“We’ve never met,” a guy said to Rich at a recent event. “But I feel I really know you.” My husband looked a bit startled; this being California, the comment could have meant anything from “You give off a good vibe” to “We met on the astral plane” to “I’ve been stalking you for years.” Then the guy added, “From Karen’s blog.”
Then a few days later a friend wrote to ask, "So when does Rich get to share his packing tips?" That got me thinking that while my readers hear rather a lot about Rich, they've never heard much directly from him. Until now. This week I asked Rich to share his views on the really important topics: packing, life, and the healing power of duct tape.
What was your first great packing experience?
Rich: Boy scout camp. I took a big, brown duffle bag. I can’t believe you’re asking this right now, because just yesterday I was up clearing out stuff in the attic and I found that old duffle bag. I remember being ten years old, and I was so excited; I was going away on my own for the first time in my life! I threw in a bunch of clothes and took plenty of food, mostly candy bars and Hostess Cupcakes. The duffle bag probably weighed more than I did.
What’s your packing philosophy today?
Rich: Less is better. Just think of all that stuff we took with us on our honeymoon to Costa Rica, where we spent most of our time hiking around the jungle. I had a sports jacket, dress pants, dress shoes … and I didn’t wear any of them. That was an epiphany for me. I decided then that I was going to go as minimal as possible. A few years later we were in Belize carrying only a couple of gym bags. Then eight years ago, I read an article by a flight attendant called “How to Pack for Two Weeks in a Carry-On,” and I thought, “Why just two weeks? What would it be like to travel for two months with just a carry-on?”
What attracted you to the idea of luggage-free travel?
Rich: Freedom. I imagined getting on a plane without having to hassle with bags, checking luggage, security, overhead bins, worrying if there would be enough space, wasting time at baggage claim, filling out lost luggage forms. That led to the thought, “What if I could travel without any encumbrances at all?”
Was it as good as you imagined?
Rich: Better. It was great. And it really taught me the difference between what I absolutely need on a trip and what I want. (Pauses.) Isn’t that a song? (Hums the Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want.)
How is packing different as you age?
Rich: Your pill cases grow larger. And you’re more interested in being comfortable than looking cool. Not that you dress like a slob, but you tend to choose clothes that are practical and versatile. And you invest in good shoes, because you learn the importance of taking care of your feet when you’re on the road.
You talk about traveling with little or no luggage as a form of freedom. What do you mean by that?
Rich: Not being encumbered by things. You’re going on a trip to get away from the normality of life. So why take things with you that are going to keep you locked into that normality?
I know you want me to ask, so I will. What’s with you and duct tape?
Rich: Everyone should travel with a roll of duct tape; you can use it to fix anything. Your suitcase breaks? Duct tape. Your glasses break? Duct tape. Need to improvise a bandage? Duct tape. Remember when the spine of my little notebook was fraying? Duct tape. It’s true that I’ve never actually had to reattach the wing of a plane with duct tape, but I feel certain that I could. That leaking boat on our honeymoon, on that deserted river? I wish I’d had duct tape then, that’s for sure.
Want more on packing? With Rich’s help, I have revised and updated my little guide Pack Light: Quick and Easy Tips for Traveling Everywhere with Just the Right Stuff. I’ve added a section on luggage-free travel, packing checklist templates for men and women, and links to apps we love.
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I'm an American writer living in Seville, Spain and traveling the world with my husband, Rich. We've recently completed a five-month Mediterranean Comfort Food Tour, exploring the world's favorite cuisine to discover more about European culture — and our own.
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