How does the phone thing work, out there in digital nomad-land?


So, you decide you’re going to travel the world for a year or so. How exactly does that work with your smartphone?

My phone company ( Verizon ) would happily charge me an outrageous sum for some sort of “world access” plan that gives me a whopping 250mb of data per month, before it really starts charging me. To put this in perspective, the black and white line drawing above might be more than 250mb.

Well, okay, that’s not true.

But still. I’d gobble that up in a heartbeat, and then the money wheel would start spinning. I’m on the hook with them until November, so what are my options?

Google Voice, Skype, and a VPN.

Let’s stat out with the bad news – my phone will only work like a phone when I have wifi. In Britain or Ireland, that’s just fine. The busses have wifi. The outhouses have wifi. In southern France…  I was lucky the Apple Store had wifi. So, there’s that constraint.

Also, people dialing my regular number and expecting me to answer won’t be able to get me. Even though I didn’t sign up for a plan, Verizon is also happy to just charge me world roaming rates, and let my phone work as it’s worked all along. This is also a non-great idea, and I’ve turned off my phone’s ability to do anything at all without wifi.

So. There’s that.

But with Wifi…  I can get iMessages the normal way, text messages and voicemail from my non-Apple friends on the Google Voice number ( because before I left I liked the GVoice number and my regular number/phone ), I can dial your cell with Skype. I can dial a toll-free number with GVoice and the VPN. The Skype call costs pennies purchased through the Apple app store. The GVoice is free. Also, FB messeages ( and probably phone service ) work just fine with wifi as well.

Jumping through some hoops, I have mostly free service around the world so I can stay in touch. As long as I’m on wifi.

Yea, that’s a big “but.” One I’m still working through.

On the plus side: it’s good to be a little less dependent on our digital smartphone overlords.

Also, one thing Verizon gets right is that my phone is be default “unlocked,” which means if I’d like I can buy a simm card anywhere in the world, stick it in my phone, and have it work. It may come to this; I confess I do miss easy texting.

Anthony Bourdain, on backpacks


I’m not really a foodie. Like, not in any sense of the word.

But of course I know about Anthony Bourdain and his shows. I’ve watched a few eps, and I definitely enjoy his sense of wit and self. An expert in his field just taking it all in as he wanders the planet. He’s got some great advice about traveling the world, of course. One of his thoughts is about the backpack, as your chosen piece of luggage:

I travel with a wheelie.

Unfortunately, a backpack sends a bad message in a lot of the world.
Others who’ve come before you have sent a bad message.

If you’re reading this blog, it may seem like I know a lot about backpacking culture…   but that’s not true. Not even close. It’s okay, but an incorrect conclusion or three are jumped to.

I do carry my stuff in backpack, and I occasionally stay in hostels. Yes, true.

But that’s really the start and finish of my contact with backpacker culture. I’m a little too old, a little too well off, and a little too used to nice things, maybe  (^_^   That sounds snarky, but there are definitely a few things that put me squarely outside the culture, and Bourdain’s thought brings that stuff into relief.

First, there’s the idea that backpackers carry a -ton- of stuff. Anything they might need, for any situation. In fucking enormous backpacks, and that the world must make room for both traveler and pack, accept both human and this steamer truck lashed to their body.

This sets the stage for an us-not-you kind of perception among Locals Everywhere that’s reinforced with a ( much ) more casual manner of dress, and general acceptance of what’s acceptable from a hygiene point of view. As far as manners, language, respectfulness of place…  I haven’t seen a lot of evidence one way or the other, but it’s easy based on how I know some people can think about “different” that backpackers get lumped into a sort of “mobile homeless” category.



Which brings me back to Bourdain’s quote.

While I will not ( ever ) use a wheelie, I think I’ve figured out another way to make a favorable impression when I travel, or at least to put some distance between me and the negative ripples of the backpacker image.

I wear khakis, as well as jeans. I don’t look like I’ve walked the entire distance I’ve traveled. Most days.  (^_^   When I have my bag at all, it definitely does not peg me as a backpacker. My bag looks like something your kid would use to bring books to school.

If I’m crafting any image at all, I guess it’s of an American vagabond, a sort of thoughtful wanderer at ease with minimal stuff and minimal impact on my immediate environment. Not a stumbling partier. Nothing against stumbling partiers, but that’s not who I am. There’s a part of me that wants the world to take us all for who we are, not assign us to groups based on momentary evaluation of appearances.

But there’s another part of me that knows that it almost never happens that way. When you travel, how do you think people see you? I’m not trying to blend in so much, but Bourdain’s quote made me realize I’m also trying unconsciously to also not be lumped in with a very specific group of travelers.

