just like closing Twitter and email can help you focus on your work, removing physical distractions can bring focus to your travel, making it both easier to get around and allowing you to be fully immersed with the real reasons for being a digital nomad: exciting new places, experiences, and people.


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