My buddy was having a bachelor party in Puerto Rico, and I’d been in Taiwan for nine months, so I figured that since I’m crossing the Pacific anyway, I might as well visit all my friends and family in the USA while I’m at it. Considering that I have to quarantine for two weeks when I get back to Taiwan, it doesn’t really make sense to stay for just a short time, so I planned out a five week trip across the USA.
I spent a week in San Francisco, a week in Houston, a week in Puerto Rico, a week in New York City and upstate New York, two days in Washington, D.C., a week in Houston, and a day in Los Angeles. I may write another post talking about that trip in general, but this is a onebag post that will focus on my packlist, which in this case is my indefinite-length trip one. If I needed to, I could live and work out of this packlist for months. I was able to handle the wildly different climates across the USA, as well as the combination of work and play while doing so. I needed a bag that would fit on budget airlines and Amtrak. I had what I needed for lounging on the beach, walking across the entirety of NYC and DC, and getting into clubs in Puerto Rico. I had everything I needed to work productively, work on personal projects, make music, and edit videos. I even had everything I needed to go to the gym, though on this trip the gym ended up just being playgrounds. In fact, the only limiting factor I had was medication, which I had plenty of space to pack more of if needed.
This is gonna be hella detailed, so feel free to use the table of contents to jump to whatever interests you.
I have no advertising on my sites, nor do I use affiliate links. I just can’t be bothered. I write these articles up out of some kind of compulsion, and because it’s fun for me to go back and read old articles. If you enjoy it or have questions, I love getting emails. I’m caleb at this domain (calebjay.com). If you’re trying to figure out how to become a digital nomad through programming, scope out some of my articles on coding bootcamps. I also have an article on why I think Taiwan is an awesome digital nomad location.
The traveler (me) is a 30 year old software engineer living full time in Taiwan, identifying as male. There’s a good subreddit for girls' onebagging, if you’re interested. My girlfriend also onebags and has a blog, though at writing there’s no onebag articles. But there might be one day!
- The Bag (notes on my bag, full packed pictures, weight)
- Everything (all packed up, weight)
- Eletronics and Various Gear (like everything else in my bag)
- Laptop and Associated Gear
- Converters, Cables, Storage, Controllers
- Pocket Gear
- Front Left Pocket (sleep mask, headphones, pens, flashlight, gopro)
- Front Right Pocket (sunglasses, lockpick, paracord, hand sanitizer)
- Big Bottom Pocket (chargers, battery, pillow, water bottle, lock)
- Front Back Pocket (masks, notebook, OPZ, Kobo, Switch)
- Front Front Pocket (passport, phone, pills)
- Trip Ancillaries
For five years I’ve been using a Tom Bihn Synapse 25 as my daily bag and travel bag. I believe my variant is Burnt Orange Ballistic / Northwest Sky 200 Halcyon. When I mean daily, I mean daily. This has been on my back for four years of bicycle, Caltrain, and motorcycle commutes. It’s been across Japan twice, Taiwan twice, France twice. It’s been on my back as I rode a motorcycle from the French Riviera through Italy. It survived a regional Burning Man on a remote mountain in Taiwan. Rain, snow, sleet, hail, and harsh bleach-hot sun. Whenever I wash it, it still looks brand new. No rips, tears, or worn-out bits. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to justify getting another bag.
Downside of Tom Bihn is they get you with all the little organizers to truly make it shine. At least that was a downside five years ago. While writing this post I poked around the latest in the onebag community and saw that many manufacturers have discovered that bag DLC is where the big bucks are at. In this case though, I love the organization I get. I don’t know if I’ve perfected my pack, but I think I’ve gotten as close as is reasonable.
I use the 25 as I think it’s plenty of space for short to indefinite trips. A lot of onebaggers go 30, 40, even 50. I think that’s insane. I’m into ultralight wilderness backpacking and value carrying as little as possible. My pack is small enough to be considered a personal item (not just carry-on), even when fully packed for a months-long trip, which is great for budget airlines that don’t even let you have a carry-on. Plus, it’s great for when all museums in DC apparently aren’t doing coat-check for COVID reasons (what?) and you gotta lug the damn thing around for ten hours. Smaller is better, less is better.
Here’s everything, minus the clothes, watch, and phone I’m wearing:
And here it is all packed up. Total weight comes in at 8.1kg, with my water bottle half-full.