How do you dress? How do you spend your money? How are you different than the people who live in the places you are?

And how do you think this affects how you see things?

‘Her’ packing List

It was a miracle, but I managed to do it. I pushed all of my necessities into this bag. My ‘one bag’. It’s about the size of a small carry on piece of luggage.  This is it!

All of my things are in this bag!


Shoes were the hardest thing to determine. After living in Hawaii for 2 years I basically had two types of shoes. Slippahs and dress slippahs. Aka flipflops and sandals/slides. While I love wearing these, they alone were not going to cut it in Europe.

I finally pared it down 3 pairs which would cover most occasions. They had to be comfortable for walking, look good with slacks, shorts or a skirt and pack down lightly. What I decided on is still a work in progress, but so far these are working well:

  • Locals flipflops for communal showers and the beach
  • Vionic Samoa slides-a great walking shoe for nice weather
  • Life Stride Mary Janes-the jury is still out on this brand, although I like the versatility of Mary Janes. I may upgrade them soon.

Here is the rest of the list:


  • Laptop
  • Laptop sleeve
  • Laptop charger
  • Kindle
  • Kindle charger
  • 2 pair earbuds
  • Phone
  • Phone charger
  • 3 prong adapter
  • International adapter
  • Travel battery
  • Jump drive

Other Stuff

  • Wallet
  • Tea set
  • Flashlight
  • Lock
  • Whistle
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunglass case
  • Passport
  • Credit card
  • Debit card
  • HI driver’s license
  • Day backpack
  • Playing cards


  • Comb
  • Travel towel
  • Clear liquid bag
  • Small bottle of kukui nut oil-hair and skin
  • Small bottle of jojoba oil-facial oil
  • Essential oils-peppermint, lavender, lemon, vetiver, Breathe
  • Travel size shampoo
  • Travel size conditioner
  • Travel size toothpaste
  • Travel size hair gel
  • Makeup bag
  • Powder
  • Powder brush
  • Eye liner
  • Mascara
  • Small tube eye shadow
  • 3 lip sticks
  • Lip gloss
  • Eye liner sharpener
  • Travel size deodorant
  • Dollar shave razor plus extra blades
  • Electric toothbrush
  • Small bag of feminine products
  • Nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • 2 empty Goo tubes for miscellaneous stuff I buy along the way
  • Bottle of blue nail polish
  • Nail file


  • Silk turquoise scarf-a gift from my mom!
  • 2 merino wool tanks
  • Cotton tank for sleeping
  • Merino wool t-shirt
  • MH Zerogrand rain jacket shell
  • Long sleeve t-cotton
  • Merino wool short skirt
  • Cotton long skirt
  • MH nylon hiking/yoga slacks
  • Cotton sleeping slacks
  • Jeans
  • One piece swimsuit
  • Bikini swim suit
  • Icebreaker Bliss Wrap sweater
  • Little black dress
  • Reversible dress
  • Shorts-hiking
  • 2 pairs merino wool socks
  • Bandana
  • 2 nylon slips
  • 2 cotton underwear
  • 3 merino wool underwear
  • Bras-1 black, 1 tan, 1 yoga/sports
  • Sarong

The bag is full. I have to pack it just right so that it will all fit! Ideally I will pare down a bit so I have a little more wiggle room. I’m just not sure yet what I can live without…until then!



Essential essential oils for the one bag traveler

( written earlier )

I am sitting in between flights in Phoenix feeling like something the cat dragged in. Congested and exhausted, I reach for some peppermint oil.

I put a few drops into my palms, rub together and bring them up to my nose and mouth to inhale deeply.  Ahhh.  I am saved, rejuvenated.

I rub a little bit into my shoulders and put a drop into my water bottle. A woman next to me smells it and asks for a whiff. Yes. Yes, please share this moment with me. We savor a moment of peppermint bliss together and it is awesome.

Essential oils are natural oils typically obtained from plant material by steam distillation or expeller press. They contain the ‘essence’ of the plant material, including fragrance and medicinal properties.

I got really interested in essential oils when I started making my own soap. At first I just wanted natural scents which would be gentle on my skin and smell amazing. I then learned about aroma therapy and the medicinal benefits. Some even talk about the spiritual benefits of essential oils. All these upsides plus they smell great-I was hooked.

Why are they essential in the one bag? Practically speaking, they are multi-purpose, which goes a long way when only carrying one bag. Medicine, perfume, and relaxation tools all in a little glass bottle.

