How to pick up and go....what to pack
Many people get to the point of wanting to get rid of what ties them down, grab only their favorite possessions and adventure gear and head out of wherever they currently reside. Causes range from a wandering soul, a dead end job to dreams of a less stressful and more simplified life. I would wager that everyone is tempted at one point or another to pack up and go – and the amount of people who have told me so proves the point.
I am a planner by natural design. I like to be prepared and I like to keep my options open. Even while living in Miami, I grew used to having an extra set of clean clothes, workout gear, bathing suit and a variety of other things ready to go in my car. If I found myself on South Beach or Key Biscayne for work, I would stop afterward for a run, swim or paddle before making a trek home. After all, a 20-minute drive to get home to change would often actually take 45 minutes and all motivation to return to a beach would have disappeared. One learns to be prepared.
My last apartment, which I call a tiny box, or the Megan coop as my mother referred to it, was almost $800 a month and not even in the best of neighborhoods. I barely stayed there more than 3 or 4 nights a week anyway, always finding a festival or event near my parents, in Broward or some other place where I had an open invitation to stay with friends. Perhaps that is also what made this trip sound like such a good idea. With a plan to stay with friends, friends of friends, and parents of friends along my journey it really doesn’t feel like this is much of a departure from my regular life. They offered and I have had nothing to go by other than their sincerity, so I accept!
Planning for this road trip was a multi-stage endeavor. I, of course, didn’t want to keep my apartment so I had to pack and take everything across the state to my family’s spare bedrooms. Then I had to unpack and repack with only the necessities that would fit into my car. I didn’t have a clue if I would end up staying in one of these places or if a job would lead me to move to a city where I didn’t know anyone and make a plan to get my stuff later.
I get the question a lot. So here it is, this is what I packed:
CLOTHES…Mostly summer clothes but a few sweaters, thin gloves and a wool hat for possible cold camping nights. I did not have an end date I mind. I also knew that thrift stores in Colorado mountain towns would be AMAZING. I have since bought a “new” used winter coat, hiking pants, socks and several Polartec vests from thrift stores in Aspen, Buena Vista, Leadville and the Columbia Outlet store in Silverthorne.
CAMPING GEAR…I packed one of my tents (yes I have two), my sleeping pad, sleeping bag, camping cook set, head lamp, extra flashlights, lighters and a lot of other random camping gear for camping nights. I visited some awesome campsites and some crappy ones. My temperature cutoff for camping was 40 Fahrenheit because that is the point I could see my breath. My sleeping bag is warm enough to go a little further than that comfortably but getting out of it in the morning to go to the bathroom….not worth it. I have also utilized Airbnb and hotels.com in addition to the hospitality of friends and family.
OFFICE EQUIPMENT…When I began I was still working remotely full time, and starting a side hustle was my intention early on. I am prepared with the manuals and systems in paper format so that I could assist or do the job if necessary along with the typical notebooks, mini stapler, staples, tape, post-its in various sizes and colors, lots of pens, extra CDs (which I had but realize now no one needs any more), external storage drive for computer backups, new laptop loaded with office, Photoshop, Outlook and all my usual programs.
THANK YOU CARDS…staying at people’s houses, I generally have the inclination to buy a bunch of meals or cook if the option arises. I still do this on occasion depending on how long I stay but in my small amount of total possessions, cards were something I had many of and what a perfect situation to use them! I have a strong tendency towards keeping everything – hoarding – and fortunately the counter-goal of insisting that all my possessions fulfill their destiny.
SHOES…The only thing Barbie and I have in common is that we both have outfits for any occasion. I can be ready for a hike one minute and in heels and a cute dress the next. I LOVE shoes so I had to limit myself to two bags full. This is by far the most indulgent item I packed. Keen water shoes, hiking boots, running shoes, cowboy boots, two new pairs of heels (I bought because I had been on a buying freeze for the last six months and desperately needed new pairs), flip flops, a few pairs of sandals.
PORTABLE GRILL…I bought this at a fundraiser that the Barefoot Children of Fort Lauderdale held last year, seeing it fit into my lifestyle perfectly. I have yet to use it yet but I figure it is now or never. This is a big item but too perfect for a road trip not to bring along.
TOILETRIES…the usual, plus some extras like toilet paper, paper towels, in case I am camping.
FOOD ITEMS…I chose to bring most of what I had on hand. I used the majority at the cabin the first week and am still toting around some spices and sauces from my ventures that I have yet to open. Things like BBQ sauce from The Shed in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, some G.Love Special “hot” sauce I found on a sailing trip in Marathon, Florida and some awesome jellies from a Florida farmers market. I also picked up some Bourbon Barrel smoked salts in KY. I also have foil, Ziploc baggies and lots of tea. I brought the things that I love, can’t live without or remind me of home. It’s the little things that make me feel warm and fuzzy while eating out of a cooler on the side of a road.
