Rolf Potts travels around
the world with no luggage

About the Challenge

In late August of 2010, travel writer Rolf Potts embarked on a trip that is taking him around the world without using a single piece of luggage.  For six weeks he will be exploring 12 countries on five continents, crossing the equator four times, without carrying so much as a man-purse. The few items he is bringing (including a toothbrush, an iPod, and a few extra items of clothing) are tucked away in his pockets.

This no-baggage adventure is more than a stunt to see if such a thing can be done:  At a time when intensified travel-stresses and increased luggage fees are grabbing headlines, it’s an experiment to determine how much we really need to bring along to have the trip of a lifetime.

What items, if any, are essential to the enjoyment of a journey to other countries?  How does traveling light make a trip cheaper, simpler or easier (or more difficult)?  What lessons from this no-baggage adventure might apply to day-to-day life — both on the road and at home?

In addition to posting text and videos about his no-baggage adventures, Rolf will examine the philosophical issues behind the art of traveling (and living) light as he circles the globe.

If this is your first time visiting the site, check out the following posts to get an overview of the trip:

About Rolf

Rolf Potts has reported from more than sixty countries for the likes of National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times Magazine,, Conde Nast Traveler, Outside, National Public Radio, and the Travel Channel. A veteran travel columnist for the likes of and World Hum, his adventures have taken him across six continents, and include piloting a fishing boat 900 miles down the Laotian Mekong, hitchhiking across Eastern Europe, traversing Israel on foot, bicycling across Burma, and driving a Land Rover from Sunnyvale, California to Ushuaia, Argentina.

Rolf is perhaps best known for promoting the ethic of independent travel, and his book on the subject, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel (Random House, 2003), has been through twelve printings and translated into several foreign languages. His newest book, Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations From One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer (Travelers’ Tales, 2008), won a 2009 Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers, and became the first American-authored book to win Italy’s prestigious Chatwin Prize for travel writing.

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About the cameraman

The man behind the camera (and website design) is Justin Glow. He’ll also act as producer, director, and editor of all the video content you see on the site. (Read about the video rig he is taking here.) He’s the former editor-in-chief of AOL’s, and his current job is a web developer with Engadget.  While it is necessary that Justin carry a small bag to hold his camera equipment and laptop, he will otherwise be abiding by the rules of the No Baggage Challenge. You can find him on Twitter.

Sponsors — One-stop indie travel guide
While studying in Australia in 1994, future BootsnAll founder Sean Keener met with three Aussie friends in a pub. Amongst the beer and bird watching, they discussed a trip to England to watch Euro ’96. A month long trip incorporating the lads passion for football and beer. The fact that it was in a foreign country was just an added bonus. Amazingly, drunken plans came to fruition in May 1996 and the four friends reunited in Sean’s home town of Chicago before continuing on to London. What followed was a month of experiences so epic that the trip had to be named. After much discussion, Boots’n’All was chosen. Boots signified the search for the ultimate pair of boots that would be versatile enough to be the only footwear a traveller would need. nAll was meant to stand for everything else that independent travel could bring: Amazing people, unique experiences, freedom, personal growth and just plain fun.

So ‘BootsnAll’ started life as an idea, a discovery by a group of friends that travelling was pretty cool. By 1997, Sean Keener had continued his travels overland from eastern Europe to India, taking over 9 months and growing one hell of a beard. Future BootsnAll co-founder Chris Heidrich had used his Commonwealth visa qualifications to work in Scotland, experiencing independent travel from an ex-pat perspective. That summer the two friends met in Chicago before roadtripping to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. While on a 3 day backcountry hike, the lads came up with the original BootsnAll Code of Conduct: a multi-point list of what it meant to travel ‘the BootsnAll way’. It was a pretty raw list, meant only for personal consumption. The BootsnAll travel club was born, membership: two. 12 years later, BootsnAll is a community of over 30 online travel guides and resources that connect and encourage independent travel — including round the world tickets.

