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How a travelling family of four packs light

How a travelling family of four packs light

To: anyone@needingachange.com

Subject: How to pack the lives of a family of four into a few suitcases and impress people

Greetings from a South Korean coastal community.

We’re in one spot for an entire month and essentially hitting reset after three months in Europe where we were constantly on the road.

Don’t get me wrong, we had an amazing time but there’s a cost when you list more than 80 trains on your rails passes, stay under 32 different roofs, pass through 14 countries, and pack and unpack your suitcases every couple of days and drag them over cobblestones and along country roads.

It’s soon going to be a year since the four of us left Australia to embark on this global family adventure, and we’re currently trying to plot out some kind of plan for the next few months after our time in Korea.

Meeting families like us

A few months ago Junko heard about a one-week event in Granada, Spain, for people like us using the world as our classrooms. (A simple web search for ‘world schooling’ led her to the event.)

I was definitely keen to check it out — not so much for the presentations, but more to connect to other families in the same boat as us — and because our rail passes allowed us unlimited travel in Europe. It was simply a matter of booking our spots on the summit and some accommodation.

As we travel and meet new friends we’re often asked, “So, where are you from?”

It’s easiest to say that I’m from Australia and Junko is from Japan, but then we’re asked where we currently live.

Then we have to go through our whole story and there are a number of follow-up questions:

“You sold your house?”

“You resigned from your dream job?”

“You don’t know where you’re going to be in a couple of months?”

But in Grenada, everyone had similar stories to ours and nobody was rattled by our new format for living.

Many, like us, had sold their homes and possessions to make their journeys possible.

Many, unlike us, had left unfulfilling careers or lifestyles behind but, like us, had now found ways to make money on the road.

Watch the New Format For Living series

See how this Aussie family reformat their lives and pull off the journey of a lifetime:

Episode 1: Quitting, downsizing and taking off Episode 2: Searching for a home in JapanEpisode 3: Managing money overseasEpisode 4: How we lost (and found) our lost baggageEpisode 5: The trouble with home-schooling while travelling

Some of those with European passports — who weren’t limited to three months in the Schengen countries like us — had bought buses, caravans or vans to get around the continent.

One family had turned housesitting into an art form and were at the point where they had repeat visits to a number of those homes and had made solid friendships with the owners.

Others were dipping their toes into world schooling and a lot of them had only started in recent months.

There was something really powerful in talking with strangers from around the world, who had similar stories and life choices. It was also reassuring to meet open-minded, independent and capable children who were the product of being world-schooled over a number of years.

Packing like prosDavid Stuart’s family travel light and are getting their packing down to a (Kondo-inspired) science.(ABC Life: David Stuart)

“Is that all you’ve got?”

This is a question we’ve become accustomed to as we travel from place to place.

We’ve got three-wheeled suitcases between us, a backpack each, my camera bag and generally a reusable shopping bag or two with food, water and other loose items.

The wheeled suitcases are fine until we encounter cobblestones, tram tracks, unpaved surfaces or stairs.

We’ve attached yellow fabric to our suitcases so we can quickly identify them when they’re pulled out from under buses or when they appear on luggage carousels.

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The kids, Juna and Remy, said they’d carry their backpacks — filled with toys, pencils, paper, rocks, sticks, etc — but it’s not uncommon for Junko and me to carry them.

Junko will carry her smaller backpack on her back and wheel Juna’s suitcase with shopping and/or kids’ bags balanced on top.

I’m generally wheeling my four-wheeled suitcase with one hand, dragging the heftiest suitcase — which only has two wheels and carries Junko and Remy’s clothes — with the other hand, carrying a kid’s backpack on my chest and lugging my camera bag on my back.

The majority of my weight is found in my camera bag. I’ve limited it as much as I could but it’s still a huge hefty thing to lug around. I’ve limited my camera to the one lens and I also carry a 15-inch laptop, a couple of hard drives, an audio recorder, a few microphones, extra batteries, numerous chargers, a web of cables and other one-off items like a neutral-density filter, a suction-cap mount for the action camera and a bendy tripod.

I’ve limited my clothes to the shoes on my feet, the cap on my head, the cotton scarf around my neck, three t-shirts, three shirts, a pair of shorts, two pairs of trousers, one pair of board shorts, a light jacket, a heavy jacket and a week’s worth of socks and underwear.

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Junko’s gadgetry is pretty much limited to her phone and iPad so she doesn’t have to be quite as thrifty as I do with the clothing she carries.

She’s been inspired by Marie Kondo and folds clothes tightly into little squares which she then stacks vertically in the suitcase so she can quickly see everything.

In my suitcase I carry my disassembled gimbal — one of those stabilisation contraptions on which you mount a camera and get buttery smooth vision — and a tripod that won’t fit into my camera bag, so I can’t use the same system as Junko.

Junko, Juna and Remy and I have developed a system to travelling light.(ABC Life: David Stuart)

Instead, I roll my clothes nice and tight — as I always have, way before Marie Kondo became a household name — and pack them in around the excess camera gear.

As the adage goes, necessity is the mother of all invention, and we slowly improve on our essential items.

For instance, I’ve just bought a 10-metre length of rope that functions as a clothesline after being frustrated with a lack of places to dry clothes that we’d washed in the basin.

The rope is actually now closer to eight metres after I cut it back so the kids had something with which they could practise tying different types of knots while we have spare moments on the road.

I’m sure that our luggage and packing styles will continue to evolve as we continue on this journey.