Rolf Potts travels around
the world with no luggage

No Baggage Challenge: The Ground Rules

August 15, 2010 by Rolf Potts

While circumnavigating the globe with no luggage sounds like a clear enough proposition, it can raise a few semantic issues. What, for example, counts as a bag? Can your traveling companion carry some things for you? Are you allowed to buy new gear and clothing along the way?

To clear up these issues, I’ve set up five simple ground rules for the No Baggage Challenge. If for some reason you feel that I’ve overlooked some technical detail of no-baggage travel, let me know in the comments and I’ll give it consideration as a new ground rule.

1) No bags on the journey, period.

This means no backpacks or daypacks, no suitcases or briefcases, no fanny-packs or man-purses. Not even a plastic bag from the grocery store (unless it contains groceries en route to a meal). Any items I take on the road have to fit into the pockets of my ScotteVest clothing.

2) No borrowing of items from (or stowing items with) the cameraman.

I will be accompanied on the journey by Justin Glow, my video cameraman. Justin will carry a daypack for his computer and camera equipment, and he will assist me in getting my stories and videos online. On a practical-logistical level, however, Justin will not exist during the No Baggage challenge. That means I can’t stow items in his bag or borrow anything he brings with him. Not even a spot of toothpaste.

3) Borrowing items from locals or other travelers is permitted

That said, I am allowed to borrow a spot of toothpaste from a fellow traveler at the youth hostel. Or a random guy in the street. Since hospitality and generosity are time-honored virtues for hosts and travelers alike, I can borrow items as I go — just so long as I’m gracious and courteous about things, and don’t carry any borrowed items in a bag.

4) Buying items along the way is permitted

On that same token, I am allowed to buy things for myself along the way. If I suddenly decide that I want my own toothpaste supply, I can buy a tube in Paris or Cairo or Bangkok. The same goes for clothing and accessories: If I want to buy a pair of sunglasses in Casablanca, a fresh t-shirt in Johannesburg, or a pair of flip-flops in Singapore, I can.  I can even buy a souvenir and mail it home from some far corner of the world — so long as I don’t break any of the above rules in the process. This is all in keeping with another time-honored travel virtue: If in doubt, bring less gear and more money.

5) Mailing items to oneself is interesting, but not permitted.

Now that increased baggage fees are complicating air travel, many travelers have embraced a novel way to avoid the luggage hassle: They mail their gear to their destination(s) in advance. I actually considered this strategy (and ScotteVest was willing to refresh my no-baggage wardrobe at various intervals of the journey) — but ultimately I decided not to, since it simply seemed like more fun to wear the same set of clothes the whole time and buy (or borrow) only what was available at my destinations.

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