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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 09-Feb-17 11:40:27

How I went round the world with hand luggage only

Could you forsake your luxuries and travel round the world with only a small bag of necessities? That's exactly what author Sophie McKenzie did - and she didn't regret it for a moment...

Sophie McKenzie

How I went round the world with hand luggage only

Posted on: Thu 09-Feb-17 11:40:27


Lead photo

Could you travel with hand luggage only?

I recently spent five weeks travelling around the world and enjoyed some pretty amazing experiences. Telling friends about these, I've noticed that the single fact that interests them most is not my account of the machete-wielding women cutting the grassy verge of a Cambodian road or the overwhelming power of the riptide in the sea off a Sydney beach.

No. What most intruigues people is that we traveled only with hand luggage. My partner, Eoin, might have managed that – he's a man, after all, as they helpfully point out. But me? A woman of 52 with a love of clothes and knickknacks? No way.

I was determined to travel light right from the start. We were going to be taking ten flights spread over our five weeks and I didn't want to spend hours at the baggage carousel or have to lug hefty cases around.

I took just a handbag and a small cabin suitcase, Eoin a back pack and (even smaller) suitcase. This meant limited clothes and shoes, liquids of only 100ml to fill no more than the regulation clear plastic bag and no sharps of any kind.

I did a bit of research, followed a few simple principles – and found to my surprise that it was far easier than I'd expected. More than that, I didn't actually miss ANYTHING.

I did a bit of research, followed a few simple principles – and found to my surprise that it was far easier than I'd expected. More than that, I didn't actually miss ANYTHING. Well, there were a couple of times when I really wanted a pair of nail scissors – but, hey, I went and had a pedicure instead!

So how did I do it? The turning point – when I first thought it might be possible – was when I read a blog that declared any traveler only really needed three pairs of shoes: something to walk in (I took trainers), something for the beach (I took flip flops) and one pair of smartish ballet flats for going out in the evening (I bought mine online – Tieks by Gavrieli). I wore the trainers every time I got on a plane and packed the others.

What else? I followed the golden rule about making sure every item of clothing went with everything else (this meant a restricted colour scheme of blue and grey, but made choosing outfits dead easy). I also bore in mind the excellent principle that I should pack for the best, rather than (as I would normally) the worst, so took a limited supply of medicaments. And I kept my makeup basic – I had an eyelash tint before I left and just took an eye pencil, a tiny eye shadow (grey) and a bronzer. Oh, and my trusty Touche Eclat!

I should point out that we were travelling mostly in first world countries and staying either in hotels or Airbnbs. I was also fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy stuff when I needed it, from a new hand cream in Melbourne to a jumper in San Francisco. I dumped my worn out flip flops then, too.

And traveling light turned out to bring a benefit I hadn't expected. No room for souvenirs! At first this felt annoying – but as time passed I realised how great it was to be liberated from stuff that would only end up cluttering my home – and free to focus on the moment, on each experience as it happened, on our holiday of a lifetime.

Sophie's new book Tha Black Sheep, is published by Simon Schuster and is available from Amazon.

By Sophie McKenzie

Twitter: @sophiemckenzie_

Ankers Thu 09-Feb-17 11:54:29

Perfectly doable.

Except for the souvenirs!

grannypiper Thu 09-Feb-17 12:54:09

Souvenirs are easy, if it is something you really love post it home !

Izabella Thu 09-Feb-17 15:56:55

I don't think this is anything out of the ordinary. Have done this many times. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of stuff some people take for a weekend never mind around the world.

janeainsworth Thu 09-Feb-17 16:24:20

I couldn't possibly comment blush

Jayanna9040 Thu 09-Feb-17 16:35:49

Easy peasy, especially if she was mostly in 1st world countries. Loads of people do it with just a backpack.

Maggiemaybe Thu 09-Feb-17 17:00:03

I'd be okay as long as I could get hold of the only brand of contact lenses I can wear out there. I need two pairs a day in hot climes and I'm not sure I could fit in 150 even using both liquids bags....

Ana Thu 09-Feb-17 17:12:30

I could do it too - as long as I had a decent moisturiser and sun cream I'd be fine!

I wouldn't actually want to do it, though.

Ana Thu 09-Feb-17 17:13:50

(not at my age, I mean. Possibly if I were 30 years younger...)

Rinouchka Thu 09-Feb-17 17:16:44

How to include daily contact lenses is a valid point, * Maggiemaybe*.

I have travelled with only hand baggage but for three weeks at a time. Respect to anyone who did it for five. The clue in Sophie Mackenzie's testimony is that she went exclusively to first world countries, as we did.

