The Ultimate Remote Year Packing List

There are a lot of articles out there about what and how to pack for the insanity that is Remote Year. Some have good tips—advice on how to keep your luggage weight low and yet still bring enough clothes that you won’t be wearing the same 4 outfits on rotation for an entire year.

But to be honest, none of these lists quite cover it all. Key items are left off the lists, items that no self-respecting world-traveler should leave home without. So, for anyone else who might be embarking on their own Remote Year (either with this program or one of the many competitors now springing up), or just for anyone who’s planning to travel for an extended period of time, I offer up these tips. The advice I wish someone had given me when I sat down to plan for this year:

The Ultimate Remote Year Packing List

Part I: Most Often Forgotten Items
(There’s a lot to decide in the lead-up to Remote Year, and in the hustle and bustle, some key items to pack can be lost or forgotten. I’m here to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes I did.)

  1. Inflatable Pool. I cannot emphasize enough how big a game changer adding a kiddie pool (AKA “paddling pool” for any Brits out there) to my suitcase has been. Month after month, my fellow travelers have been disappointed by apartments without rooftop or garden pools available. But no matter where I wind up living, whether the apartment has no external windows, a cramped kitchen, or just a set of plastic deck chairs in place of a living room, I know I will always have this one key amenity at my disposal: a pool.
    When buying your pool, however, make sure to get one with LED lights embedded. This not only makes for cooler Instagram videos, but it also enables you to find the pool and avoid tripping over it in the middle of the night as you stumble through your narrow clown-hallway apartment.
    Pro-Tip—Your inflatable pool can also be used as a ball pit, a Jello wrestling stage, or to hold a foam party.
  2. Neon Wig. I did not anticipate the number of costume, fancy dress and themed events I would be attending this year. Luckily, rather than packing the entirety of your dress-up trunk, you can turn pretty much any normal outfit into a festival-ready one by adding one accessory: a crazily-colored wig. Doesn’t really matter what color (although personally I recommend purple—it goes with everything!), only that it must be outrageously neon enough that it can be used as a flag in the event of an emergency where you get separated from your group of friends at a 30,000 person concert.
    The best place I’ve found to buy such wigs is Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, where you can score one for the bargain basement price of $2 USD.
    Pro-Tip—Do not put your wig in the washing machine.
  3. Cape. Much like the wig, this will come in handy in an untold number of situations. Just to give you a few examples, it enhances your life when: jumping off a bridge, doing backflips on a pyramid, attending a concert, taking a plane ride where you forget to pack a shirt, napping on an average Tuesday, and in case you need to intimidate anyone in a dark alley.
  4. Festival/Body Paint. I know, I know, this is an obvious one. When would you not have approximately 1,000 uses to put this to? But you would be surprised by a) the number of people who forgot to pack this everyday essential, and b) how difficult it was to locate in Colombia. Luckily, Colombian regulations are pretty lax, so in a pinch, supposedly “kid-safe edible” regular paint will work in lieu of body/face paint.
  5. Corkscrew. Especially if you are traveling anywhere in South America, because these cannot be found anywhere for love or money. Occasionally you might luck out and borrow one from a neighbor with a heart of gold, or you may stumble on one in scavenger hunt (try checking the vases and light fixtures of your Airbnb as potential hiding spots). If you do, do not let it out of your sight at any time. The moment you do, it will be spirited away by another thirsty wino who is sick of opening wine bottles via the shoe method (spoiler alert: the shoe method does not work).
    And before you ask, no, screw-top wine bottles are not a thing. And no, wine stores do not sell wine openers. Don’t ask, they will look at you like a crazy person and suggest maybe you check a hardware store.
    (Hardware stores do not carry them either).
  6. Witch’s Cauldron. Look, the only way to make enough ajiaco soup to feed a small army is by using a cast iron pot the size of one. And trust me, if you pass through Colombia at any point, you’re going to want to make ajiaco soup. Or really any kind of soup. Soup is the best food anyway, and you’ll be making a lot of new friends on your travels. What better way to endear them to you than by feeding them a mountain of stew?
    It’s also worth noting that your witch’s cauldron can be used in any spells you may need to cast on your travels. For example, if you break a mirror and doom yourself to several years of breaking everything else around you, and you need to perform a cleansing spell under a full moon with a human heart.
    Pro-Tip—Only put your cauldron on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Glass shelves are not strong enough to support the weight of a full cast iron pot. … Or so I’ve heard.
  7. Drones. Trust me, the amount you’ll pay in baggage overage fees will more than make up for itself in the insane Instagram photos you’ll achieve. Leverage those pics for a few company sponsorships (I’d recommend aiming for Doritos or Aguardiente), and you’ll be set!
    Pro-Tip—You will need at least 4-5 drones per person, for when the first 2-3 blow into trees, bushes, power lines, or fall victim to drunk friends.
  8. Poster Board. Preferably with slightly rude signs written on it that indicate how your group of co-travelers are superior to all other groups of travelers.
    Pro-Tip—Try to actually color in all of the letters, or your sign will not turn out well in photos.
  9. 3-4 Person Tent. You never know when you’ll suddenly be bitten by the urge to go camping, even though it’s been about 10-15 years since the last time you went, and you’ve forgotten how to make a fire, and all your food will be stolen by stray dogs before you can eat it anyway. Plus they’re cheaper to buy than rent, so YOLO.
  10. Yoga Mats. Approximately 10 per person.
  11. Inflatable Llama. Again, this will make for some priceless Instagramming. But be sure not to leave your inflatable llama lying around—these have been stolen with more frequency than phones this year! Cuidado.
  12. Hip Flask. A water bottle can work in a pinch, but you’re better off with the real deal. The larger the better, as long as it still fits in your purse. Speaking of which, another one to not forget:
  13. Purse Tacos and Pocket Burritos. Because you never know when you’ll need a snack.
  14. Hammock. Because who doesn’t bring these on every trip they take? Honestly. There are trees you can rope these to everywhere, people.
  15. Poncho. Not the rain-proof kind. I mean the alpaca-wool knit kind. Not only does it work as a jacket, but in case you go camping and accidentally wind up with a Colombian-human-size sleeping bag instead of a normal-human-size one, it doubles as an extra blanket!
  16. Bicycle. I know this sounds like a lot of work to disassemble and pack into a box every month to transport, and it is.
  17. Lunch Box. I recommend buying one that looks like a creepy version of an emoji, so that it doubles as a dummy in case you need to build yourself a pretend friend at any point, or indicate that a particular bus seat is already occupied.