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SCOTTEVEST/SeV Travel Clothing: For the Trip of Your Life
About ten years ago, CEO & Founder Scott Jordan created SCOTTEVEST/SeV to solve a very common problem: he needed a way to carry and organize all his gadgets and gear without a “man-purse.” His solution was to design a vest with multiple NoBulge(TM) pockets specifically engineered to distribute the weight of what was being carried, and he incorporated a patented Personal Area Network (PAN) for headphone wire management. From that point, SeV has evolved into a full line of clothing that appeals to gadget-lovers and travelers alike. Today, SCOTTEVEST/SeV is one of the world’s top travel clothing companies, and is proud to work with Rolf Potts on the No Baggage Challenge(TM) and put their clothing to the ultimate test.

Even if you’re not spending six weeks traveling around the world, SeV makes your travels easier by simplifying airport check-in/security, saving extra baggage fees, and having an easy and secure way to organize and carry all of your necessities. Simply load your travel essentials into your SCOTTEVEST instead of a carry-on bag, and travel hands-free.



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  • Duvain

    Wooooow… thats interesting?? I hope the majority of your luggage is clean underpants, clean socks and hand sanitizer!!
    Let me know how ya get on, this might bear some significance to my future travles and explorations!!
    All the best!!
    Duvain, North Wales United Kingdom. :)

  • Bigballs

    I think it cab be done, but there is no doubt in my mind there would be one hell of a skid Mark in your undies by the time you get home! Carl Liverpool .

  • Amanda

    Sorry Duvain, no self respecting backpacker carries hand sanitizer. I do think Rolf could fit a little camera in his pocket though!

  • Craig

    This is awesome. I just just went to Mexico and took no bags! I did however get a number of questions from authorities going in and out of the country. Have you had any trouble with that yet?

  • l s

    Ha ha Craig. I sat next to a dark and beefy man on the way from Amsterdam to London. No luggage no nothing. It was spooky!

  • Sarah

    I have noticed here that many people’s love of travelling began when they were young, in the idyllic period after school and during university; and like them I too have discovered my passion for travelling while studying at University. After taking a year off before University I worked for a while and then suddenly decided on the spur of the moment to take off overseas. Needless to say that was the start of a love affair.
    But while being a student is a wonderful thing, it does make it somewhat more difficult to travel. However you do learn some excellent skills, including learning about the benefits of budgeting… i.e. you learn to feed yourself off $50 a week to afford that weekend snow trip.
    However I have also found the benefit of minimising the amount of possessions I have, considering how student housing can be, and having moved 4 times in 2 years, you learn to really only pack the basics, especially after carrying all your possessions up 3 flights of stairs to a new apartment!

    The greatest thing is when all the hard work has paid off, the two jobs while studying university, the night jobs that finish at 2am, with class at 8am. But I am lucky enough to be travelling to China to contribute to an international Design Exhibition, possibly the biggest and most important part of my career as a Designer so far. Yet being a Designer I love to challenge the status quo. So I have re-thought my trip and have decided on hand-luggage only for 2 weeks-including all my cameras, computer and design work-this could get interesting!

    Your story so far has once again ignited that somewhat dormant passion, and with the realisation that my trip is only just around the corner I have realised just how expensive the flights are! But some things in life are just too important, and that for me is travel.

  • Andrewbaren

    Great going Rolf. I like your thinking behind it and that more you own (carry) the more it owns you. I see that your choice is to have camera and phone separate. Personalty I'd get a phone with a slide out keyboard and high def camera built in. There by cutting out a portable keyboard and camera. (maybe like the Nokia N900) with video editing capabilities, uploading to wordpress and youtube channel built in. Look forward to future post. Great job Rolf.

  • Andrewbaren

    Great going Rolf. I like your thinking behind it and that more you own (carry) the more it owns you. I see that your choice is to have camera and phone separate. Personalty I'd get a phone with a slide out keyboard and high def camera built in. There by cutting out a portable keyboard and camera. (maybe like the Nokia N900) with video editing capabilities, uploading to wordpress and youtube channel built in. Look forward to future post. Great job Rolf.

