The way we work has drastically changed over the past few years. More flexible and remote work opportunities are available, which has allowed people like me to fulfilling their dreams of traveling while they work.
Why People Choose a Digital Nomad Life
Digital nomads are people who work remotely and take advantage of that freedom by traveling to remote
locales and working while there.
They often stay in one place longer than a simple vacation, but they are still always on the go, so packing light is crucial to those wandering feet.
I’ve been a digital nomad for several years after selling all of my things in America and heading to Europe. I’ve visited numerous countries and cities, from Paris, France, to Lecce, Italy, to Tirana, Albania.
I’ve worked from train stations, airports, hotel rooms, and cafes, and have had some interesting experiences – both good and bad.
The adventures can’t be beat, and I’m grateful every day for choosing to chase this dream – and now other people are learning they can become digital nomads too.
One skill I had to perfect early on, which you will definitely need, was my packing. When I first got ready to travel, I tried to cram too many clothes into my suitcase, and then in a hurry to cut it down before getting on the plane, I pulled out too many and wound up in France with only a portion of what I really needed to be comfortable.
I’ve since learned the beauty of a travel capsule wardrobe, as well as accessorizing to drastically change the look of an outfit, making it look like you managed to squeeze three months' worth of different outfits into one suitcase.
So, let me tell you how to become an expert packer so that you can explore the world without having to lug a steamer trunk on your journey!
How Should I Pack As A Digital Nomad?
The first step is planning. Your goal is to pack precisely, and it’s much easier to plan in advance than figure it out on the fly. The first step is your primary color scheme.
I generally recommend choosing no more than two colors and then pairing them with neutrals. For instance, I wear a lot of red and blue as my bold colors; then I balance them with gray and white.
I can pair any of those colors together and look put together. Take a look at the color wheel and choose opposites, like blue and yellow, to ensure the two bold colors will also match each other. For your neutral colors – black, gray, brown, white, navy - I recommend only picking one or two.
Next, decide how long you’ll be on the move. If you’re traveling for one month or less, your goal is to fit everything into a carry-on duffel bag, whereas longer trips make it worth to take one checked suitcase on your flight.
You also need to prepare for all potential activities. If you’re heading to Paris, you may picture wandering the Louvre and sitting in nice cafes, but you don’t want to pass up an amazing weekend getaway, hiking in the Alps because you didn’t pack the right clothes – and you don’t want to buy things only to have to toss them.
Pack Digital Nomad Clothing Essentials
Start with what I consider travel clothing essentials – the pieces that will be mixed and matched to
form the bulk of your outfits.
For bottoms, a pair of jeans for casual days (or hiking – they can protect your legs from branches) and a pair of slacks for casual days or business wear are a solid base.
You might also opt to also include a simple skirt in a neutral (skater skirts are great for this, as they can be dressed up or down as needed).
Add in tops – one basic, solid-colored t-shirt in each color and a white button-up.
Don’t forget a sweater – even if you’re planning on visiting the Equator during the summer, nights can still get cool, so a classic, well-made, lightweight sweater in one of your neutrals is a great choice.
Then include a blazer that matches your slacks – blazers can be tossed over a t-shirt and worn with jeans, but also can be paired with slacks for virtual meetings.
For shoes, you’ll want to bring sneakers, a pair of dress shoes, a pair of flat, light sandals, and a single pair of boots.
You’re going to want to carry things around town, without needing to drag a suitcase along, so also get a cloth messenger bag (or backpack), one just big enough to hold your laptop, wallet, and a notebook – this can go on your flight with you, tucked under the seat to avoid taking up room in your suitcase.
Here's a sample checklist of what I packed on my last 10-day adventure to Greece.
- 1-2 lightweight sweaters for sun protection or cooler weather
- 7 quick-dry cotton/wool t-shirts or tank tops
- 2-3 pairs of quick-dry shorts or pants
- 1-2 pairs of comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots
- 7 pairs of socks and underwear
- 1 dressier options
- 2 swimsuits
- 1 hat for sun protection
- 1 pair of sunglasses
- 1 rain jacket
Style As A Digital Nomad Is Possible
This is where you break out your creativity. Accessorize with ties in fun prints, interchangeable watch bands, a statement pendant necklace, and so on.
Have option paralysis? Scarves are here to save the day. Pick up a couple and wear them around your neck, use them as a belt, tie them to a purse strap, or even wrap them into a top.
Pack some statement jewelry – not real stones, in case a piece gets lost.
Last of all, pack a 3-yard rectangle of a hemmed, printed fabric. This one piece can be used as a blanket on the plane or in hotels, as well as be wrapped in skirts, dresses, and tops. Thin, silky fabrics are the best option – they don’t take much space, but have plenty of versatility.
What Else To Bring While Traveling
Pack one pair of gym shorts to sleep in and wear when exercising, and one week of
Add a rain jacket – I’ve had too many umbrellas break during storms, so a waterproof rain jacket is definitely a better option.
Then shift out of clothes, and look at other necessities – a camera, a few safety pins, makeup, and charging cords for your devices.
Don’t bother packing soap, shampoo, or other toiletries like that – they tend to be inexpensive, and easily picked up. Plus, you don’t have to worry about spills in your luggage.
How To Pack It All
Now comes the hardest part – making it all fit.
By this point, you should have 2 or 3 bottoms, 5 or 7 tops, 2 sweaters, and 4 pairs of shoes. First, set aside your travel outfit.
Grab one t-shirt, a sweater, your jeans, and the boots (also a coat if you’re traveling someplace cold or during the winter).
The jeans and boots take up the most room in your bag, so wearing these opens up a fair amount of space, and a sweater not only opens up space, but allows you to layer if you get cold.
Next, pack your messenger bag with your laptop and devices, as well as your wallet and travel documents. If you have extra space, use it for some of your accessories.
For your suitcase, rolling is key. Rolling your clothes makes them take less space and fit together better, and you can even wrap clothes around more delicate or personal items, like your jewelry.
If you find you are still tight on space, pick up a couple of packing cubes, which can help compress everything further – they are also great for separating dirty laundry and keeping your shoes from getting dirt on your clothes.
Pro Travel Tips
Make two copies of the first page of your passport. Leave one with a trusted family member or friend at
home, and keep the other in your hotel room or rental. That way, if your passport goes missing or is
stolen, you still have that.
Check the State Department website for any travel advisories. You can even bookmark it on your phone if you’re country-hopping.
If you’re traveling with medication, keep written prescriptions for each medication in your passport, and leave your medications in their original bottles while in transit.
It’s also a good idea to bring a few basics with you, regardless – Tylenol, Immodium, Dramamine – as they can be hard to find.
Capsule Are Key for Any Digital Nomad
Digital nomadism is a dream that has finally come into reach for a lot of people, and your trip will be
significantly more enjoyable for you if you have perfected your packing.
A capsule wardrobe allows you to minimize what you take, and almost anywhere you go, you will have access to a washing machine.
The most important thing to remember is to pack well-made, sustainable garments that will last, and to build your outfits creatively!