5 Principles of Choosing What To Bring on a Trip – Podcast 022

In this episode B and Jack talks about the principles of choosing what to bring with you on a trip. They first go over the problem they want to address. After that they present the 5 principles regarding how to choose your travel belongings.

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1. Summary

1.1. How to decide what to bring with you as a digital nomad on a trip? [1:21]

The problem we are tackling today is what to bring on a trip as a digital nomad.

Why are we talking about this topic? 

There is one thing you will learn quickly when you start to travel. What you carry in your bag is one of the hard question to nail down in the nomadic lifestyle.

On the other hand, you might make the mistake of bringing too much with you. 

Besides the obvious cost of sometimes needing to pay extra airline fees for the additional weight, there are other problems…

It is hard to carry around so much stuff. Especially if you decide to use a backpack rather than a suitcase.

It is harder to keep organized and keep track of everything as you travel. 

Finally, on a more philosophical level, you can’t follow a sort of minimalism that usually nomads desire to live by. The kind of good feeling you acquire by only owning a few possessions in your day to day life.

Yeah that may sound good on paper…. But I think some people do the very opposite, by packing very little. Though this is less common (especially with new nomads) this can be very bad as well.

There is nothing worse than needing an item in a crucial moment but not having it.

This can lead to a lot of mental stress. 

Also, if you really need something on the road, you will need to buy it. Nonetheless, if you decide to buy something on the spot, then you might end up paying way more than you should.

Moreover, you might end up with an item of poor quality that you won’t be able to keep for long.

In short, packing too little can also be a trap.

Ok I hope all of this talk about what to bring on a trip as a digital nomad makes sense so far. But could I just be a bit more precise on the topic of travel belongings?

Sure thing, I will try…

There are a number of topics we could talk about related to this question concerning travel belongings , for example:

  • Which specific items do we suggest you take as a digital nomad?
  • Should you use a backpack or a suitcase?
  • Should you travel only with carry-ons or should you check luggage?

Nonetheless, in this episode, we are not talking about any of those. Rather, in this episode, we are simply talking about the meta principles to help you decide what should you take in your luggage as a digital nomad. You should think about this episode as a sort of guide for when you select the items to bring with you. 

In order to answer the question of what kind of things you should carry with you, as a digital nomad, we came up with five principles.

Notice that these principles are abstract. Thus, I am not telling you specifically what you should carry.

Rather, I am giving you the “tools” for you to decide what to bring on a trip as a digital nomad. The rationale behind this is that individual nomads have different needs based on their desired destinations, work, and hobbies.

1.2. The topic of what to bring on a trip within the Digital Nomad Life System [6:09]

The Digital Nomad Life System is a 6-step system created by us at Nomad Tactics that aims to explain how someone can go from living a non-nomadic normal life to living an optimized digital nomad life.

The topic today fits the first step of our system, which is the “Nomadic Life Prep”.

Nomadic Life Prep can be understood as the actions someone needs to take beforehand to optimally transition from a normal stable life to a digital nomad life. There are many areas we will cover in this step of the system. The main areas being finances, logistics, and psychology. The question of what to bring on a trip as a digital nomad is what you need to decide before you transition to a nomadic life (granted that you will change some of the items along your journey as a digital nomad). That is why we place this topic into this step.

To have a general overview of the Digital Nomad Life System you should listen to this episode.

1.3. The 5 principles to help you decide what to bring on a trip as a digital nomad [7:35]

A. Weekly use

This principle states that you should only keep belongings that you are likely to use on a weekly basis. It doesn’t matter how many times you use the item in a week, as long as you use it at all.

The reasoning behind this principle is that if you do not need an item weekly, then the infrequency makes it unnecessary to carry it.

You should only borrow, rent, or even buy it from someone for the things you need once in a blue moon.

For example, assuming you are a nomad that works online and you are into fitness, then it makes sense for you to bring shorts with you (for your fitness routine), but not a suit. 

Yeah… there might be a few occasions where you need a suit as a nomad.

Say, a wedding.