I’m either carrying a Pixel 4A5G or a Unihertz Jelly 2. The Pixel takes amazing pictures, which was great for this trip as I didn’t bring my mirrorless with me. It has a headphone jack which is a requirement for me and allows me to pass samples from it into my OPZ. The downside is it doesn’t have HDMI over USBC, so unlike my previous Samsung phones, I can’t plug it into a TV, which has been an enormously helpful feature in the past. On days when I’m doing sketchy stuff, I bring the Unihertz Jelly 2. It’s more robust than the Pixel, and cheaper as well, so if it gets busted or stolen it’s not the end of the world. Plus, it has an IR blaster, very useful. For specifics on data plans in the USA, see the phone plan section.
My wallet is a Slimfold, which I’ve loved for protecting the sacred silhouette of my glorious ass.
For most of this trip I wore my Grand Seiko SBGA413, which I’ve covered in an article about the purchasing experience, and am meaning to do a follow-up on sometime. For working out, going to the beach, and the entirety of my Puerto Rico trip, I wore my Seiko Turtle which I’ve modified to have sapphire crystal and an aftermarket chonky steel bracelet. Good thing too as that bracelet took a beating when I was scrambling around on rocks at a river in Puerto Rico. The Grand Seiko worked perfectly during my day to day, as I could count on its accuracy, and it’s extraordinarily light. The Seiko likewise served well throughout Puerto Rico at the beach and NYC, with a timing bezel that got used for tracking time to multiple trains as well as bake time on the weird amount of baking I was doing at my buddy’s place in upstate NY.
Not pictured is my paper mask, which I prefer over the cloth ones for day to day usage.
My clothes are the result of a lot of experimentation. I need them to look and feel good for multiple environments and situations, layer-able, and allow for many outfits with just a few items. They also need to wash and dry quickly in a hotel sink or tub. Also, ideally, I don’t look like some kind of travel tacticool tourist ultralight hypebeast.
Here’s all my clothes, minus a pair of uniqlo shorts, a generic t-shirt, and two pairs of underwear: one being worn, and one soaking in my tub as I write this post.
Two uniqlo button-downs, generic grey chinos, Xero sandals, waffle-print linen towel, Adidas white leather sneakers, two pairs of uniqlo short socks, Eagle Creek packing cube, two pairs Uniqlo airism undershirt, Uniqlo airism briefs, leather belt.
I have another pack for my gym clothes / swimsuit gear:
I’ve tried multiple stuff-sacks, including Tom Bihn ones. I’ve settled on Eagle Creek because they were the best size. Other ones were too big, expecting far more clothes, and so no actual “stuffing” happened for my smaller amounts of clothes. Plus I like the handles on them for yanking them out of my bag. Also, they have ventilation, which is good if I’m forced to pack my clothes before they’re fully dried.
I can go so long out of just this backpack because I wash my clothes while I travel. As long as I have one night, I can get a cycle of clothes washing done. I wash in a hotel sink or tub. If I can plug the sink or tub, I can wash better, by filling it with soap and water, then dumping my clothes and letting them soak, usually giving them a couple squishes / wringings to make sure the water and soap get in all the various fibers. If I can’t stop up the drain, I just wash each item one at a time, soaking it through, doing a couple soak / wring cycles, then soaping it up and rubbing it between my hands a bunch, then doing a few more soak / wring cycles.
Then, I hang the item up on a hanger, or use my rope to make a clothesline. I pick my clothing specifically for things that can dry usually overnight, or at worst in the course of a day and night. That includes my towel!
On the top-left are two Uniqlo button-downs, both white with a pattern. These can fit most any situation, from the club to the beach. They’re lightweight and so wash and dry easily. They’re white because that works with the largest variety of outfits, and also is the easiest to stay cool in for hot weather. I also pack a generic white tshirt, which can be worn under a button-down for another combination of outfits, and to warm up a bit.