Part II: What To Leave Behind
(Suitcases can only hold so much! When push comes to shove, you’ll need to decide what things you need to leave at home. Some of these are things I previously considered impossible to live without, but take it from me: you do not need them! Save yourself the hassle, and in a few months, you’ll be glad you aren’t lugging these around.)

  1. Dignity. Look, I know that it sounds nice. But when push comes to shove, nobody really needs this. Even if you do insist on bringing it, you’ll wind up losing it within a couple of months anyway. Personally, I lost mine on day 2 of the Inca Trail, halfway up a mountain with no toilets (not even holes in the ground) in sight. I haven’t missed it once since.
  2. Standards. Again, this one can sound appealing. High standards are a good thing to maintain, right? Well, not always. Especially when it comes to things like potable tap water and food that doesn’t taste like a dry arepa covered in sugar. Look, you’re traveling around the world. Things are going to be weird and sometimes unpleasant. Lower your standards—or better yet, get rid of them entirely—and the whole experience just gets that much more entertaining.
    That, or you just slowly start going mad. One or the other.
  3. Expectations. Same with standards, really. The more you can avoid having these, the more pleasantly surprised you’ll be by the quirky new apartment you’ve got, where the oven could pass for the final step in a particularly challenging Escape Room game and you’re sleeping in servants’ quarters attached to the kitchen with its own toilet shower (that would be a toilet with a shower directly above it, yes).

Disclaimer: I realize those last couple leave-behinds sound like I might be complaining. I’m honestly not—but only because I left those pesky things behind! You will enjoy this year so much more without them.

Additional Disclaimer: For the sake of transparency, I’ve only included items that people on our trip have actually packed and brought with them to various countries. There are several other Remote Year groups around (though none of them are Meraki #merakiogfy), however, and they may have some good tips as well. For example, apparently one of the new groups, Kaizen, is traveling with a life-size cardboard cutout of Jonathan Lipnicki, a move that has already gotten them a shout-out from the man himself. I do not have any direct feedback on how much this item has benefited them in daily life, but I can only assume that the answer is “immensely.”

So there you have it, kids. You are now ready for a year of life on the road. Make the most of it! And seriously: Don’t take it all so seriously. <3

1 comment to The Ultimate Remote Year Packing List

  • Daphne Debra Anderson

    Over packing is my biggest problem, due to the shoes that one needs for learning new folk dances and teaching other dances. But if I leave behind dignity I could just wear a pair of hard back leather shoes from the rack at Wagners. Thanks, Ellen. Love you, and Happy early birthday!

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