“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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6/3/2016 04:05:48 pm
The Scout will likely frame this post to keep me reminded of how freeing it would be to travel luggage free. We are getting it down to minimal but not quite soaring like birds at the freedom of nothing with us. Those pill cases and technology equipment are needing a suitcase of their own these days!
6/3/2016 05:31:35 pm
Traveling luggage-free isn't always practical, Jackie, but you two might want to consider doing it for a single night, leaving most of the electronics behind and taking minimal pills, etc. We have one friend who occasionally stays at our place in Seville and shows up with just a toothbrush and an iPhone. Let me know if you decide to go for it!
6/3/2016 08:43:24 pm
Rich is shocked that anyone would think it weird to travel with duct tape. And he really wants to know if your dad has found uses for staples on the road. Great to hear from you, Ang, and besos to both you and Ryan!
I don't think my dad travels with duct tape, or staples, for that matter. I do know, however, that both were used regularly, in unison, to fix nearly everything that broke down in our house (including our bodies). I now know why it's such a valuable asset to have while traveling. You're not a weirdo, Rich, I take that back! :) My dad, on the other hand, is still a weirdo...for so many more reasons than just the tape and staples. Thanks for an entertaining read, as always! I love hearing/reading Rich's side of things, too! xoxo
6/3/2016 08:29:25 pm
Does he bring the steel-gray duct tape or has he picked out one of the flashier rolls which, I think, are smaller? Either way, I know I'm adding it to my packing list! Thanks!
6/3/2016 08:45:41 pm
Normally he brings the manly steel-gray duct tape, Nancy, but last time he carried some bright yellow duct tape I happened to have. Our small repairs looked much jollier, so I suspect there will be more zingy colors in our future. And yes, the rolls tend to be smaller, so that's another plus as well.
6/3/2016 10:02:08 pm
Rich and Karen
6/4/2016 04:23:27 pm
Yay Cleveland! Another claim to glory for my old stomping grounds! Thanks, Noreen. And I recently learned that it was originally made from a rubber-based adhesive applied to a durable backing of — drum roll, please — duck cloth. So those of us who call it "duck tape" aren't entirely wrong!
6/4/2016 12:08:32 am
Years ago here in Australia customs removed my duct tape that I had sitting in the top of my carry on backpack. Did they think I would manage a high jacking with a roll of that amazingly versatile 'stuff'?
6/4/2016 04:26:21 pm
There's no telling what duct tape could do in the wrong hands! Apparently the security people weren't taking any chances on you using its mighty powers for nefarious purposes, Angela.
6/4/2016 04:27:45 pm
As "the guy" in that incident, you would know, Jeff! Thanks for setting the record straight.
6/4/2016 01:13:42 pm
Where's the duct tape on your trip to France?!?
6/4/2016 04:29:52 pm
TC, leaving the duct tape behind was one of the hardest sacrifices of our luggage-free travel experiment in France. Obviously the need for duct tape is one of the main reasons we don't travel luggage-free all the time.
6/5/2016 02:21:17 am
6/4/2016 09:13:22 pm
You were conspicuous in your absence. Billy D. Couldn't make it; he had a prior commitment. A lot has happened over the years. I married Claire a year ago. Brad B. Tells me you are enjoying life, traveling all over the world. Would love to hear from you. Good luck,
6/5/2016 02:19:19 am
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Winner of the 2023 Firebird Book Award for Travel
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TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
Wanderlust has taken me to more than 60 countries. Every week I provide travel tips and adventure stories to inspire your journeys and let you have more fun — and better food — on the road
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