On a somewhat New Age-y level, I also feel connected to some of these oils. Kind of  like old friends; we know each other well. Delightful and comforting, a long trip without them would seem like a trip not worth taking. So, even with a limit on the amount of liquids one can carry, there are a few of these friends that can not be left behind:

Peppermint oil
I use peppermint oil as a decongestant. I put a few drops in my hands, rub together and inhale deeply.  As a digestive, a drop or two in a bottle of water helps soothe stomach aches and indigestion.  Peppermint also has a cooling effect on the skin and feels wonderful on sore muscles.  These are the three main ways I use peppermint oil but there are many more.

Lavender oil
Pete got stung by a bee as we were moving the last few things out of our place.  I was glad to have lavender oil on hand to soothe his sting.  Lavender also smells great and I use it as a skin tonic and to relieve stress.  There are so many other uses however, it is worth a Google search.

If I had to, I could get by with these two. Together they are most everything one could want in medicinal and aromatherapy oils. They smell great, help with many common ailments, and are relatively inexpensive and easily found.

There are however, a few more that I made room for, which may or may not be replaced as time goes by:

Lemon oil
Like peppermint oil and lavender oil, lemon oil has multiple uses.  Also helps with digestion, it is a great cleanser, lymphatic system support, and metabolic. It smells great and is energizing. Like peppermint, I’ll put a drop or two in a glass of water and rub into skin with a carrier oil.  Only at night though, as lemon can make skin sun sensitive.

I bought my first bottle of vetiver during the height of my essential oil frenzy a few years ago. I forgot I had it and only recently started appreciating it.  It smells earthy and pungent and is a muscle relaxer. It is also thought to be emotionally balancing. It works great on my skin with jojoba oil.

A blend from Doterra. I really like this blend as a decongestant. I probably wont replace it, as peppermint and lemon are in it and can work as well, but I love the eucalyptus in the blend. I rub it into my palms and breathe in deeply as well as put some on my chest at night.

So, there you have it.  Many good reasons for making room for a little bottle of oil (or five) in your one bag. They work hard for that space.

“final” bag and gear list

my bag, but not me and not my image. #justsayin


Tom Bihn Synapse 26 ( shown, left )

Yes, it really is that small. If you pack well and choose the right gear, it all just kind of fits. I spent more than a little time figuring out what I needed, and parting with what I didn’t. The effort paid off. I think this is the final, traveling list.

The rest of my list follows, below.


  • Buffalo Jeans. Couldn’t leave ‘em behind. Could not.
  • White t-shirt, 50% cotton ( evil, I know ) and 50% tenson
  • Black t-shirt, 100% merino wool
  • Wool & Prince button down, 100% merino
  • base layer –  black long sleeve and long legged, 100% merino
  • Lounge pants ( because yes ), 100% cotton
  • Coffee-colored wool jeans – 100% merino
  • Khaki shorts, 100% merino
  • Khaki shorts, 95% nylon, 5% spandex ( double as swim trunks )
  • Hoodie, 100% merino ( always worn, never in the bag )
  • MH Zerogrand shell, some NASA material that packs down to the size of a Ritz cracker
  • Buff, 100% merino
  • Shemagh, not sure what it’s made of
  • Smartwool phd mini socks X2 pair
  • Smart wool tall thin socks 1pair
  • Ra II Vivobarefoot shoes, coffee colored ( they look like normal shoes )
  • Baseball hat – NASA

Computer & associated gear

  • Macbook, BookBook case, cords
  • iPad pro, BookBook case, cord
  • unlocked iPhone, cord
  • Satechi hub ( to plug stuff into the Mac )
  • USBc to USB-a extender ( tiny )
  • Encrypted jump drive – 250Gb
  • Normal jump drive – 64Gb
  • TripMate Elite battery/wifi source ( battery and hotspot for sharing )
  • Jawbone Minijambox ( speaker for tunes )
  • US plug small block splitter
  • Bose sound cancelling headphones
  • Apple earbuds and case
  • Audio plug splitter, small cord
  • Micro USB


  • Tom Bihn clear toiletry bag
  • 3oz Doc Bronners, peppermint ( laundry, whatevs )
  • 3oz 30spf sunscreen
  • travel size Old Spice stick
  • AA battery powered trip toothbrush, with cover
  • hair goop
  • tiny nail clippers
  • tiny tweezers
  • Dollar shave razor n extra blades

Miscellaneous gear

  • 20L dry bag – for doing laundry
  • Tom Bihn gear bag ( small )
  • Master combo lock
  • “large” travel towel
  • Two pens
  • Mini flashlight
  • Akribos analog watch
  • Carabiner / jump drive
  • small whistle
  • fresnel lens
  • Sunglasses and case
  • Bandana
  • Water bottle, just one saved

ID n documents

  • Eagle Creek belt-loop passport holder
  • Passport
  • Passport card ( in case I lose the passport, this cad make it way easier to get another )
  • Swiss Gear clip wallet ( small, worn inside the waistline with the clip outside )
  • Bank cards
  • Insurance cards
  • birth certificate
  • SS card
  • Immunization card
  • Eyewear prescription card
  • Pac Safe money belt ( empty )

Detailed later/elsewhere…

  • medical kit ( small, bike-sized )
  • software ( VPN, cloud storage, movies )
  • insurance

what about nomad clothes?