To the right of the shoes are my greatest discovery in Taiwan: Uniqlo “Aerism” undershirts. On their own, they’re “unflattering,” as my buddy called it when I walked into the room, chonky rolls accentuated by the tissue-thin fabric. But, under a button-down or even tshirt, they’re the greatest thing ever. First, they keep sweat off my outer shirt, which lets it last a lot longer without a wash, and protects it from yellowing (I guess I have gross sweat, this is a major problem for me). Furthermore, they soak a TON of sweat up, which means I don’t have unsightly sweat stains at my pits and back, but also, I stay way cooler through skin-contact evaporative cooling. Finally, I’m sensitive (Aubrey), and this material feels great against my skin, unlike some cottons or linens, so no matter what I’m wearing, I always feel comfortable. That last part is great, I swear sometimes I get more oiley or sweaty just because the material of my shirt feels a little icky. The downside is they look kinda stupid if you can spot it through the neck of your shirt, so you gotta do a lot of tucking and pulling to get it out of sight when you’re wearing one. And, of course, because they’re light and airy, they wash and dry quickly.
Finally, I pack a Uniqlo gym shirt, pictured in the gym gear, the grey shirt to the right of the bag. I’m not sure the exact model, but it’s great to have for working out, or for wearing when I swim and am too lazy to put on sunscreen. It’s great for hikes as well. It washes and dries extremely quickly, so I can wash it after every workout. It also works great under a motorcycle jacket for evaporative cooling: I just soak it, unzip my jacket a little, and can stay cool no matter how hot a ride gets.
Under my top-left button-down shirt is a generic pair of grey chinos. The material is simply cotton, which unfortunately doesn’t dry too quickly. Also, these pants are bleached to shit from the sun from motorcycle rides, and I’ve only had them for nine months. So, I’m on the hunt for a new pair. I will stand by the grey chino though: it’s extremely versatile. I can wear it comfortably while walking around all day, it gets me into clubs, and I can roll up the legs if the day gets way hotter than expected. Having pants is usually a necessity on my trips, so that I can get into places that require it, but also so I can protect my legs from the hot bits of a motorcycle.
Not shown is a pair of Uniqlo cotton shorts. I’m thinking about finding another brand for these, such as Topo, as similar to the pants, they don’t dry too quickly. However, shorts are great to have, for really hot climates, as well as for lounging around a hotel. I pack these as well as gym shorts so I can feasibly wear these out and about without looking like a total slob.
In the gym bag goes a pair of Adidas gym shorts. This is my first trip with these and I really like them. They’re made of some kind of synthetic material that dries within minutes. I’ve used them comfortably on runs, lifting at the gym, and swimming. They have zipper pockets which is great at the ocean for when I want to tuck my sunglasses safely away for diving or snorkeling or whatever, as well as safely securing my gopro. During the day the zippers are great too, for keeping my phone from falling out of the pockets when I sit down. The downside is these shorts have NO flex, so when I squat, my booty kinda pop doe.
Underwear is Exofficio Give-n-go as well as Uniqlo Airism Briefs. I think I prefer the Uniqlos as they ride up less than the Exofficio, though the Exofficio seem to be a bit more robust. Both are comfortable. I pack three pairs, so that I always have a pair that’s dry and clean.
I always pack a pair of Xero Z-Trail EV sandals. One of the few useful things I picked up from my creative writing degree: in reading a shitton of journals of hoighty toighty continentals and Americans heading out into the wilderness of the Amazon or the American South, they consistently quickly abandoned their leather boots for the sandals of the indigenous people. I’ve done long, multi-day wilderness backpacking trips in sandals, I’ve done days-long city-walking trips in them, I’ve even bouldered and jogged in them. I highly recommend trying a pair of ultralight sandals for hiking, and I don’t mean Chacos, they’re far too heavy and thick. Sandals keep your feet cool and dry. You can splash through a creek without ruining the entire day. I never get blisters. Plus, they’re nice and light, which makes for a much easier hike.
Anyway, I pack these because they’re thin and light, and I use them for hiking, working out (jogging, lifting, etc), the beach, or my day to day wear for super hot places such as Taiwan. I’ve tried a thinner pair of Xeros but found it was far too thin, the Z-Trail EV’s hit that reasonable level of thickness. I also recommend Bedrock Sandals for serious backpacking and hiking, as they use Vibram soles and are more comfortable in my opinion, but they only come in thong-style, which I find kinda silly looking for day to day wear, and also usually run thicker than Xeros, so don’t pack as well.
Other than the sandals, unless it’s a motorcycle trip, I always go with a pair of white leather sneakers, in this case Adidas. White leather sneakers are the most versatile men’s footwear. You can get into clubs with them easily, or dress them down with shorts and a tshirt. They’re comfortable enough to wear for an entire day of city walking, and I’ve even hiked in them.
