September 16, 2012

Confessions of the Euro-fluenced: How to Still be a Woman While Backpacking.

What does it mean to "backpack Europe"?

After 2 months of travel, I don't even think WE fully know the answer to that one. Alternatively, there are many different answers. 

There are those backpackers who wander aimlessly, staying at the cheapest places they can, bathe infrequently, party every night, run out of money, and then find a job until they have enough money to move on to the next unknown location.

Nope. That's not us.

We are the bathe-everyday-utilize-spreadsheets-sleep-a lot type of backpackers. In fact, the only reason we can call ourselves backpackers is because we have packed all of our stuff in, yes, packs that we happen to carry on our back.

Because it is sometimes cheaper to use Europe's budget airlines instead of taking the train from here to there, and because we did not want to regularly pay additional fees to check in each bag at the airport, we've been pretty restricted as to how heavy our carry on backpacks can be. These restrictions range anywhere from 15 to 17 to 22lbs. We tried to pack everything under 15lbs, but soon learned that was very impossible. 

The purpose of this blog, then, is to prove to the many unbelieving readers out there that I, a girl who loves her clothes and her shoes and her makeup and her hairspray and who isn't willing to sacrifice too too much, in fact, will survive for three months by fitting everything in a bag that weighs no more than 17lbs.

The heaviest culprits? Makeup, electronics with their specific cords, chargers, and adapters, and one lonesome travel guide.

The following includes an exact list, and pictures to stand witness, of what I began this voyage with.

Aren't you proud?

And what about Andrew, you ask? Let's just say he can fit everything he brought in about 1/2 of a backpack. So, because of how these things go,  my belongings (and those acquired after the trip began) have begun to spill over to his extra space. Thus, I need to give credit where credit is due and admit that I have indeed acquired some 'souvenirs' (mainly, warmer clothes and the always necessary leopard-print flats). I'd like to point out that we each have only ONE backpack. But on our longer treks, Andrew is so kind.. he will carry both of them. Apparently, me carrying 17lbs, for as light as it may be, equals me complaining (no matter how hard I try not to)! He's so good to me!

It was important to think about weight and also what materials would dry fast. So, bringing an IPad instead of a laptop is key. Or lightweight shirts and shoes. Or even a lightweight toothbrush, hairbrush, and deodorant go a loooong way at helping keep the weight down. It was also key to bring items of clothing that I am not particularly attached to, because frankly, many items will need to be thrown out after the trip (think shoes).

I think you will probably have some questions about certain things you see in the photos.... I.e. Why do you have so many rubber bands? Why is there half of a tennis ball? I'll explain...

-Due to liquid restrictions while flying and the fact that we were taking flights weekly, it was impossible to pack large volumes of hair products. So, I did a little research and found shampoo and conditioner that comes in the form of a bar (thanks, Lush). I also found liquid clothing detergent that comes in small sheets (thanks, EMS).
-There are so many rubber bands because they, along with multiple sizes of ziplock baggies, are quite essential to the backpacker.
-The tennis ball helps when doing wash in the hostel sink (mostly just undergarments). Many times sinks don't have stoppers in them, and the tennis ball works pretty well (thanks, Rick Steve's and your traveling wisdom).
-Having a purse that magically doubles as a backpack is perfect (thanks, Target).
-Many hostels do not include bath towels (or make you rent one for a few Euro). So, we had to find towels that wouldn't take up much room or weight and that would dry easily... Think big 'ShamWow' towel. We found them at EMS and I chose a lovely purple color.

Final count:
4 shoes 
2 pair long pants
1 pair denim shorts
5 long-sleeved shirts or cardigans
1 pair stretch pants / t-shirt (doubles as pajamas, lounge, or travel clothes)
2 dresses
1 skirt
9 tanks
6 short-sleeved shirts
Electronics: IPad, IPod, Kindle, emergency cell phone, electrical adapters
Itty bitties: small flashlight, watch, clothesline, alcohol wipes, rubber bands, twistie ties, ziplocks, first aid kit

That's it folks. 

Do you think you could do it? I surely didn't think I could!


  1. Haha this is awesome! You could write a book! Hope you guys are doing great!

    1. Thanks, Mel! If I could get some money out of writing about this experience, it would be so awesome (maybe it could help make up for how much we've spent....). Thanks for reading!!!

  2. I have to say, I am IMPRESSED!!! It makes me think there is hope for me yet.

    1. Marie!! My friend!! Yknow, if you and I went backpacking we could just share clothes... Then it wouldn't be so bad! I'm excited to get back to Germany where my big suitcase is located... Then I can go shopping in my suitcase!! Woohoo!! Miss you!