packing: an exercise in minimalism

A question many people have asked me—and that I’ve asked others doing similar long-term traveling—is “how do you pack for something like this?”

Well, we are very much in the throes of figuring it out right now.

For a while now, I’ve been trying to declutter my closet and reduce the amount of my overall possessions. But packing for ten months in one backpack will put my alleged commitment to minimalism to an extreme test.

I do want to note that I am lucky to be in a position where I am worried about having too much stuff, instead of not having enough. I am also lucky that I can keep many of these things at my parents’ house while on the road, so by no means am I implying that I will get rid of all my things that don’t fit in my backpack.

But still, I’m looking forward to this opportunity to reduce and focus on the most essential things I need to live day-by-day on this trip.

And I had two general and related principles as I was packing: one—if I’m thinking I should bring something “just in case“, I probably shouldn’t, and two—I can always buy new things on the road if I really need them.

So what did make the cut? Let’s take a look …

All my clothes coming with me

Packing Devices

  • 44L backpack (carry-on size)
  • Crossbody purse
  • Assorted packing cubes


  • 1 pair of hiking pants
  • 1 pair of running leggings
  • 1 maxi skirt (convertible to dress)
  • 1 pair of leggings (for layers and lounging around)
  • 1 pair of gym shorts
  • 2 athletic-type T-shirts
  • 2 athletic-type tank tops
  • 2 ribbed cotton tank tops
  • 1 long-sleeved, zip-up running top
  • 1 black cardigan
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 fleece (to wear on the plane)
  • 2 pairs of hiking socks
  • 2 pairs of regular socks
  • 3 sports bras
  • 1 regular bra
  • 5 pairs of underwear
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 mumu (for beaches and lounging around)
  • 1 sarong (all-around good travel accessory)
My clothes (minus underwear, socks, bathing suits, and what I’ll wear on the plane) in a medium-sized packing cube—for some sense of scale, a pair of gym shorts are on top on the left


  • Hiking boots (to wear on the plane)
  • Tevas sandals
  • Grey Toms

Electronics (shared with Vikram)

  • MacBook Air
  • iPad Mini
  • Kindle Paperwhites (one for each of us)
  • iPhones
  • Chargers
  • Adapters
  • Travel-sized surge protector
  • Selfie stick
  • Audio splitter
  • Portable battery charger
  • Journal and pens (old-school tech)


  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Face wash
  • Face moisturizer with SPF
  • Sunscreen
  • Foundation
  • Mascara
  • Lip balm
  • One-a-day contacts
  • Glasses
  • Razor and blades
  • Tampons and liners
  • Tweezers
  • Clear toiletry case
My toiletry kit with reusable, airplane-ready bottles for liquids


  • Basic first-aid supplies
  • Over-the-counter meds
  • Anti-malarial pills
  • Anti-diarrheal pills 
  • Altitude sickness pills
  • Hand sanitizer

Travel Accessories

  • Sunglasses
  • Baseball cap
  • Collapsible backpack
  • Headlamp
  • Sleep liner
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Water bottle
  • Earplugs
  • Backpack rain cover
  • Locks
  • Plastic bags
Almost there—just a few more things to pack in

Two caveats: I am planning to meet my parents in the Philippines in May, and they will bring me some supplemental things (like more contacts). I also didn’t include 100% everything like our passports, wallets, and other essential items like that.

But otherwise, that’s it! We’ll see soon how well this serves me.

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