For socks, I pack two pairs of uniqlo short socks. I guess it’s fashionable to show off your ankles. Some of you guys are going without socks at all. How you do that without ruining your feet and shoes is beyond me. These socks wash and dry quickly, so I can usually get them washed between every wear.
In my gym bag also goes a cloth mask. I prefer paper ones for day to day, but the cloth one is good for working out, as the paper ones are SUPER hard to breath through for me when they get wet from sweat. I use this for when I’m on a jog or at the gym. BuT OuTSiDe SprEaD is SuPeR RaRe: I don’t care, I wear it when there’s people around because it’s fucking polite.
I also wear or pack a leather belt, cause otherwise people get to see my buttcrack. Also, it can function in all sorts of useful ways, such as strapping shit together, wrapping around my hand when I want to try to tighten something, etc.
I usually pack a Patagonia Houdini windbreaker. It’s not quite warm enough to handle a San Francisco fall night but it’s better to have than not.
I pack a medium-sized linen towel. These can apparently be gotten on Etsy, just search “waffle-print linen towel.” I don’t remember where I got mine, but I have a medium sized one that I use as a towel, and a smaller one that I use for whatever else, such as cleaning up if I spill something on me on a flight. Linen is great as it can soak up an absurd amount of water, then wring out so much you can keep using it to dry off more. It’s also allegedly resistant to smells and bacteria, which I guess is true because it never smells bad. I mean, I obviously wash it, but the times I’ve had to pack it before it fully dries (usually takes just a few hours), it didn’t stink after.
Tom Bihn bathroom bag, Arm and Hammer deodorant, retainer, toothbrush, earplugs, fluticasone spray, pill containers, small container with pomade, spray bottle with sea salt spray, Matador container with conditioner, toothpaste, floss, Dollar Shave Club razor.
I can’t find the Tom Bihn bathroom bag to link to, but I love it. It’s exactly the right size, roomy enough for me to jam shit in there real quick when I have to, and has a little hook so I can hang it from something in the bathroom and not put it on a gross sink or whatever.
The Arm and Hammer deodorant was a miracle find. I was staining all my clothes yellow with sweat until I switched to this. Plus it smells very neutral.
Fluticasone spray, plus the fexofenadine pills in one of the containers, is a one-two knockout for allergies. I take both every day. Finding them was such a life changer for me that I wrote an article about them like 7 years ago in my Tim Ferris phase.
Pomade is for after I wash my hair, other days I just touch up with sea salt spray. Maybe excessive to bring both but my hair is like literally my best physical attribute, I don’t have much else going for me in the looks department so I lean heavily on that thicc hair.
That matador container is absurdly overpriced (it’s like 50$ for three) but it really is the best soap container I’ve found. It has a little button hook so I can latch it up in the shower and not have it touch other gross surfaces in the shower. I usually just carry conditioner as most hotels and airbnbs have good enough shampoo, but none ever have conditioner.
I like the Dollar Shave Club razor as it’s cheap and light. Back home I use a full safety razor setup with a brush and soap, etc, but that’s too much to carry when traveling, and anyway safety razors can’t get past TSA. I am looking into a cool travel bowl and brush so I might still be able to have nice soaps when I travel. To be investigated on the next trip.
Electronics and Various Gear
Here’s the other random stuff that goes into my bag:
Laptop and Associated Gear
Lenovo Thinkpad T14 with charger, Tom Bihn “Snakecharmer” organizer, 8BitDo Zero 2 controller, generic USB thumb drive, generic USB microSD / SD / etc converter, Lenovo brand external SSD, HDMI cable, USBC to HDMI converter, Patagonia Houdini windbreaker, and Decathlon ultralight daybag:
I’ve gone through a LOT of iterations on this, and my choice of laptop is very considered. I’ve gone through various Macbooks, Microsoft Surface versions, and tons of Lenovos. I’ve settled on the Lenovo T14 and think it’s probably the best laptop for my use case. The newer superlight Macbooks with the M1 chips are the only other thing that might work with everything I need to do, but I’m just too stubborn to give up Linux, and it’s a fuckin nightmare to install any distro on a Macbook.
On my laptop, I need be able to:
- Run Ableton for music production
- Run Lightroom for photo editing
- Run Davinci for video editing
- Sometimes, game
- Plug in a MicroSD card to rip shit off my camera or gopro
- HDMI into TVs
My ideal work environment is a Linux distro that can comfortably run Emacs and whatever languages and tools I need, like Python, Node, etc. But, I also need to edit video, photos, and music, so I dual-boot with Windows.
