Rolf Potts travels around
the world with no luggage

No-baggage field report: Week four

September 22, 2010 by Rolf Potts

This week finds me in one of my favorite cities in the world — Bangkok — where I’ve recently arrived after flying across the Indian Ocean from South Africa. It’s great to be back in Thailand, where I lived off and on for the better part of two years in the early 2000s — and it should be interesting to see how the intense humidity of Southeast Asia affects my no baggage journey.

As with last week, I continue to welcome reader questions about my experiences with no-luggage travel — just post those questions in the comments below. I’ll answer some queries from last week in a moment, but first I wanted to note that as of this week I am traveling even lighter than I was when I left New York a month ago. Here’s what I just removed from my travel jacket/vest, and why:

Deodorant: Ever since I bought a mineral-salt rock in a Moroccan market, there has been a lot of reader interest in how it has been working in keeping my armpits fresh and combating underarm odor. After two weeks of using it in the field, I can say it’s working great — so great, in fact, that I tossed my store-bought American deodorant stick. I will use the mineral-salt for the remainder of the trip. When I arrive in the US a couple weeks from now, ask me (or better yet, ask my cameraman and travel companion Justin) how this decision worked out.

Bottle of laundry detergent: As I stated last week, I haven’t been using as much laundry detergent or all-in-one soap as I’d expected, since hotel (or safari camp) soap and shampoo has been available at most all of my stops en route. Since shampoo is adequate for washing my clothes, I’m ditching the bottle of laundry detergent, keeping the bottle of all-in-one soap on hand in the event I won’t have access to hotel soap (as will be the case in New Zealand, where I plan to travel by camper van).

Camera: I jettisoned the camera for the the simple reason that I haven’t been taking many pictures of the journey. Normally I might be more active with the camera — but with Justin capturing most every aspect of the trip on video, I feel like it’s already being well documented. Moreover, even if I wasn’t traveling with a cameraman, I feel that — in the interest of going ultra-light — I could carry an iPhone (instead of an iPod) and use it to take photos.

[On a blocking and trip-rules note: I got rid of the camera by passing it to Justin, since the camera in question belongs to his wife. Naturally, by the rules of the trip, I now cannot borrow it back, so functionally it has ceased to exist for me. Were I traveling alone and I wanted to offload a camera, I would probably mail it home or give it away.]

Flashlight: This item is so small I can slip it into the pen-pocket of my SeV Tropical Vest/Jacket and not have to think about it from day to day. Still, I haven’t really used it — and in the interest of traveling lighter, I decided to give it away.

Earplugs: Ditto on the earplugs — I never think about them (they reside, weightless in the shin-pocket of my SeV cargo pants), but I haven’t been using them, so in the interest of this exercise I’m tossing them too.

Bandanna: My final discarded item is my handkerchief. I originally packed it thinking I’d use it as a do-rag, but thus far my ballcap as been covering all my head-gear needs. Since I rarely use the bandanna, I’ve decided to ditch it.

In further lightening my load (and indeed my vest/jacket does fit even lighter now) I am simply fine-tuning my own system — other no baggage travelers (and would-be no-baggage travelers) will naturally develop their own systems for what and what not to carry.

As for reader questions, here goes with a few that caught my eye in the past week:

How is it going with t-shirt odor?

Back in my first field report, I expressed concern that my t-shirts, which are made of polyester, might begin to hold odor after repeated daily use. ScotteVest CEO Scott Jordan has been particularly curious about this issue (for obvious reasons) — and three weeks after that initial report I’m happy to report that my SeV Performance Tees remain odor-free. (As my Australian safari pal Courtney wrote me after returning home from Africa; “I’ve been plugging your blog back home, and defending your hygiene — which seems to be everyone’s first question.”)

No doubt my shirts remain fresh in part due to my daily washing routine — a ritual far more diligent than when I travel with bags (or, for that matter, my home washing routine, when clothes remain dirty in the hamper for days at a time). But Scott Jordan has suggested to me that “building a better performance tee” has itself been a longtime point of obsession for his clothing company. Scott, is there a design component that has helped my SeV polyester resist odor (or is that a trade secret)?

Whatever the case, the true test of the performance tees will come here in Bangkok, where I plan to hit some of the city’s more exclusive nightclubs in my no-baggage travel gear and see if I can make it past the velvet rope.

Aren’t you getting hassled at airport security for having no luggage?

Some readers have told stories about attracting the attention of TSA officials when traveling with little or no luggage (possibly due to terrorism profiling concerns). So far this has not been a problem for me whatsoever (though in a way I wish it was, since it would give me more dramatic no-baggage stories to tell). If for some reason I do get hassled at some border station in coming days, I’ll be sure to report about it here.

What is your process for writing the blogs?

In the field I take travel notes each day in my pocket notebook. Then, when it comes time to write the story, I draw on these notes, as well as Justin’s video footage and my old laptop archive notes (which I access remotely through my iPod, using Dropbox). Then I unfold my Micro Innovations MP0118 bluetooth keyboard and write the blog entry on my iPod.

How do you keep your iPod charged?

I’ve brought the iPod USB cord (it shares the same pocket as my keyboard), and I charge up as I find computers and laptops on the road (which isn’t too hard).

Are you carrying all the items you have when you’re staying in a city?

No — and I find it strange when people assume that I do. This is, after all, the No Baggage Challenge,” not the “Carry Everything With You At All Times Challenge.” Hence, when staying someplace overnight, I typically leave toiletries in the hotel/hostel bathroom, and spare clothes (including the jacket/vest itself, if the local weather does not merit it) in the closet or hanging out to dry.

As a no-baggage traveler, what kinds of reactions are you getting from other travelers you meet?

I’ve attracted a lot of interest from other travelers on the road — but less overt fascination than you might think. Travelers tend to be a pretty understated bunch when it comes to differences in packing styles, so usually they just give my SeV clothes a quiet once-over when they realize I’m not carrying anything else. It’s not until they realize that I haven’t compromised anything — that I’m enjoying the same travel activities as everyone else, with a fraction of the weight — that they really start to ask questions.

Again, please post your own questions in the comments below, so I can answer them in the next field report!

Also, check out the video interview with SeV CEO Scott Jordan below:

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