Backpacking For The Over-Packer

My newest challenge right now is becoming a real backpacker. Like, with an actual backpack.

I came to Australia with two gigantic suitcases. To say to my fellow travelers that I came to Australia with one giant suitcase is embarrassing enough, so I don’t always mention the fact that I have a whole other suitcase back in Melbourne that I left behind when I came to the east coast.

When I was at home packing, I thought, a whole year? How am I going to fit all of that into two suitcases?! And now that I’m becoming a true backpacker, how am I going to fit the rest of the year into one backpack?! It’s going to be difficult.

My best friend and sister can attest to my tough decisions figuring out what to pack for a year. They helped me remove a bunch of items that I had originally wanted to bring. I wish I had listened to them about A LOT more, though. I had no idea what I needed, so there are plenty of times when I’m wondering what I was thinking when I packed that third pair of running pants and why I packed ALL of my bathing suits.

It was so hard to leave stuff behind. Now that I’m here, I can hardly remember what that stuff is that’s still in my room at my parents’, but I can picture the containers of clothes and shoes and bags that are sitting in their attic and in my bedroom there. I know that I left stuff all over because I didn’t give myself enough time to move back into their house before I left for Australia. I waited until only two days before I was leaving the country to start packing. It was hectic. I’m curious to go back and see what all of that stuff is. I’m sure I’ll be getting rid of lots of it.


This time away, traveling, has made me realize that there is so much that I don’t need. The biggest thing is stuff: clothes, bags, shoes, etc.

When all your belongings fit in a suitcase (and you are going to be downsizing to a backpack) you start to wonder why and how you had so much stuff at home. Think about everything that you have in your bedroom, in your house, in your parents’ house… all of those things. How much of it do we need?

Here, I’ve only bought a few things that I actually felt that I needed, mainly for work. I also got some new-to-me free clothes from former bunk-mates who were trying to lighten their loads when they left Brisbane. I’ve worn some of that and left it in the same pile of unwanted belongings, but I’ve kept one thing that I find myself wearing a lot. I didn’t exactly need those clothes, but they were free and I was excited to have something different to wear, if even for a short time before I left it behind too.

I’m about to send SO much stuff home. With my Mom coming to visit me, I’ve ordered a proper backpacker’s pack to her house. She is going to pack her stuff in there, and then when she arrives, we are going to swap. In the end of her time here, she’s going to take both suitcases home for me. I will be left with what I should have originally started with: one backpack. It’s a BIG backpack though. I’m nervous about how heavy it’s going to be to carry, but, if other travelers can do it, I’ll figure it out!

As for the difference in how at home I always wanted to shop, always wanted more stuff, I realize now that I can’t. I don’t have space for it! So even when I see something and am tempted, I remind myself that I don’t NEED it and I can’t fit it, so I can’t have it.

Now I wear the same clothes over and over and I don’t really care. I’m learning to love certain items and get rid of ones that were always kind of “meh” anyway. I wonder why I ever bought so much STUFF at home. It’s like I just had to burn the money in my pocket. It’s also the culture. When you’re living in a city, working in an office, everyone wants to buy the new cute clothes to have a certain look. Now, I’m among other people who can’t have all their stuff with them either, so we just don’t.

If you’re going to be traveling for a long time, start packing in advance. I would say at least one week. Then you can add and remove things from your pile of stuff. By the time you actually pack your bags, you should probably halve everything that you originally wanted to bring. Then, after you’ve packed a few days before leaving, you should unpack everything again and take out even more stuff before repacking.

Packing for traveling for an extended period of time is not the same as packing for vacation. If you’re going on a one week vacation, you need clothes for everyday. However, If you’re traveling for months at a time, you’re going to be washing and re-wearing things all the time, so you don’t need so many different outfits.

Another good packing strategy is to put outfits together. You should take one pair of pants and a sweater and match it with multiple shirts. Do the same with everything you’re bringing. The more versatile the items, the less you need to bring.

My over-packing self is learning slowly as I go, and I’m happy to be learning how to live with less stuff. I know I still have more than I need, but I’m looking forward to minimizing the things in my life. I hope I can keep this attitude even when I’m back home and have a lot more space to keep everything.

About the author

Rachel is from the U.S. and went to Susquehanna University for Business Administration, Human Resources, and Marketing. After working in the corporate world in HR for three years, she quit her job to travel. She started with one year in Australia on a working holiday visa where she began her blog, Rach Escapes. Rachel's passions are travel and wine. She has worked for two wineries in Marketing, has studied at the Wine School of Philadelphia, and has achieved the WSET Level 2. Her dream is to visit as many wine regions around the world as possible and share her knowledge and experiences. She hopes to encourage other people to pursue their dreams and live free.