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Packing can be challenging for any trip, but how do you pack for twelve months traveling with Remote Year? Here’s how one participant did it. Find out what worked and what didn’t!
Packing for Remote Year
Written By: Casey Carr-Jones
Last June, I took an epic 12-month journey around the world, from Europe to Africa, Asia, and South America.
I left my home, my cat, and the majority of my killer wardrobe in New Jersey to join a program called Remote Year, which brings together 75 digital nomads to live, work, and travel together as a community, and I could only pack the essentials.
So, what pieces did I pack that made me feel cute and stylish, while being multi-functional? How did I not go crazy wearing the same outfit every seven to ten days?
How did I find ways to turn my wardrobe into something that worked for a rooftop in Lisbon, a camel ride in the Sahara, and a salsa bar in Buenos Aires? And how did I introduce local purchases into my existing wardrobe?
Read our round-the-world packing list to learn how to pack for a trip like this!
Where Did I Start?
Let’s start with some math. Per the general airline policy, I have one allowed checked bag (with a 50-pound limit). I can bring one 10-pound carry-on and one personal item.
Once I subtracted the toiletries, electronics, adaptors, and other essentials I needed for work, I was left with about 30 pounds and far less space!
- June: Valencia, Spain
- July: Lisbon, Portugal
- August: Rabat and Marrakesh, Morocco
- September: Sofia, Bulgaria; Athens, Greece
- October: Belgrade, Serbia; Budapest, Hungary
- November: Hanoi, Vietnam
- December: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia
- January: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Bali, Indonesia
- February: Lima, Peru
- March: Cordoba, Argentina
- April: Buenos Aires, Argentina
- May: Santiago, Chile
Always start your packing research by reading these packing lists for your specific destination!
Next I had to account for weather. 12 months is a long time with the potential for drastically different climates.
Fortunately, the majority of my itinerary was to locations in their summer and fall seasons (thank you, Southern Hemisphere!), so I focused on a warm-weather wardrobe with a few pieces for layering and for cold airplanes.
Read this post on how to pack for different climates!
My style, pre-travel is what I’d call “Feminine Boss Lady.” My wardrobe consisted of pencil skirts, blouses, heels, statement jewelry, and heels at least 3 inches high.
I was professional but girly–someone to be taken seriously but who enjoyed a glass of chardonnay after a long day. My casual style was more “Trendy Chic,” with bright colors and bold patterns like animal prints, stripes, and polka dots.
I had a walk-in closet that overflowed into my coat closet, and the thought of trying to condense my scarf collection made my head spin.
Use a capsule wardrobe like one of these to help you narrow down your options!
I started doing serious research into capsule wardrobes and ways I could still feel fashionable on the road. I focused my color scheme using a base of black and integrated color and patterns into my tops. My aim was to match all of my bottoms to my tops so I had maximum flexibility when combining pieces to build different looks.
Read these tips on how to avoid a boring all-black wardrobe when you travel!
Here is an example of what went into my bag when I left for my trip on May 27, 2016:
Shorts | Tank | Racerback | Top | Thermals | Sweater | V-neck | Nightshirt | Briefs | Bra | Reversible | Bikini | 2 Piece Bikini | One Piece | Cover-up | Shoes | Gladiator | Flip Flop | Sneaker | Sandals
- Bottoms: 3 pairs denim jeans, 1 pair black jeans, 1 pair black slacks, 3 pairs shorts.
- Tops: 4 neutral tee shirts (white, gray, black), 2 graphic tees, 5 patterned tank top blouses, 6 long-sleeved tee-shirts, 4 layering tank tops, 1 crop top.
- Outerwear & Layers: 2 printed cardigans, 1 chambray long-sleeved shirt, 1 vest, 2 blazers, 2 sweaters, 1 windbreaker.
- Dresses: 1 patterned day dress, 1 black maxi, 1 black long-sleeved dress, 1 date night dress.
- Other: 2 pajama pants, 1 nightgown, 2 yoga pants, 3 workout/sleep shorts, 2 workout tees, 4 workout tanks, 1 long-sleeve workout shirt, undies and socks, 3 bras (1 black, 1 nude, 1 strapless), 4 bathing suits, 1 cover up.
- Shoes: 1 pair athletic sneakers, 1 pair wedge heels, black Gladiator sandals, gold sandals, beach flip flops, Sperry boat shoes, black Toms.
Along with a universal adaptor, a hair dryer, first aid kit, and a ton of malaria pills, I felt I was ready to go with my 50lb wheeled suitcase, 10lb carry-on backpack, and a large purse.
Immediate Adjustments – Why Did I Pack That?
My immediate thought upon arriving in Spain was “Why the heck did I pack long-sleeved shirts?” A lack of air conditioners and 85°F weather left me sweating and questioning my wardrobe choices.
Though I knew I’d experience some cooler temps eventually, I had clearly packed too much. I quickly donated one of the cardigans, a sweater, all but one of the long-sleeved shirts, a blazer, and my wedge heels.
Read this long-term packing strategy to transition from hot to cold weather!
As someone who wore heels nearly every day in the U.S., giving up my wedges was a hard decision. But I was walking on cobblestones and uneven pavement for at least an hour per day, and my ankles didn’t stand a chance in heels. If needed, I knew I could purchase a flashy pair of heels for salsa dancing in Argentina.