But these occasions are so infrequent that it would make more sense to rent a suit when you need it, rather than always carrying one with you. If it is a cheap item you can just buy and then resell or leave it there.

Notice that you might not nail down from the start which sort of items you will need every week. Thus, there is a period of adaptation at the beginning where you will gradually realize you should get some new items and discard some old ones.

However, there is one exception to this principle.

It has to do with items directly related to your work, your serious hobby or emergency items (if you want to know what is a serious hobby and how to pick a proper one as a nomad click here). 

B. Versatility

This principle states you should aim to get belongings that have versatile utility as much as possible. In other words, you should prefer items that have different uses, rather than a single one.

The rationale behind this principle is that if you get an item that is versatile, then you can save some precious space in your luggage by having fewer items.

Are you confused about what I am saying? 

Let me give you some examples.

Getting laundry bags? Why not get one that you can also use as your supermarket groceries bags.

Getting a small packing cube? Why not instead get some insulated food bags (which by the way look almost the same as a normal packing cube) to use as a packing cube and, at the same time, to carry food around.

Getting swimming shorts? Why not get one that looks fine so you can also use as gym shorts?

Getting winter pajamas? Why not get one that looks like normal joggers and you can also use in your day to day life.

C. Invest in quality

This principle says that since you have a limited amount of space, then these few things you carry should of very good quality. You will use it all the time, so it is worth it!

This means that it makes sense to get something of a higher quality even if you are paying a bit more if you know you will carry it around with you.

For example, instead of buying a $100 dollar backpack, you should consider buying a $400 dollar one. With a high quality bag, you will always look good and the chance of the item breaking in the middle of a trip will be much lower. Also, if you consider the fact that you can use a high quality backpack for 5+ years, then it is not such a big investment after all.

D. Matching

The principle of matching establishes that since you only can have few belongings with you, then such belongings should be able to mix and match  well. 

There are two ways in which you can think about belongings’ matching. These are aesthetics (i.e. things matching in their look) and functions (i.e. things being compatible and complementary with each other in terms of their functionality).

The obvious example here is clothes in terms of their aesthetic matching.

If you are not a nomad and you live in a big house, with a big wardrobe, then you can have a lot of clothes. Some of these clothes may go well together… some may not. But that is no big deal for you. You have a lot of space.

On the other hand, you are a nomad… Therefore you have limited space.

You need to be smart about the clothing you carry with you. You should have clothes that go well together no matter how you combine them. So, the best way to put into practice this principle for clothing is to choose a colour palette, which means you only have clothes from certain colours and these colours go well together. By doing that you can ALWAYS wear things that match well.

This principle makes obvious sense in the context of clothing… But it goes beyond that.

We can think about matching more broadly in terms of electronics, like having the electronics from the same brand, accessories, camera gear, etc.

E. Compactness 

The principle of compactness is perhaps the most straightforward of them all. Nonetheless, it is so important that it is worthwhile to mention.

We already established from the beginning of this episode that every inch of your backpack is very valuable since you have so little.

If the luggage capacity is so important, you should have the smallest size items if possible, considering that the functions are the same and it also follows the other 4 principles.

For instance, if you are choosing between portable chargers that have more or less the same functions as another one, like the same number of ports, same amperage, voltage, etc., then you should choose the more compact option.

It sounds simple, but sometimes people overlook this principle when they are buying their travel items.

The simplest way to find the most compact options of any item is to look for “travel + item name” on any shopping website like Amazon.

You will be amazed at how small some items can be when they are made for travellers. For instance, I have a hairdryer that was smaller than 10cm in length, and I still get a bodyweight scale smaller than 20cm.

2. Transcript

Mr. B: Hey hello welcome to the Nomad Tactics podcast.

Mr. B: Here we provide a complete how to guide for digital nomads.

Mr. B: I'm your host B. and I'm joined once again by the co host Mr Jack.

Mr. B: Today we gonna talk about what to bring with you as a digital nomad.