How possible would this be with an itinerary that included second and/or third world areas?

whitewave Thu 09-Feb-17 17:17:56

My son and DiL are constantly travelling with just a backpack - nothing special. However, I couldn't possibly. blush

Wheniwasyourage Thu 09-Feb-17 18:45:07

Does that mean that disposable lenses have to go in your plastic bag with your sun cream etc? What about things like blister plasters which have a sort of paste on them, more than ordinary plasters? Sorry if these are silly questions, but we are not experienced (or keen!) fliers. The details I can find online don't help.

Izabella Thu 09-Feb-17 19:23:31

Its just as easy in the back of beyond.

Jalima Thu 09-Feb-17 19:46:45

My medication takes up half my hand luggage plus suncream, insect repellent, anti-histamine when I react to bites, sun hat, sun glasses, can't wear silly ballet pumps or flip-flops, can't wear trainers without socks, wouldn't want to be washing clothes all the time - it's a holiday!
Along with spare specs in case mine break (which they did and I couldn't get them mended in the back of beyond), a kindle etc etc.

I wouldn't have thought that rural Cambodia was 1st world

Now, for the hold luggage, allowed 30 kgs, um, what shall I leave out?

Must try harder.

Jalima Thu 09-Feb-17 19:48:41

DS went off for a year with a huge backpack which went in the hold and no hand luggage - it all went in his pockets!
But he was young and single then.

Maggiemaybe Thu 09-Feb-17 23:59:56

Yes, I'm afraid those daily disposables have to go in the liquids bag, Wheniwasyourage. I think the blister plasters would be okay though.

Another thing that I really need is my Batiste dry shampoo (I have awful baby-fine hair and it's the only one that gives it a bit of a boost). It seems daft that a dry shampoo should have to go in the liquids bag, but it does. I came to grief on a week in Portugal last month - when I got through security at our local airport I found they were remodelling Boots at the other side. It was boarded up and I couldn't buy any to shove in my bag before boarding. I couldn't find any dry shampoo at all on sale in the Algarve so I had to eke out my diddy mini aerosol for the whole stay. Oh the trauma! grin

I think I've just outed myself as the sort of precious snowflake who really couldn't manage more than 7 days with hand luggage only blush First world problems, eh?

Jalima Fri 10-Feb-17 11:10:21

I suppose it is the difference between the people who take three pairs of knickers and keep rinsing them out (hoping they'll dry) and the 10+ pair brigade who would panic that they won't have enough until they find the next washing machine!

What is your attitude to risk?

Maggiemaybe Fri 10-Feb-17 18:29:11

Our DD1 is backpacking round South East Asia at the moment and is buying clothes for next to nothing at the market and ditching them when they're too minging (too much information grin?). Not good for her carbon footprint, but when she trusted a washload to the local laundry, she lost all but one sock. On the plus side she did gain a very fancy g-string and a pair of XXL boxers.

Jalima Fri 10-Feb-17 19:08:42

I'm sure someone will be glad of her castoffs Maggiemaybe

Wheniwasyourage Sat 11-Feb-17 12:51:35

Thanks Maggiemaybe. Perhaps your DD should try a laundry again with her castoffs - she might be luckier and come away with a whole new wardrobe for the next stage in her journey! Good luck to her anyway.

Jalima, I take 4 pairs of Rohan knickers and they really do dry overnight, as do their shirts (usually, and if you have to wear a slightly damp one it dries on you very quickly). We usually travel by train with rucksacks,and it's amazing how having to carry all your luggage concentrates the mind on what you can leave behind.

Jalima Sat 11-Feb-17 12:55:23

I couldn't carry a rucksack but I will try harder to use a smaller suitcase!

Jalima Sat 11-Feb-17 12:56:08

I didn't know that Rohan do knickers as well, will take a look. I was going to get some of their trousers but perhaps I need them to have a sale first.

Wheniwasyourage Sat 11-Feb-17 13:12:05

It's certainly worth looking at their sales. I've used their Bags trousers for many years, and they dry quite quickly too, and have useful zipped pockets where I carry my purse, tickets, passport etc. Sadly, they don't do them for women any more, but I just use the men's ones with a belt. (They do belts with plastic fastenings so that you can go through metal detectors without your trousers falling down - always useful!)

radicalnan Sun 12-Feb-17 11:17:40

I have just discovered I am too fat for Rohan knickers........a down point in anybody's day.

Izabella Sun 12-Feb-17 11:28:34

I bought some ladies bags last week to replace my original ones. (Online). The male version of the knickers come in all sizes up to extra large. Would they be the answer? I have nothing to do with Rohan but I have backpacked around the world many times and travel with their clothing (some of it ancient by now and not available) and know how robust and comfortable it is.