I’m not talking style, but rather, fabric.

So you’re wandering the earth in all sorts of different climates, and you want to travel with just one bag. A carry on. What kind of clothes do you bring?

the general answers is – as few as possible. Sturdy, stylish, adaptable. Ideally something that keeps you cool in hot temps, warm in cold temps. Something that doesn’t stop working when it gets wet, is a breeze to clean, and wicks sweat away from your body.

As extra credit, it’d be great if it could go a while between washings without smelling at all, and then when you did wash it, it cleaned up easily and dried very fast.

Such a fabric exists – it’s called merino wool. And they make a ton of things out of it. Button-down dress shirts with collars, tshirts, socks, underwear, even shorts and pants.

Clothes made out of merino wool are spendy, to be sure. A tshirt can be $90 USD. But the shirt behaves as above, and you could live with just two of them, one if you could go without while it dried.

Undies and socks made from the stuff are expedition-class garments. If you selected wisely you could have almost every traveler’s fashion need accounted for in just a few basic items, mixed and matched. My fav item so far – my merino wool hoodie. I can’t tell you how perfect it is in the chill or airplanes, or Denver. Or Chicago.

If this is your first hearing about this super-fine wool, you might be thinking of old wool sweaters or socks. perfectly fine outer garments but itchy and not appropriate to wear next to skin. This is simply not true; merino wool is some of the finest and softest fabric you’ll ever wear.

All of the above qualities make it the go-to fabric for long-term travelers. I also have kind things to say about bamboo fibers and hemp clothing as well, but merino wool clothing is in my own experience amazing all around.

Choosing a “one” bag


The #onebag thing  is about traveling with, having all your possessions in a single bag. All of us could do this, if we just had a giant bag. But really, the unspoken limitation is that this bag should be carry-on size; that is, the one bag with all your worldly possessions should fit neatly into the overhead bin on a major airliner.

Process that for a second.

Most people pack more than one bag for a long weekend trip. I’m talking about all your stuff, all of it, fitting into one bag. That fits in the overhead.

Still with me?

This can be done. It just takes some work. Some hard choices. Some commitment to an idea. And some focus.

It usually also means high-quality gear, and some disposable stuff. You clothes are a good example – if you have only a bag’s worth of stuff, your clothes should be special. They should suit for most occasions. Be amazing at protecting you. Require very little maintenance. Be tough enough to endure exposure to Some Shit.

Makes sense, yes? But at the core of the #onebag way of life is the one bag. Which bag do you choose?

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • It might be easier to choose a bag hat others have reviewed, that others have tested, and that has passed those tests. Why re-invent the wheel, or explore new ground with such an important thing? Do your research. There’s a whole #onebag community out there.
  • Your bag should fit in the overhead bin. Just saying. Checking your one bag sucks. Losing it because you checked it and someone was irresponsible sucks even more.
  • It should be durable. If you go with well-reviewed and rated bags, this won’t be a problem
  • It probably should not stand out. If all your shit is in a single bag, it would hurt a bit more if this bag were stolen, yea? So don’t advertise so much. Don’t get a day-glo bag. Don’t get one that screams Rich Traveler Here. Don’t adorn it with all your lift tags, and other steal-me-bling. Get something plain, one color, non-neon and non-reflective.
  • It should be sized for your body and gender. Duh
  • To paraphrase Olivander – the bag chooses the bearer. You’ll know it when you see it, when you feel it on your back.

Some onebags I’ve tried on for size: The Deuter Futura 28, the Futura 42, the Tom Bihn Synapse 26, The CamelBak BFM 500, and the Osprey Farpoint 40.

I’m currently going with the Osprey.

some tools of a nomad



What tools does a nomad use? Specifically for working remotely, my list includes…

A light Mac, currently the late-generation MacBook with a retina screen

iPad Pro, for reading and sketching

TwelveSouth bookbook cases for both of these things

An unlocked smartphone, so I can go anywhere in the world, buy a local a simm, and be up and running. If I don’t care to just use wifi and Google Voice.