Mr. B: I would start with a quick summary of deposition. First, me and Jack gonna talk about which problem we are trying to tackle in this episode. Then we gonna try to place this topic within our digital nomad life system. Finally we gonna present the five principles that you can use as your guide when you're deciding what to bring with you as a digital nomad.

Mr. B: I hope you enjoyed the episode.

Jack: So Hey hello Mister B.

Mr. B: Hey Jack.

Jack: So the problem we are going to tackle today has to do with deciding which things you should bring with you as a digital nomad.

Jack: So Mr B. why are we talking about this topic?

Mr. B: So if there is one thing you will learn very quickly when you start to travel and you started this digital nomad lifestyle is that what you carry in your bag is one of the key questions and you're gonna see that is kind of hard to nail down from the get go exactly what to bring how much to bring and stuff like that.

Mr. B: A very common problem a lot of new digital nomads make is to bring too much stuff with them.

Mr. B: So besides the obvious problem of sometimes needing to pay the extra airline fees for the additional weight.

Mr. B: There are other problems as well for instance it will be hard to carry around so much stuff and since you're a digital nomad you're always moving so the extra weight over time really gonna start bothering you.

Mr. B: Also I think that if you carry too much stuff it will be hard for you to track everything you own right you're gonna start forgetting stuff finally perhaps in a more philosophical level if you own too much you won't be subscribing to this idea of minimalism that is you know very common among digital nomads of only very little and just living with that minimal amount of stuff and focusing more on experiences and stuff like that.

Jack: Yeah that makes sense but I think some people do the very opposite by packing very little.

Jack: Though this is less common especially with the new nomads this can be very bad as well.

Mr. B: Yeah that's for sure I mean you can go the opposite direction but as you said I think that's slightly less common. But I would agree with you that there is nothing worse than needing something in a given moment and not having it also if you really need something and you are on the road probably you gonna need to buy it and if you leave to buy this specific thing you need on the spot you might end up paying a lot of money for it moreover if you buy things on the spot you might end up with items of very poor quality that you won't be able to keep it for long So I agree with you a hundred percent bringing too little it's also a trap and that's why it's so hard to find this balance.

Jack: Yeah that makes sense. Travel belongings is a relevant topic for digital nomads but can you be a little bit more precise on what are we gonna talk about today regarding travel belongings.

Mr. B: Sure so as you said travel belongings is very relevant and it seems to me that there are a number of topics we could talk about for instance we could talk about which specific items would be useful for almost all digital nomads could talk about if you should use a backpack or suitcase to packed this belongings we could talk about if you should travel only with carry-ons or if you should check luggage.

Mr. B: But all of the things that I just listed won't be the topic today.

Mr. B: Rather in this episode what I try to do is to come up with the meta principles to help a digital nomad decide what should they bring with them. So I think you can conceive this episode as being a sort of guide for how to select the appropriate things to bring with you in your digital nomad journey. In order to answer the question of what kind of things you should carry with you as a digital nomad I came up with five main principles this principles are very abstract in other words as I just said today we are going more matter simply talk about principles. So to summarize the idea of the episode is to give the tools for the individual digital nomads to decide what to bring and the rationale behind that is that different digital nomads will have different needs based on the destination which they are going based on the type of work they do based on the hobbies they have, stuff like that. So I think that would be a useful episode for a lot of people.

Jack: Yes I agreed that can definitely help a lot of people so I think as usual we should put this topic into our digital nomad life system and for people who don't understand what the system is about it is a six step system that aims to help people going from a normal stable life into a digital nomad life.

Jack: So Mr B where would you put this topic into which step of the system?

Mr. B: So I think the topic today would very clearly fit the first step of our digital nomad life system and the first step of the system is called nomadic life prep.

Mr. B: So this first step can be understood as the action someone needs to take before hand to make the optimum transition from a normal stable life to a digital nomad life and of course there are many areas that we gonna cover within the step some to do the logistics some to do with finance some to do psychology so the question of travel belongings have kind of to do with logistics since it's something you should get sorted before you start your digital nomad journey I decided to place the topic today in the first step.

