One of the first beasts you must tame when you are considering a location-independent lifestyle is the desire to have your stuff. You know what I mean. You’re leaving a full-scale life, crammed with memories and cool tokens tucked in every nook and cranny. Depending on your family and age, you may have decades of memories and thousands of square feet to manage. How do you abandon it all? You start by packing like a pro. (For more information about how to reduce your stuff as you kick off your location-independent lifestyle, we’ll write another blog about that shortly. Stay tuned.)
I’m going to cover how to do your first pack in three parts:
- Deciding what to bring with you.
- Moving your things across the country or globe.
- Packing for subsequent moves.
This should help you approach the process in a more methodical, orderly way and instead of seeming like an impossibility, it will feel like an adventure. One you can totally manage and enjoy.
Packing Part 1:
What’s important to bring with you for location-independent living?
This is absolutely the hardest part of the process, so as soon as you conquer this you can rest assured that the remainder of your travels will get easier and easier.
Please allow me to set the stage for you. We have the following parameters to work with in our particular situation:
- We are only staying in fully furnished short-term rentals. Our average planned stay is six (6) months per stop.
- We are traveling within the continental U.S. by car. We have a 2015 Honda Fit. Not a huge car, but does have good storage options with the seats folded in the back.
- We need to fit two (2) adult humans in the car, and one (1) cat and her accouterments.
- We can ship more boxes if we want, but we are trying to avoid that if at all possible. Packing like pros is key for us.
- We have some office supplies and work items we have to take with us, so we cannot use all the space for personal items.
- Our first stop is over 3,000 miles away from where we are starting. So we need the ability to travel for a few days and nights before we arrive.
In order to determine what all you can bring along we recommend you start by making a pile of things you think may be interesting to have with you. At the same time you are making your pile, we recommend you determine how many boxes, bins or tubs you will be packing into your vehicle. (Obviously if you are traveling across the globe or flying to your destination, your situation will be completely different and you will probably only take what you can fit in a backpack, and only ship a few key items.) We’re not going to explore that here because you can read about global travel tips elsewhere. My only comment on that would be to pack light. You want to be able to carry your stuff everywhere when you travel by plane or globally.
After you have made your pile (we put our pile on a tarp in the garage so we were in a confined space), and you know how many vessels will fit in your vehicle, you can start to winnow down the pile and assign items to bins. Certainly you will have more than what will fit. Drat.
When this happens, it’s time to take a fresh cut and think about four (4) important questions:
What do you need to have with you?
What do you want to have with you?
What matters most to you?
What can you buy when you get there?
Need to Have Items
Certainly there will be a handful of things you simply must have. These include items like prescription medications, personal care and health items (at least some to get you started), clothes and shoes. If you are in the car a long time you may want some starter snacks and water.
Your list may also include work-related items like electronics, printers, scanners, etc. or bikes and other sports equipment. We also need room for our cat and her food, supplies, etc. Put these items in place first so you know what is left to work with space-wise.
Want to Have Items
After you make your pile of “must-have items”, consider what you want to have. We personally wanted to have some memories and tokens from home. So we decided those items were important to include. Some examples were coffee cups from a local favorite shop, our French presses (large and small), some small decor items and some photographs. Many of these are featured in my header photo. (That’s a representative sample of our real stuff.)
What matters most to you?
This is going to be completely different for each person or couple. For me, what mattered most was having a few things that reminded me of home, but room to grow. So that’s how I packed. I did end up sending about six (6) additional LARGE FLAT RATE boxes through the USPS. I found that to be the cheapest way to send additional things across the country at only about $15 per box if you opted for the at-home pickup option. If you are going to be shipping things regularly, I highly encourage you to set up a MyUSPS.com account online. It will save you a lot of time in the long run.
Edit: We also found that FedEx Home Delivery was a great shipping option. FedEx has some standard larger boxes you can pick up in their shipping locations and we ended up getting a 24″ x 24″ 24″ box for about $10 and filled that with some work-related items with a total weight right around 50 lbs. That shipped for about $54, so that’s right around a $1/lb and seems quite reasonable to us. It’s certainly worth putting in a quote on their website.
For you, skiing or cycling may be a passion, or perhaps art or music. Whatever drives you, I hope you absolutely leave room for those things in your travels. You’ll feel like you are abandoning yourself in the process if you don’t and the point of the process is to grow in new spaces, but still maintain a sense of self.
What can you buy when you arrive?
The short answer is—almost anything. Really. We brought a whole bunch of stuff we thought we might need if the kitchen wasn’t fully stocked, but in reality we could have bought almost any of those items. (In fact, we had to buy several items anyway because a few key things were missing that we thought would be provided, so expect to hit up some thrift shops, Goodwill Stores or Bed Bath and Beyond/ Target when you get there.)
I’d also recommend only bringing your absolute favorite clothes and shoes. You will see more interesting things as you explore new cities and want to have some room to grow and change with the seasons. With new places full of wonderful boutiques and local retailers you’ve never seen before, you’d be surprised as how much more willing you are to allow yourself the joy of a few clothing, shoe and accessory purchases. Similarly, you may find yourself wanting to pick up a handful of mementos from each city.
That brings me to my next point. Just be certain that whatever you acquire, you remember you have to consider what’s involved with packing it back up. (Remember how tight that car was crammed?) My plan is to always get rid of what hasn’t really been used as of late and either ship it back to a home base (if it’s really precious), sell it or donate it. Life is too short to spend too long lugging around too much crap. It’s freeing to watch it go and know you’ve got so many new things to find in the future that will bring joy and happiness on your own path of discovery.
Packing Part 2:
Moving your things across the country or globe.
As I mentioned previously, we traveled with one (1) car. We have a compact car that has to serve as both our moving truck and our daily shuttle. That little guy needs to make it for several more years so we’re being as kind to the car as we can.
We found that Rubbermaid totes fit best and stacked well in our car. Those also left small spaces in between where long items or strange shapes could fit. Finally, we bought and added a bike rack to the back of the car so we could bring our two (2) bikes along for the ride. (We may or may not keep the bikes as we continue to travel. The jury’s still out on that vote. They are hard to secure on the road and once you arrive in denser cities.)
Chad traveled with that loaded car all the way across the country for five (5) days with his sister. Each night, the bikes had to come in and off the rack to stay inside a hotel room where they couldn’t be stolen. While that was happening, I was finishing up the final purge of items back home for sale, save or donation. I flew out a couple weeks later with the cat in tow so she’d have a five-hour travel experience instead of a five-day one. By the time this is over, she’s going to probably be one of the most well-traveled pets I know. She doesn’t seem to worse for the wear now that she’s here.
Packing Part 3:
Packing it up again. Rinse and repeat.
Now that we are getting ready to get everything to fit back in the car again, we need to be more selective about what we’re bringing along this time around. Stay tuned for new photos and our new pile as our journey continues.
An Editor’s Note: This blog can and will be updated. Think we missed something? Tell us. We’ll consider adding it based on facts, a strong recommendation or our own experiences. Find a mistake? Ugh, I hate mistakes. Happy to correct those and give you a big thumb’s up for finding them. Yours in