I went with the T14 because it has an assload of ports, but also had plenty of power for running video editing or music production software, or, you know, my company’s absurdly fat set of containers. It’s a good size at about 13 inches, and not too thick. It’s made of a robust plastic that’s tough but not too heavy like many aluminum laptops are in my opinion. Plus, Lenovo makes the best laptop keyboards, no contest. Also, I was able to purchase the base model of this, and then upgrade the RAM, SSD, and panel using service videos straight off the Lenovo website. I ended up saving myself a cool 1.3k USD that way. And, should something break in the future, it’ll be possible to replace it, which is not true for nearly any other manufacturer. Lenovo laptops are usually quite compatible with Linux distros. Finally, the laptop uses a USB-C charging port, so I can use a charger that works with a lot of my other devices (I hate having an accessory that’s only good for one other item in my pack).
With the laptop comes the Lenovo brand USB-C charger at 65 watts. I tried rolling with an ultralight USB-C charger once, but the most wattage I could find was 45, which isn’t enough for a Switch to allow for docked gaming, so I bite the bullet and carry around the admittedly not-too-bulky Lenovo charger. Upside is that it it’s a 2-prong charger (no ground post), so it’s very easy to plug into many countries' power outlets.
Converters, Cables, Storage, Controllers
In the above image with the “Snake Charmer” bag I have some other gear. The 8BitDo controller is great for dicking around on my phone or laptop, but allegedly it can also be used as a remote for my Gopro. Haven’t figured out how yet.
The USB thumbdrive is just good to have. It’s come in handy for functioning as a bootable USB for recovery on a busted laptop, for example. Plus it still is the quickest way to get files from one computer to another.
The microSD and etc converter is great for when I need to get files from my Gopro or mirrorless camera (not brought on this trip) onto someone else’s machine.
The SSD has a shitload of movies and stuff on it, and is good for when I need to transfer an assload of files somewhere.
The HDMI cable is a godsend. I can plug my laptop or Switch into a hotel or airbnb TV, which comes in great handy when everyone’s exhausted from the beach and killing time until the clubs open, such as during the Puerto Rico portion of this trip. Using the HDMI to USBC converter, I can have an extremely portable switch dock. Back when I had a phone that had a desktop mode (Samsung and some others) I could even use it to plug my phone into a TV, which we did in France once to cap a night off with Star Wars for some reason.
Also in that image is my Patagonia Houdini, which I describe in the Clothes Misc section.
Finally, I carry a Decathlon packable dayback. The brand doesn’t really matter, I’ve seen others make similar, but this thing is always used to death. It’s nice to have a separate, smaller bag even though my main bag does work well as a day to day bag. It lets me keep all my shit back at the Airbnb organized in my main bag while I carry something small and light for my water bottle, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer. On this trip I used it for a couple trips to the beach as well as my days out in San Francisco that I didn’t need my laptop.
Front Left Pocket
In one side pocket goes a sleep mask, wired headphones, Pixel Buds, earplugs, Zebra F-301 ballpoint pen, Uni Jetstream multi-color pen, TWSBI fountain pen, Fenix E18R flashlight, Tom Bihn organizing pouch, and Gopro Hero Black 7 with rubber lanyard case:
Sleep mask is a key addition, I can sleep perfectly fine sharing a room with two other dudes in an Airbnb where some of us are going to bed at midnight and others at 3am. Or, on a plane.
Wired headphones work well with my phone when I want no delay (doing music stuff), or for my Switch, OPZ, or laptop. Combined with a white noise app on my phone, I can sleep through anything, such as an Airbnb where the party goes until 5am.
Pixel Buds convenient for working out, taking calls etc.
Earplugs used to be critical for me as I slept with them, until I switched to headphones + a white noise app or a sleepcast. Now I carry them for loud clubs, trains, or motorcycling.
Three pens. Ballpoint for most stuff, the multi-colored pen for note-taking. For example, I do regular Mandarin lessons, even when traveling, and it helps me remember better if I can take notes in many colors. The fountain pen is part of an ongoing, always-failing experiment to find a fountain pen that doesn’t explode on an airplane. They all do. I prefer a fountain pen for notetaking, but when traveling, they unfortunately suck. I have a Lamy I’m going to try on my next trip that I’m feeling pretty good about.