Jack: I see so let's go to the main topic of today the five principles for which belongings to bring with you as a digital nomad.

Jack: So the first principle is weekly use.

Mr. B: Sure so the principal of weekly use states that you should only take belongings with you that you are likely to use on a weekly basis it doesn't matter how many times a week you're gonna use as long as you use it so the justification behind this principle is that if you do not use an item every week than it is unnecessary to carry with you since the use of such items too infrequent.

Mr. B: Things you only need once in a while you should rather borrow from someone rented or even buy in the given location so let's think about an example let's say you are digital nomad and you are very much into fitness it makes sense to carry in your bag some sport shorts but it wouldn't make sense for you to carry around the suit the reason for that is because a sport shorts if you are into fitness at least you would be using on a weekly basis on the other hand how many times a week you're gonna use a suit sure you might have a wedding once every six months but that's too infrequent and if you were to have a wedding I would suggest you to you know rent a suit rather than carrying with you all the time.

Mr. B: None the less it is kind of hard to establish with accuracy which kind of things are going to use on a weekly basis sell of course there will be some sort of trial and error so perhaps in the beginning you gonna assume you're gonna need a lot of things that in actuality you're not gonna need or perhaps you gonna not think about the given item and you're going to need to buy but the principle states that once these adaptation is over you should only stick with things you use on a weekly basis.

Mr. B: So the last point I would like to make about this principle of weekly use has to do with the exceptions to the principal as most rules there are some exceptions here this I would say are items related to your work items related to a serious hobby you might have by the way we did an episode on having hobbies as a digital nomad I believe that was episode number five so if you guys are interested please go ahead and listen and finally the last exception would be some emergency items so think for instance about medications. Medications are not the sort of thing you should be using on a weekly basis as least I hope.

Mr. B: But it's wise to carry with you in the case of an emergency.

Jack: Yeah it make sense to bring medicine with you especially you can get yourself into urgent situation so the second principle here is versatility.

Mr. B: So the second principle of versatility states that you should aim to get belongings that are versatile in their uses in other words as a digital nomad you should always prefer items that have multiple uses rather than a single one.

Mr. B: And the rationale behind the principle is that if you get an item that is versatile then you will be able to save some space in your luggage because you're going to have one item that fulfill more than one function and it goes without saying that you want to save space this might sound a little bit abstract so far so perhaps by giving an example it's going to be slightly more clear for instance let's think about swimming shorts instead of getting one that you would only use for swimming why don't you get one that you use for both swimming and going to the gym or doing any other sort of sport.

Mr. B: Same thing for pajamas instead of getting pajamas trousers that really look like pajamas why don't you get something that looks more like normal joggers that you can use in your day to day life therefore you won't need to buy an additional trousers to carry with you.

Jack: Yes selecting items that have versatility is very important when it comes to packing so the next principle here is invest in quality.

Mr. B: So this third principal investing quality establishes that since you have a very limited amount of things that you carry with you. Then this feel things you do carry should be of very good quality.

Mr. B: The rationale behind the principle is more or less the following since you only will be carrying a few thing with you and these few and this few things you will be carrying with you you will be using all the time it makes sense for you to invest in something that you look good and that probably won't break it on the middle of your trip.

Mr. B: So for instance let's think about backpacks when you are shopping for backpacks you can get very cheap options right you can find backpacks that are as cheap as a hundred dollars.

Mr. B: On the other hand you could buy a really good backpack that perhaps going to cost you around three to five hundred dollars.

Mr. B: And the idea here is that since the backpack you only have one so it's going to be a one time investment and you're gonna be using all the time you should invest in a high quality bag because most likely going to look better the quality will be there and it won't tear apart in the middle of a trip you are having also if you consider the fact that with a high quality backpack you can probably stay for more than five years.

Mr. B: On the long time it won't be such a big investment and as I said if you buy a cheaper back back you probably going to need to change more often might end up costing more.

Jack: Yeah I think after a few broken backpacks you should learn the quality is better than just a lower price.

Mr. B: You you learn that the hard way right Mr Jack?