  • Carol

    Hey Rolf, I came across your blog and loved it and wondering if women can travel without a lugguage too.

    • ralph

      probably not

    • Female, age 48 at the time, I travelled around the world (1992, 3 month trip: Vancouver, Seattle, London, Moscow, Ekaterinberg, Omsk, Irkutsk, Beijing, Chu Fu, Jinan, Shanghai, Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Guizhou Province, Guilin, Yangshuou, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Vancouver) with everything I owned in a tiny backpack. I think the total was 10 lbs. It took weeks to pack, constantly downsizing and going lighter and tossing stuff. I did this because I have fibromyalgia and carrying heavy stuff is painful. Since I was totally on my own (a travel mate backed out at the last minute) there was only me to do the heavy lifting while traveling by air, train, bus and the occasional ferry boat.

      Now, I use a small carryon with wheels (sometimes checking it) and a purse. Tons of room for the longest trip.

  • Panamajojo33

    ive been traveling lots since 1969 not totally bagless but pretty much did the overland thru the middle east to bali in 73 and 74 bus and train and boats 15 months 2 people 3,500US$$$$$$$

  • Eglayzer

    I think this is a great experiment on the limits of how little you can travel with. However, its practical application is somewhat limited for a number of reasons. I am a huge proponent of traveling light but to travel without a single bag seems overly severe. While airlines are bumping up the prices for excess luggage, a single, small, day bag or backpack would hardly be any bother. I admit that it must be very liberating to not carry any bag at all but most people hardly ever leave their home without a bag let alone their country. In short a single bag just is not that big of a deal when compared to its utility.

    This single observation makes most of the reviews of the expensive traveling clothing a moot point. If you were to carry a single, small, backpack or man bag you could put all 23-26 of your daily items in the bag. This would negate your need for fancy travel clothing all together. Don't get me wrong, some clothing just works much better for traveling that other garments. However, there is little need to spend 100$+ on a jacket that has 18 pockets when you can put all of your things into a 5$ backpack. What happens if your expensive jacket gets torn, lost, stolen, or otherwise destroyed? I doubt you will be able to source a local version outside of the developed world. Will you have to wait around for a new one to come in the mail from the internet? You could just own a cheap bag and a cheap jacket that would serve each of their purposes much better and be more replicable to boot.

    Again, I really like the idea of the experiment but its just that, an experiment. I think though that it might have the negative affect of further reinforcing the idea that it takes a lot of money and specialized equipment to travel when that is clearly not the case. Maybe I just have not read enough of the website to find a post that already deals with this issue? Are there any articles related to spending on this trip?

  • Scott Jordan

    Rolf, you did an amazing job. It was a blast following you. Thanks again.


    ON YOU:
    1. bikini bra
    2. top
    3. breathable rainjacket
    4. underwear
    5. light pants
    6. money belt
    7. sarong (function: tovel, cover your head, sheet, skirt etc)
    8. socks
    9. trekking boots

    11. underwear
    12. socks
    13. deodorant
    14.comb (lighter than hairbrush)
    15. toothbrash + toothpaste
    16. soap in soap dish
    17. antibacterial gel
    18. depilating cream
    19. Sunscreen and lip balm
    20. glasses + spare contact lenses
    21. tampons
    22. tissues
    23. condoms
    24. Small flashlight
    25. Nokia N900 + USB cable
    26. documents 
    27. duct tape
    28. sunglasses

    • Dionne Hearne

      You go girl! I take 10 lbs of clothes/gear for 4+ months and varied weather.

  • Nice………………………………………………

  • Guest

    Depilating cream?

  • Would you be willing to travel with just the clothes on your back…and nothing else on your journey?

  • toothbrush sanitizers


  • Amazing, I am all for travelling light but this is insane!

  • Wayne

    I did this and it was great. I Read about my experience here

  • Wow, this is totally insane. I am not brave enough to take this challenge or maybe if I am a man, I could do the same? But maybe it depends on how my brain is prepared for this kind of challenge. I am a girl who is for travel light, that is why I love my backpack. Anyway, this is admirable. hats off. :)