The flashlight is the conclusion of an experiment with multiple lights. I settled on the Fenix over others because it’s bright as hell but with a super long battery life. I use their 700mAh battery with the included microUSB port so I can easily charge it without needing to bring the proprietary “magnetic” charger it comes with stock. It has many brightness settings, so I can use it for poking around my backpack at night or on a flight without blinding my neighbors, up through walking around at night or illuminating a whole chunk of forest to look at some deer. I try to always have it on me as it’s also been indispensable in road incidents, such as when we found a dog hit by a car and were able to use the strobe to warn traffic. It has a magnetic base and clip, so I was able to attach it to my belt when I was scootering around SF at night. Extra safety ayy.
I use the organizing pouch for my two pairs of headphones and my earplugs.
The Gopro was great on the Puerto Rico portion of this trip. I carried it pretty much everywhere, and two other guys had one too, so we’re going to have an edit-off.
Front Right Pocket
Knockaround sunglasses, Southord lockpick set, small bit of paracord, hand sanitizer.
Knockaround make the best looking, longest-lasting polarized sunglasses for the price. A pair usually lasts me about 6 months, but I abuse my sunglasses.
The lockpicking set has yet to be useful outside of practicing picking for fun while hanging out. All I need is for someone to lock the key in an Airbnb… one of these days…
Paracord is enormously useful. I can pass the time when on transit by practicing my knots, use it for a laundry line, tie all sorts of shit together, or on this trip, lend to my buddy to use as a Gopro lanyard. Actually, my normal paracord is still functioning as a Gopro lanyard, I had to buy the one pictured halfway through my trip to replace the lent bit.
Hand sanitizer to keep away nasty germs. Especially cause I take medicine throughout the day, this is great to have.
Big Bottom Pocket
Wall charger, Anker battery and cables in a Tom Bihn organizer, alongside a Sea to Summit Travel Pillow, Hilltop water bottle, and generic small lock:
The wall charger is a discontinued model by Monoprice. I like it because it has 4 ports, although only one of the 2.1A can be used at once. I’d like to upgrade to something with more amperage at some point.
Anker battery is a bomproof one that I’ve had for like 6 years. Can charge me up multiple times. Also, small enough to go in a pocket with my phone for when I need to charge and go. Or, to go in a breast pocket and charge my Gopro or Sena while I’m motorcycling. On this trip it most often got used by other people.
Everything in my pack can either be charged by USBC or MicroUSB cables, so I pack that here. I purposefully avoid anything with proprietary ports, such as Apple products, or Fenix’s “magnetic charging” thing.
Sea to Summit in my opinion makes some of the best camping gear. In this case the travel pillow has served me well on many trips, camping and otherwise. It’s great to have on a plane or, in this case, if your Airbnb doesn’t have enough pillows for everyone. Packs to nothing and is comfy as hell when inflated.
The generic lock wasn’t useful on this trip but has been in the past for locking stuff to my motorcycle, locking gym or hostel lockers, or just as an attachment point.
I used to swear by Platypus plastic water pouch things, because they’d only take up as much space as there was water in them and they weighed practically nothing, but they’d inevitably start leaking within 3 months of usage. Tired of having all my shit covered in water, I finally went and got a “normal” water bottle, though I do like this one a lot as it’s quite light, and made in Taiwan!
Front Back Pocket
I’m always surprised by how much I can stuff into this part of the bag. Usually there’s some postcards and stamps jammed in there as well.
N95, backup regular mask, notebook, OPZ, Kobo, Switch
N95 because, as I guessed, plenty of Americans can’t be bothered to wear masks in the middle of a pandemic. Given that my return to Taiwan could be delayed by months if I tested positive for COVID, vaccine or no, I was really careful and wore this whenever on public transit or on a flight.
Backup mask, repping Taiwan, get fucked PRC. It’s meant to look like a badminton court, with the gold medal representing a photo of the Taiwan team’s winning point against the PRC being “in,” now so famous they’re putting it on credit cards. It’s particularly poignant because the color is similar to that of the DPP, the pro-independence party in Taiwan, and in general the color is used to represent the idea of Taiwanese sovereignty. My DREAM was for some tankie or PRC flunkie to get mad and start crying at me about the mask, never happened though.