Jack: I did.

Jack: So the next principle here is matching.

Mr. B: So the principal of matching establishes that since you can only have few belongings with you than you should be able to mix and match such belongings in very easy manner so there are two ways in which you can think about belongings matching days are in terms of aesthetics i.e. things matching in terms of their looks and functionality things being compatible and complementary with each other in terms of their functionality once again the principle is a bit abstract right now So let's think about an example in order to try to make it more clear and of course the most straightforward example here would be in terms of the aesthetics matching for your clothing.

Mr. B: If you're not a digital nomad and you live in the house and you have a wardrobe.

Mr. B: Than you can have a lot of clothes of course right and some of these clothes might not go well together but that's of course not a big deal since you have a lot of space.

Mr. B: On the other hand as a digital nomad as we already established many times your space is very limited so you need to be very smart about the clothing you carry with you you should not have close that don't go well together no matter how you combine them.

Mr. B: So the best way to put in practice this principle if we are thinking terms of clothing is to choose a certain color palette i.e. you only have clothes from certain colors and the color will go well together by doing that you can always wear no matter how you mix and match those things.

Mr. B: And the principle of matching of course seems to be quite obvious in terms of clothing but I believe it goes beyond that so we can think about matching in more broad terms and in terms of functionality for example.

Mr. B: When we think about electronics, so having electronics from the same brand for instance would be another example of matching so if you have products from apple they have a echo system there you gonna be able to minimize the number of us things you carry with you since the thing's going to be more complementary with each other.

Jack: Yeah maybe this matching principle explains why most digital nomad brings apple laptop with them.

Jack: So the next principle is compactness.

Mr. B: This principle of compactness is perhaps the most straightforward principles so far but it is so important that I thought it is worthwhile mentioning and by compactness here which simply means how small something is so we already established from the beginning of this episode that the space and the weight inside your luggage it's very valuable since you have so little and since that's the case it makes sense for digital nomads to try to optimize the use of such space so the idea behind the principle of compactness is that all other things being equal in terms of functionality in terms of the features offer in terms of the compatibility with the other principles listed before if you have two items you should always pick the smaller one so for instance let's say we are considering portable chargers and two portable chargers which we are considering taking with us have more less the same functionality so they have the same number of ports they have the same amperage the same voltage they use the same cable stuff like that if that's the case always pick the more compact option.

Mr. B: It sounds very simple but a lot of people overlook it and the way in which most digital nomads overlook this principle is rather than picking bigger objects they never search for the smaller options.

Mr. B: And the tip I have here to find this more compact options of the items you might want to bring with you is to go to any online shopping website and search for whatever their name of the item is plus the word travel.

Mr. B: By doing so you probably going to be able to find miniature versions of most things so just for the sake of examples I already had the hair dryer that was about ten centimeters in length which is substantially smaller than a normal hair dryer also another thing that I have that is very small is a body weight scale Seoul normal body weight scales have more last thirty centimeters by thirty centimeters and mine is about twenty by fifteen so again substantially smaller so it's just about looking for the smaller options when you are gathering the things you will bring with you in your digital nomad journey.

Jack: Yeah being smart with your space by how much you can bring it's really important when it comes to the digital nomad journey.

Jack: So Mr B. I think this is the end of the episode do you want to add anything to this.

Mr. B: Just like to reiterate that the aim of the episode was to give this meta principles in order for people to decide what to take but perhaps I think in the future we could record an episode on the specific things we carry all the time and perhaps even more important the items that we think would be universally useful for all digital nomads so no matter who you are no matter where you going no matter the kind of work you have.

Mr. B: Which things you should carry with you as a digital nomad.

Jack: That sounds are great episode to help digital nomad decide what to bring with them so if you enjoyed this episode please make sure to leave a review on your listening platform we are still a new podcasts and every reviews still helps I'm Jack and thanks for listening.

Mr. B: Thank you very much.

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3. Resources

Link with * is an affiliate link.

  1. Mini weight scale
  2. Mini hair dryer