Check out our most comfortable walking sandals that don’t sacrifice style!
Then, four months into my journey, I had to take a hard look at my wardrobe. I didn’t feel energized by my outfits anymore. They were functional–I had enough to wear–but I didn’t feel beautiful in anything.
I donated all of my white clothing (or tossed it–red wine is treacherous!) and decided that if I didn’t wear something in a two-week timeframe, I needed to replace it or get rid of it. (Except my date night va-va-voom dress, which I saved for special occasions.)
Read this to learn how to pack lightly, efficiently and fashionably for any destination!
Introducing Local Items into an Existing Wardrobe
Each city I visited had its own unique styles and trends.
Morocco, for example, had medinas (marketplaces of clothes, food, and trinkets) full of beautiful textiles in unique and modern cuts. Serbia had thick knits and chunky patterns, perfect for cool evenings. Bali had loose flowing maxi skirts and funky printed tanks.
If you’re expecting me to tell you I spent this year without shopping, then you’d be wrong! I take pride in how I dress, and even though I could feel my style evolving to that of a true traveler–with an emphasis on neutrals–I lusted after the neon floral patterns of the alpaca fur ponchos in Peru.
So what did I do? I was selective. I found pieces that fit me beautifully, were affordable, and unique to the location. So now I can always look at the sweater I bought in Peru and know the story behind it. It’s a wearable souvenir!
Learn more about how to pack light for cold weather!
From Maximista to Minimalist in 9 months
Here are the clothes I currently travel with. Strikethroughs show what I ditched and bolded words show what I’ve added. (Note: the visual above is a sample capsule wardrobe based on the author’s description.)
3 2 pairs denim jeans, 1 pair black jeans, 1 pair black slacks, 3 pairs shorts, 1 skirt from Spain, 1 skirt from Bulgaria
4 neutral tees (white, gray, black), 2 graphic tees,
5 3 patterned tank top blouses, 6 long-sleeved tee-shirts, 4 layering tank tops, 1 crop top
Outerwear & Layers
2 1 solid black cardigan, 1 chambray long-sleeved shirt, 1 vest, 2 1 blazer, 2 sweaters, 1 windbreaker
1 patterned day dress, 1 black maxi, 1 black long-sleeved dress, 1 date night dress, 1 dress from Morocco
2 pajama pants, 1 nightgown, 2 1 yoga pant, 3 workout/sleep shorts, 2 workout tees, 4 workout tanks, 1 long-sleeve workout shirt, undies and socks, 3 bras (1 black, 1 nude, 1 strapless), 4 bathing suits, 1 cover up from Vietnam.
1 pair athletic sneakers,
1 pair wedge heels, black Gladiator sandals, gold sandals, beach flip flops, Sperry boat shoes, black Toms, black Converse sneakers.
This is exactly how to choose the best shoes for travel.
Style Post-Travel and Lessons Learned
Over the past several months, I’m learning that my style can evolve even when I only have two weeks of outfits. If my pre-travel style was “Feminine Boss Lady,” I would have to classify my current style as “I Woke Up Like This.”
I’ve focused on gray tones and black, and found that olive green gives off an immediate effortless vibe.
Some people may be able to replace a majority of their wardrobe every other month when traveling, but I can’t. I wish I could have enjoyed more of the flowy Valencian dresses, the hippie looks in Indonesia, or the brilliant blue shades of dresses in Santorini, Greece.
But in the end, I’m glad I was able to select key pieces and integrate them into my capsule wardrobe. It makes those outfits that much more special and allows local pieces to take center stage!
Find out how to turn any of your dresses into versatile dresses!
My most-worn items are as follows:
Black maxi dress: I wear it on city tours, on travel days (super comfortable on an airplane), to bars, to picnics, to the beach–everywhere! This staple works day and night and I feel awesome in it.
Want a printed maxi dress? Check out our roundup of beautiful summer maxi dresses!
Colorful cover-up: I bought this from a night market in Hanoi and have worn it on boats and beaches and even layer it with leggings for a casual city vibe.
Check this post for some stylish cover-ups that you can wear on and off the sand!
Black tight shorts: It’s dressier than jean shorts and good for going out to the bar!
These stylish summer shorts for women will take you from day to night, city to sea, and so much more!
Floral print off-the-shoulder top: Works well for business video calls (like I do with my resume review service) but is also adorable for nights out.
You can also check out our roundup of the best women’s business clothes for travel!
VaVaVoom “Third Date Dress”: Though I don’t wear this often, I feel amazing in it. It’s nice to have a knockout special occasion outfit.
Thank you, Casey, for sharing your wonderful tips!
What are your thoughts on packing for a long trip like this? Comment with your tips below!
For more tips on packing for a trip like this, please read the following:
- 10 Step Packing Guide to Stop Overpacking
- How to Fit Everything in a Carry-on (Video Tutorial)
- Ten-Step Packing Guide to Travel Anywhere in One Bag
- One Bag Travel: The Fashionista’s Guide to Traveling Lugagge Free
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Author Bio: Casey Carr-Jones is a part-time writer and full-time #girlboss, traveling the world while writing and managing a resume review business. Learn more about her adventures on A Packed Suitcasey or on Facebook or Instagram.