I am as choosy about my notebooks as I am about my laptop. This one is the result of years of iteration to find the kind of notebooks I like. I’ve settled on around this size, soft spiral. Can take fountain pens, ballpoint, pencil, and marker. Packs small. I prefer these to thicker ones so that I can cycle them in and out more rapidly, and if I lose one, the loss won’t be as traumatic. Plus, they pack small, and are easy to whip out on a flight or whatever. On this trip, used to take notes in Mandarin lessons, work meetings, journal when it doesn’t make sense to get my laptop out, rip out a page for leaving a note for someone else, and as a mousepad. I get my notebooks on Jetpens.
The Teenage Engineering OPZ is an amazing bit of music-making equipment. It’s an absurdly powerful and versatile synth and sequencer. Check out Andrew Huang playing with it to get an idea of what it’s capable of. I’m absolute hot garbage at making music in any format, but it is something I eventually want to be good at, so I try to play with this thing during any downtime instead of playing a video game or whatever. I mean look at it, it’s the size of a long TV remote, and weighs 10 grams, how could I not just always pack it? The only downside is the UX takes a lot of tutorials to figure out, so it’s not great for passing around for people to play with. If I ever have cash to throw around, I might try swapping this for an OP-1, but those are much larger and heavier, so I’m not sure it’ll take the place of the OPZ for daily carry. Also, they’re like 1k USD and never available.
I swapped my Kindle Paperwhite for a Kobo Libra H20 literally the day before this trip, because I was getting sick of Kindle’s shitty organization and dependence on proprietary Amazon formats and software. I grabbed the Kobo, loaded it with KOReader, and threw my Calibre library on it. It’s been working like a dream this entire trip, far better than my Kindle. It’s only a teensy bit bulkier, but I love the case it came with because it lets me easily prop it up, which is great to set on a tray table and read from.
I was on the fence about bringing my Switch, like I am every trip, because it’s so enormous and heavy. I’ll be really curious about swapping it out for a Steam Deck when those come out. But, just like every trip I decide to bring it with, I was really glad to have it. Civ 5 can make any flight go by in an instant, plus I used it in basically every destination. I always tell myself I should be going out and about all the time when I travel, but this trip was more laid-back, “day in the life of” type stuff. How am I gonna be a tourist in cities I already lived in, anyway? So in SF, Houston, Puerto Rico, etc, it got used constantly. Combined with my USBC to HDMI converter, I could minimalistically dock it to a TV and play with other people. Usually other people had controllers around, so we were able to play with 4 or even 8 people. I’ve actually written a post on why I think the Switch is great to bring on a trip.
Front Front Pocket
This is my “super important shit” pocket, which usually means passport, plane tickets, etc. On this trip, I’d usually put stuff from my wallet that I didn’t want to carry around with me day to day in here, such as my Taiwan ID and health insurance card. That’s something that I notice doesn’t really get addressed in one bag articles: how the pack can serve as an organizer when it stays behind in the hotel room while you go out and about. On the leg of my trip in Puerto Rico, where I shared an Airbnb with 9 other guys, that was invaluable. I could keep all my stuff separate from everyone else’s in my backpack and not worry about losing anything.
Today, it’s my passport, Unihertz Jelly 2, and generic pill containers off Amazon.
The Unihertz Jelly 2 is a new experiment I’m doing with tiny phones. I’m tired of how big phones are getting, and after I accidentally destroyed my Pixel 4a and replaced it with a 4A5G, which is enormous, I got fed up. So, for much of this trip, my Pixel would stay back at the Airbnb, while I took the Jelly 2 out with me. It worked surprisingly well. Obviously, the pictures it takes suck, but typing isn’t as bad as some reviews said. I used swipe typing without issue. Plus, the size meant I stayed off my phone. It also has some surprisingly useful tools, such as an IR blaster which, when combined with a remote app, has been indispensable many times on this trip. Just now I’ve used it for my quarantine hotel TV which didn’t have an “input select” button on the remote they gave me. Plus it has an SD card and headphone jack. Awesome.
I carry tons of these little pill containers. They’re the best I’ve found for, well, carrying pills. The main one here usually has ritalin (I take 3 or 4 times a day) and some random first aid medicine in it, such as aspirin.
Traveling to the USA can come with all sorts of weird things people outside the country might not realize, which I’ll try to cover here, as well as random other travel tips.
