Recovering Over-Packer Living Out Of A Carry-On

passport photos, vintage camera, cool passport photo

I’m a recovering over-packer. If I was going on a trip, I might have packed a huge check-in bag plus a carry-on, and snuck a few extra things into my purse.

Like, I’m sure I’ll need these 5 pairs of shoes and binoculars at some point, right?

Ironically, having more options didn’t make me feel more prepared. It only made me more anxious. It was never enough.

The first time I fit my life into a carry-on luggage was for a two-week trip to Europe. It was more of a financial necessity than a choice. We only paid about $30 each way to fly from Spain to Paris, and Paris to Italy, but that price came with strict carry-on rules. Challenge accepted. I was officially going to be living out of a carry-on.

What was really essential?

  • Neutrals are in for a reason – they look good with almost anything and are simple to mix and match. If it’s not going to be worn more than once then it probably shouldn’t come along for the journey. Sorry, red pants, but you’re more of a one-time statement piece, you know?
  • What about the walking situation? Should I take comfortable sneakers that aren’t very cute or cute sneakers that aren’t very comfortable? I took the soles out of my comfortable sneakers and put them inside the cute ones #problemsolver.  
  • If underwear is not essential I don’t know what is. I brought plenty of it, but swapped out a few of my regular bras for sports bras and bralettes (initially because they saved space when folded, but then figured out they also minimize underboob sweat. You’re welcome).
  • I was beginning to embrace my curly hair at that time, so I brought a few travel-size versions of my favorite curly hair carry-on products. I saved space by buying anything else I “needed” after landing.

Travel Size Curly Hair Product For Simple Packing - Ambition and Mischief

I thought I would have a never-ending feeling of leaving something behind with such a small suitcase. But, instead, I found that having fewer choices during the trip saved money, luggage space and mental space. I focused more on what to do rather than what to wear.

I also realized that overpacking was about more than clothes and luggage; it was another way I created an illusion of control. More options were more ways to control unexpected situations. If this, then I’ll be prepared with that. But that’s all control is: an illusion. It’s impossible to plan or pack for everything.

Here’s to traveling light and living light.

Because isn’t that why we travel? To grow comfortable with the unknown, not the expected.

With Ambition & Mischief,


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Would you be able to live out of a carry-on? -

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  1. Hi Sam,

    For your upstate NY travels, I recommend visiting Croton-on-Hudson or Milbrook Vineyards in Milbrook, NY. And if you’d like a nice summer day escape, go to Lake Taghkanic State Park. Enjoy and be safe! – Victor

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