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What to Bring When Going Location Independent

Location independent gear

“Stuff” can become a serious burden when you ditch comfort and convenience for a life of location independence.

I should know.

In 2014 I held a “giving away, going away” party in my one bedroom apartment and gave away almost all my possessions before heading to the woods to sleep outside for 4 months to pay off debt.

Getting rid of all my stuff was daunting at first, but honestly, it felt amazing once I got into it.

If you’re about to leave home in search of freedom and independence, you’re probably wondering what you should bring with you.

Do you bring that pair of durable but heavy hiking boots?

Is it worth holding onto your iPad when you’re already bringing your laptop?

Does it makes sense to bring some dressier clothing, just in case you need it?

Figuring out what to bring with you when going location independent can be stressful if you haven’t done it before, but in reality, it’s actually not as hard as you might think.

It all comes down to priorities.

Which do you value more:

  1. Your stuff?  OR
  2. Your freedom?

You can try to have both, but you may find yourself getting preoccupied with where to keep your stuff, how to transport it, etc… and is that really what you want to be thinking about right now?

I have a ridiculously simple process for decluttering my life and getting back to the essentials and I want to share it with you.

What to Bring When Going Location Independent

Step #1 – Commit to bringing just the essentials.

If your intention is to travel the world and work or build a business, you really don’t need much to get by.

Cutting boards and salad spinners might have their place in a domestic home environment but when you’re country-hopping and eating street food on the daily, I’m sure you’ll get by without.

Make this commitment to yourself right now: “I will only bring the essentials.”

You don’t want to be that digital nomad who’s hauling luggage up rickety flights of stairs to your cheap apartment. Besides slowing you down (and costing you extra when flying), your excess luggage will make you a possible target for theft.

Step #2 – Create an inventory list.

In order to know what to pack and what to leave behind, you need to know what’s useful to you.

I start off with a Google Spreadsheet and title it “What I need to live”.

This helps me focus on just the absolute essentials.

List out the items you think you’ll need, their intended purpose or use, and whether or not you have them.

This really helps filter out things that are “nice to haves” rather than “need to haves.”

Inventory list

My inventory list for sleeping outside (2014)

Step #3 – Lay it all out.

I like to take everything I own (or everything that might come with me) and lay it all out so I can actually see everything I’m considering bringing.

As you’re laying stuff out you’ll come across items you realize you really don’t need anymore. Toss ’em to the side for now.

Just focus on laying everything out in one spot so you can visually get a sense of things.

Lots of stuff

Laying things out in the living room

Step #4 – Divide and conquer with the Impact Test.

It’s time to decide. Is it coming with you or not?

Go through your stuff and sort items in piles.

For my upcoming trip to Malaysia (and beyond), I created the following piles:

  • Coming with me
  • Storing with my parents
  • Donate
  • Trash

Now’s the time to be ruthless.

Before throwing anything into the “keep it” pile, I run a quick mental test that looks at the impact of not having the item.

The Impact Test

For every item you want to keep or bring with you, ask yourself, “Will not bringing/owning this item significantly impact my happiness in a negative way?”

If leaving behind your exercise equipment will stress you out because it’ll be harder to get a good workout in, consider alternatives that will allow you to get what you want without having to bring heavy workout gear (consider a resistance band).

Get creative with your alternatives.

Instead of taking notes in your physical journal, use Day One.

If you love your copy of The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, download a digital version.

It’s easy to think that you need items that you’ve gotten used to having around, but hopefully this test will help you keep your “keep” pile lean.

Every item you don’t bring is a victory.

Step #5 – Pack it in (and continue to pare down.)

By this point you should have a reasonable pile of things you want to bring with you on your location independent journey.

My location independence pack

My location independence pack

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to get a pack of some sort (backpack or otherwise) to cram your stuff into.

Hopefully you’ve already got one, but if not, check out reviews and read user feedback before you buy. You want something that’s durable, spacious enough for your stuff, and has helpful compartments or pockets for easy access.

I’m a big fan of Osprey packs personally.

Don’t have room for all your crap? Go back to Step 4 and take it seriously.

If you’re struggling with this process, just remember: Anything you trash or give away now you can always buy back later.

And don’t forget…

You’re packing for your FREEDOM.

I hope these steps helped you in figuring out what to bring with you when going location independent.

What do you bring when going location independent?

3 comments… add one
  • Aaron Scott March 15, 2016, 7:41 pm

    Hey Charles. I just stumbled on your blog and I love that you’re documenting this process. I just returned from a year-long road trip that required exactly the kind of pairing down you talk about in this post and was able to start a new business while on the road too. Also, I second your love of Osprey packs. Cheers.

    • Charles Johnson March 15, 2016, 7:47 pm

      Thanks Aaron! I appreciate the comment, and I’d be interested in hearing more about your journey. OK if I shoot you an email?

      • Aaron Scott March 15, 2016, 7:51 pm

        Sure thing.

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