As we travel, we learn what we need to carry with us, what we value, and what can be left behind.
Embarking on a multi-country, multi-month, multi-sport journey is a new endeavor for me as I typically get by with only a carry on. I knew upon creating this adventure that my carry on only adage wouldn’t work. Because part of this trip is a co-working opportunity, my laptop was a necessity along with other tools of the trade (stickies, a journal, etc.). And, as I was spending multiple weeks with a home base, my Gunnar Fast Lane (gravel bike) became an essential item for exploration and a couple bicycle tourism projects.
Much of the luggage I owned was purchased for mountain bike trips, designed to hold a helmet, shoes, pads, pack, and other bike specific items and usually travel by car. For this adventure I didn’t necessarily need sheer volume, but rather transportability. I didn’t want to hustle a cart at the airport, or be frustrated schlepping my bags from point A to B. *Update, I did need to harness a cart at the Barcelona airport and was immediately thinking through ways to lighten my load for the next leg of the journey.
I invested in a few key pieces after much research. An aside, I don’t have any connections to these brands, nor do I get paid to share about them.
Eagle Creek 65L Women’s Specific Global Companion Travel Pack: This model opens flat like a suit case, with the versatility of a small backpack. A bit too big to carry on, but has padded backpack straps and a hip belt, so easy to throw on to get around.
Soybu Convertible Bag: Shoulder bag to backpack and it holds a yoga mat and laptop. A little big, but does fit under the seat on the plane if my laptop isn’t in it.
EBags Mother Lode Weekender Convertible, Jr: Perfect for my short galavants, carry on sized with lots of pockets, easily converted from backpack to duffle bag, and opens in two compartments like a traditional suitcase.
Thule Roundtrip Pro: I spent countless hours researching bike travel bags and landed on the Thule. Unsponsored plug here, all the Thule products I’ve ever owned are high quality and functional, so brand did play a part in the decision to purchase this model.
This bag has an integrated aluminum bike stand that packs in as aluminum bars and locks into the bottom of the bag, plus semi rigid sides. It’s a bit heavier but the ease of packing was worth it! *My bike traveled well on the first long haul journey, with everything still in its place when I unpacked.
The Packing List
I’ve been labeled as organized many times, the preparation for this journey was no different! I created a multi tab spreadsheet, and outlined categories, encompassing biking, hiking, water sports/beach, working, and touring. For clothes, I first listed my favorite and most useful items in each category, selected the ones that fit two or more categories, threw in a few extras and then laid all of it out!
Then, I took about one third of it and pulled it out of the collection. I pack a lot of black as it all goes together and doesn’t show dirt. This time around, I used the vacuum less vacuum bags, and was able to truly condense my clothing to a minimal amount of space. I also used a couple of the Eagle Creek packing cubes (one in my checked bag, one in my carry on with a weekend’s worth of clothes because sometimes luggage gets lost)!
As I round out the first leg of this summer adventure, I’m strategizing on how to pack differently to move to the next location. I was over weight with my bicycle bag in Chicago, but was able to easily transfer it to the other checked bag. My carry on was easy to use once the others were checked, but a hassle when moving from airport to apartment. The plan this next round is to pack it into the bike bag upon retrieving luggage, condensing from four to three items. I also had quite a few consumables (Skratch, sunscreen, etc.) that will not need to be packed when I leave Spain.
During this first month, I’ve learned I can make do with far less than I own, and really only need to carry with me those things of true value, the things that lead to adventure, discovery, and contentedness.