Having a checklist of my gear makes everything easier. Every time I switch hotels, I can be confident I haven’t left anything behind. When prepping for the trip, I know I haven’t forgotten anything. It allows me to pack quickly and confidently. I don’t have to think about what I want to bring on this trip: the decision was already made. Seeing nine other dudes' travel strategies during the Puerto Rico leg of this trip made me realize how much of an advantage I had. Lots of them brought shit they didn’t need and just threw in at the last second, “just in case.” One guy left a ton of stuff behind because he forgot to pack it and had an early flight out. At each leg people commented on how quickly I packed everything up and was ready to go.
I use Google Keep to create organized checklists. Over time I’ve been moving towards organizing by pocket, rather than type. Also, I usually just use a main list, which has EVERYTHING I might feasibly have, and then check stuff off as I pack it, including stuff I won’t bring. Then I uncheck everything when I get to a destination and need to re-check. An improvement I’ll make on my next trip is, after packing on my first trip, I’ll duplicate the list, delete the items I didn’t actually pack (for example on this trip, my mirrorless camera and motorcycle gear), and then use that list for the rest of the trip to avoid confusion between what I didn’t pack at home and might have lost in the hotel room (in this trip, I’m still not sure if I lost my international driver’s license, or just didn’t bring it, and I won’t know until I get out of quarantine).
Here’s my list from this trip:
- Tom Bihn Synapse 25
- Driver license
- Global entry card
- Credit card
- Debit card
- Phone: Pixel 4A5G and Unihertz Jelly 2
- Watch: Grand Seiko SBGA413 and Seiko Turtle
- Vaccine passports
- Metro cards
- Gold card: Taiwan ID and visa
- Shorts: Uniqlo cotton
- 2x short-sleeved button down: uniqlo cotton
- 2x Undershirt: uniqlo airism
- 1x Tshirt: generic white cotton
- 3x Underwear: Uniqlo Airism and Exofficio Give-n-go
- Towel: waffle-print linen
- 2x Socks: uniqlo short socks
- Gym shorts: adidas synthetic
- Gym shirt: uniqlo airism?
- Cloth mask
- Sandals: Xero Z-Trail EV
- Jacket: Patagonia Houdini Windbreaker
- HDMI cable
- USBC to HDMI converter
- Laptop: Lenovo T14, Ubuntu / Windows
- Laptop charger
- USB thumb drive
- Micro sd converter
- Tiny controller: 8BitDo Zero 2
- Wall charger
- USB a charger
- USBC Cable
- Headphones - wired
- Pixel buds
- Hair gel
- Happy drugs 1
- Happy drugs 2
- Zebra F301 ballpoint
- Uni Jetstream multicolor
- TWSBI Fountain
- Sunglasses: Knockaround polarized
- Lock pick
- Eye mask
- Notebook: small
- Hand sanitizer
- Travel pillow: sea to summit
- Travel backpack
- Water bottle: hilltop 500ml
- Flashlight: Fenix E18R
- Small washcloth: waffleprint linen
- Extra face masks
The USA isn’t big on prepaid plans like many other countries are. So, FYI, don’t think you can pick up a cheap travel plan in the airport when you land, you’ll get shafted on price and it’ll suck. Generally, you gotta head over to a T-Mobile store somewhere in town, and get one of their prepaid plans. In my case I have a Pixel, which as the ability to download an e-sim, so when I landed at SFO I hopped online, bought a Google Fi plan, and activated it on my phone’s e-sim. Then I had a backup data-only sim delivered to my parent’s house to later put in my Unihertz Jelly 2. I can always make calls to US numbers so long as I have an internet connection through my Google Voice number, so no worries there. I wrote an article on that a long ass time ago, it’s woefully out of date but the concept is still the same.
The USA doesn’t have universal healthcare, so if you go to the emergency room, you might end up with a 20,000$ hospital bill. You of course can just not pay it and head back to your own country. Wait a few years and then pay 100$ to whatever debt collector owns the debt at that point if you really care. But, if you need continued care, not having insurance can fuck you: the hospital might do just enough to get you out the door. So, it’s a good idea to pick up some travel insurance. Mine was about 150$ for the month and a half or so I was in the USA. I used, yes this is really the name, the Patriot America Plus plan from imglobal. Participating in a bloated, profit-driven healthcare system does make me feel like a Patriot, god bless capitalism.