Monday, May 6, 2013

Sabbatical FAQs: Living out of a carry-on suitcase for six weeks

In this last entry in the series of answers to common questions, I address queries about living out of such a small suitcase for such a long time.

Did you really live out of one carry-on suitcase for six weeks?

Sort of.  I also had a ScotEVest coat and a backpack.  Aside from the coat, though, all clothing and shoes, aside from what I was wearing, and my toiletries fit in the international size carry-on bag. 

What clothing did you take?

Counting what I was wearing at any given time,

·      two pairs of identical black pants
·      two identical black UnderArmour short-sleeve shirts
·      three long-sleeve shirts (these were supposed to be thin shirts designed for travel and easy washing, but my plan for those fell through and so I ended up taking three Peterman shirts I already had)
·      five pairs of black socks
·      five pairs of underwear
·      six handkerchiefs (plus two spares in the backpack)
·      a small dop kit
·      two pairs of identical black tennis shoes with no logos, shoes that passed as dressy enough in multiple three-star restaurants
·      one Travelsmith black sport coat designed for travel (lightweight, wrinkle-resistant), which I needed for nice restaurants
·      one black cashmere sweater, to wear under the sport coat in nice restaurants

Sharon had told me I could get by with one pair of shoes, and she was right; I never wore the second pair. 

How often did you wear things?

Until they were dirty or smelly enough to bother me. 

What then?

A combination of hand washing and paying exorbitant prices for hotel laundry services. 

Any problems?

Don’t read this if you don’t want a little information about my personal odor. 

Oddly, the UnderArmour shirts did not handle sweat at all well.  They claim to be odor-resistant, but with me they were exactly the opposite.  My odor when I sweat is not normally strong, but, wow, was it strong in these shirts.  I mean the kind of strong that I could smell myself coming, the kind of strong that made me feel bad for anyone sitting within three feet of me.  Maybe it was the change in soap or washing the shirts in different detergent; I’ll know more on that after I’ve been home for a bit.  But, based on my experience, as much as I loved the thinness and wicking ability of these shirts, I’m not sure I’d choose them again.

Would you pack this lightly again?

Absolutely.  I’m seriously considering changing my standard business travel approach to fit in the same tiny suitcase. 

What do you wish you’d packed that you didn’t?

Over-ear, high-quality headphones (either my Beats or my Bose noise-canceling set), to block out unwelcome conversation and trains, and a small sound bar, because I like music in the air in hotel rooms, particularly when I’m writing. 

What was the biggest downside of this approach?

No souvenirs.  I window-shopped, but I bought myself only one object, a truly remarkable book, because I had no room to carry anything.  So, I’m coming home empty-handed.  I apologize to my family and friends in advance, but there was just no room. 

Why the backpack?

For electronics—phone, mini tablet, and ultraportable—cables, notebooks, pens, documents, and so on. 

No books?

For the first time in my memory on a trip, no.  I simply had no space for them.  I read a bunch of books, but all as ebooks on the tablet. 

How’d that work for you?

Not bad.  I missed and still greatly prefer physical books, but to save the space for a trip, I’d do it again.  Of course, being a collector, it was expensive, because I own paper copies of every ebook I bought. 

How’d you like the ScottEVest jacket?

Overall, I loved it.  On any cool day, and many of my days were cool, I could wear it and carry safely with me everything I might want to have, including wallet, passport, glasses for reading, tablet (if I wanted it), small notebook, pen, and phone. 

I have only two complaints about it.

First, it does not breathe at all.  If the day turned at all warm, I ended up sticky sweaty inside it.  Adding a back vent and vents under the armpits would not jeopardize the jacket’s contents and would make it a far better garment.

Second and less important, the hood, which was wonderful on rainy days, does not tuck well back into its little pouch, because that pouch seals with very little Velcro.  A couple more Velcro strips would make all the difference. 

That said, I’m glad I bought the jacket and recommend it, with those two reservations, to other travelers who want a safe way to have all their key documents and stuff with them at all time. 

1 comment:

David Drake said...

Dear Mark,

I am equally pleased with the Scott-E vest that I bought after you found it.

With the sleeves unzipped and packed, I've been able to wear it even when the weather turns warm. One day in Rome it was drizzling in the morning and sunny and 30 degrees warmer by the time we got back in the evening.

It was wonderful to have my passport with me safely at all times I was out, and to have pockets which would not only hold many separate things but took a 7.5" x 10.5" guidebook easily.

My bags are weighted now with guidebooks, but we're only gone for two weeks.

Glad you made it home safely.


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