ENTERTAINMENT…music is important to me. My car had Sirius when I started and my new car has a two-month trial but as a backup, I always have my massive old school IPod with my entire music library and an auxiliary cable for the car. I had a CANZ portable speaker but finally ditched it after it broke upon the 1000th drop over the past 3 years. Music is important to me. I also have since downloaded several audio books because after many consecutive 6 – 8 hr car jaunts, one realizes that the car is the perfect place to get your learning on. I brought a book a borrowed from Mo that I was reading for pleasure (Confederacy of Dunces), an outdated book on National Parks by National Geographic of which I have since purchased the current edition, a few other books on outdoor subjects I had on hand and some business books I had been trying to find time to read. To satisfy my creative side should I find the time, I bought a heringbone knitting project I started a year ago but got frustrated with and temporarily abandoned. I also brought The Game of Life, which was given to me by a friend at one of my going away parties in Miami - it felt right to bring it along on this unknown journey of life.
EXTRA PHONES…right before leaving Miami I was on a run and got drenched by a pop-up rainstorm. It was quite hilarious just how wet I got but my two-year-old Samsung Active S5 (still the best phone ever) with the crack in the screen did not see the hilarity and stopped working for a week. In the meantime, I switched to an older android and then convinced my bro to let me use his IPhone 5 for a while. It allows my family to track me on the road so they were a little less anxious when I left. The Samsung came back to life and I turned it into a hotspot and have a separate number as a backup due to a grandfathered “Unlimited” data plan with my current AT&T plan. I now have one extra number and one extra unlocked phone should something happen to one of them. In hindsight I wish I would have gotten a Verizon number as a backup, even if it meant having to buy a new Verizon specific phone because AT&T coverage out West is incredibly horrible. Sometimes even when it says there is a signal in a town the SIM card will pop an error message that it is invalid. Verizon seems to be the only consistent provider.
NINJA…my bro got me a Ninja blender for Christmas 4 years ago and I have used it almost every day since. I could not imagine life without this or my morning smoothie of banana and Vega protein with vitamins.
(BTW, I signed up to be an Amazon affiliate so if you want to buy any of the things pictured below I may receive some cash money from purchases directed from these links.)
SPIRALETTI….another awesome gift from my brother. Zoodles = zucchini noodles are one of my very favorite meals. Raw and cold with some other veggies, protein, spices, and flavored oil and vinegar. I LOVE this. Obviously, or it wouldn’t be one of the few items in my car!
COOLERS…in several shapes and sizes. I have now ditched the hard sided ones as parting gifts for friends I have stayed with and only kept the soft sided ones. I periodically throw some freezer packs in or buy blocks of ice if I have things that need to stay cold and line the bag with trash bags to keep from soggy car mat nightmares.
SHEETS AND TOWELS…you never know when you need them.
LOUNGING GEAR...this hammock was a going-away present and is an essential in my life forever forward. It is far superior to other popular brands on the market; lower price, same material and durability AND it comes with those amazing hook and rope dealies you see attached to the tree in the above pictures.
WORKOUT GEAR…yoga mat, favorite yoga DVD, kettle bell, elastic band. I prefer and find the value in group yoga classes but often that is not cost effective for a vagabond wanderer – though there are some great free yoga classes with a donation if you keep an eye out. I have hit up a few classes on the road but have a Jillian Michael's CD that borders on a cardio workout that is very effective in 30 minutes and helps me to get in the right mindset. I have had this DVD for 5+ years and use it almost every week if not every couple of days. The majority of this trip I have opted into exploring on foot when I finally get my car parked at a location. I’m visiting lots of parks and hike-able trails so the workout gear mentioned is really just a backup and weight component of a whole lot of miles walked or run.
MISCELLANEOUS…Trash bags, can openers, cutting board, kitchen knife, multi-tools, bear spray, one time use dish soap towels, anti-bacterial wipes, 100 mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner saved from my hotel travels, Avon Skin-so-Soft (a must after shower moisturizer in the arid West), bug spray, citronella candles, Starbucks Via for when I can’t find good coffee, cigarette outlet USB charger, laundry detergent pods, external battery charger, fix a flat (and or a spare and the knowledge of how to use it).
At the time of finalizing this list, I am still on the road after almost three months and find that these items are the most important. The key is to be prepared for every situation you may encounter and those that are inevitable (see car accident and flat tires). Charging phones for camera use, keeping in touch and safety is perhaps the most important!!!! Know what animals you might encounter and be prepared for unwanted humans also. Peace of mind for you and your family costs little in dollars but is a priceless sentiment.