Google Voice, for calls. It’s mapped to my US phone number, and I can get and make calls and texts for free anywhere in the world there’s wifi.

a solid VPN on all my devices, to help secure my traffic in public wifi spaces

cloud storage and backup – I have regular automatic backups to one solution and my client-facing working docs going to another, with my own personal docs on a third

Google, Apple, and Microsoft apps

Platinum status with AA, which translates to Emerald with the One World Alliance

An Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack, perfect for carry-on and fitting in any overhead bin, can be worn like a backpack or the straps can be hidden and I can sling it like a shoulder bag.

Vivobarefoot Ra II shoes, because we live on our feet   (^_^



ipad awesome


I just got the new ( as of early 2016 ) iPad Pro. I also got the Pencil and while I’m learning to draw and do UX design with it, I have to say for me the far-and-away best feature of the iPad is the ability to read off of it.

I mean, you can read on all of them. Or a Kindle, or Nook, or whatever. But I’ve tried a lot of e-reader devices. I have a huge phone, one of the “phablet” types because I thought I’d eschew a reader and do my reading off that. Of course, the phablet sucks for reading. It’s better than most phones, but it’s no library in your bag.

You know what -is- a library in your bag? The iPad Pro.

This is the first time I really felt like I had any book in my collection in my bag. The easy and joy of reading any book I owned, I could have as I traveled. For this, the size really does make a difference. It may do other things amazingly well and for that I’m glad, but even if it did not, I’m happy to pay the spendy price tag if it opens up my entire collection of books to where I can truly enjoy them on the go.

pack practice – Pete’s gear

first pack

A whole life. The material parts at least. In #onebag



Bag  – Deuter Futura 42. I originally planned on using the Tom Bihn Synapse 26 and I know I could get away with it space-wise, but I gave in to temptation for more room. Silly, I know.

Day bag –  Sea to Summit ultra sil. Packs down incredibly small

Toiletry kit bag  – Tom Bihn 3d clear organizer, replaces my old ( larger ) Kiva bag

Cord & electrics storage bag – Tom Bihn snake charmer. Spendy, but very helpful

Passport/immuecard/ID wallet –  Eagle Creek undercover hidden pocket

Money belt    Eagle Creek all terrain money belt. They changed the buckle on this a while ago, and now it’s not as amazing as it used to be, but it works.

Pack cubes or airbags  Tom Bihn dual bag wins, but I’m a big fan of Eagle Creek compression sacks, a kind of vacuum bag

Wash bag  Ospery 20L dry bag. This is for doing laundry. I know I could just use a sink, but this takes up almost zero space and I was sold when I saw a video of a guy agitating the laundry with it.



Phone, charger, and phone case – iPhone 6+, BookBook iPhone case

Headphones  – standard iPhone earbuds work great for me, Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones are my “shut out the world” backups.

Laptop, cord, and case –  Macbook Air, BookBook case. Clearly I’m a fan.

Tablet, cord, and case – iPad Pro. Patiently waiting for the BookBook case, for this.

Hard drive & cord  – Seagate slim 1tb hard drive

Plug adapter  – Kikkerland travel adapter

Headphone splitter ( not sure which brand )

Jump drive  – Scandisk 128gb

Small notebook, Flexion erasable pen, pencil, sharpener

Battery, etc  – Hootoo wireless battery/router

Hygiene & health


Toothbrush – Fuchs travel brush
Toothaste – GooToob of fancy organic brand
Moisturizer – GooToob of johoba oil
deodorant – crystal stick
cotton swabs
nail clippers
safety razor
lip balm
soap – GooToob of Doc Bronner’s

Earplugs  – ( rando brand )

Towel  – MSR microfiber

Silk liner – ( not sure what brand )



Shell – Arc-teryx

1 pair merino pants – Icebreaker Seekers

1 pair shorts – Icebreaker

2 pair undies – Ex Officio

3 merino tshirts

1 merino collared shirt – Wool & Prince

Shoes – Vivobarefoot RA II

Merino socks –  2 pair

Merino hoodie – Wooly


Shemagh & bandana

Flashlight ( & backup? )


Cheap watch

First aid kit…

antibiotic cream
cotton swabs
anti-itch cream
chewable Peptobismo
non-drowsy loratadine
digital thermoeter
vegetable disinfectant solution
packets or oral rehydration salts
motion sickness tablets

MacGyver Gear ( make list – roll of duct tape, etc. )

Deck of playing cards    vintage Bicycle

Deck of tarot cards

Bluetooth speaker n cord  – Minijambox

Hawaii Elvis figurine

3 LED candles


Cloud backup  DropBox, Amazon, iCloud

Travel insurance

Skype credit

Online docs copy

Music online

Audible online

VPN  Private Internet Access