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No Baggage Challenge
September 15, 2010 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Rolf Potts will travel through 12 countries in 42 days, with his current location updated here. He intends to do all this with no luggage, no backpack, no man purse -- not even a fanny pack. [via mefi projects]
posted by gman (51 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'll never do this . . . but I like the idea a lot, and it is educational for me to think about how to use his techniques to cut down dramatically on baggage.
posted by bearwife at 3:26 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


That vest is kinda like a backpack. Cool idea, thanks to both gman and nitsuj for sharing.
posted by togdon at 3:30 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be fair, he technically does have baggage-- it just happens to be shaped like clothes.
posted by dersins at 3:31 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's pretty incredible that you can, by doing little more than identifying yourself as a record in a database in some way or another, travel more or less anywhere in the world and get people to give you stuff in exchange for some of their bits being flipped. So much so that you don't need to carry anything, if you're willing to pay for it.
posted by phrontist at 3:34 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


And how does this differ from, say, the way that any able-bodied pauper moved about Britain during the days of the old Poor Laws?
posted by Creosote at 3:49 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you can afford to travel to 12 countries in 42 days... you can afford to buy everything you need at your destination. This is a stupid challenge. And he packs things that most hotel rooms provide standard or by request to the concierge. Lame.
posted by banished at 3:50 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


He's packing a Kindle, an iPod, and chargers for both? I'd replace both with a smartphone (running Kindle software, if necessary), or load the Kindle up with music and ditch the iPod.

Though I appreciate that the Kindle provides connectivity on the cheap and great battery life.
posted by zippy at 4:00 PM on September 15, 2010


Ah, sorry, he's running the Kindle app. I fail reading comprehension.
posted by zippy at 4:04 PM on September 15, 2010


If only he could get some sponsorship out of... I dunno, a company that makes capacious travel clothing. Oh.
posted by gene_machine at 4:04 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


banished: If you can afford to travel to 12 countries in 42 days... you can afford to buy everything you need at your destination.

You can actually do this without spending very much money at all. I've traveled countries with nothing more than a small shopping bag which contained two extra t-shirts, a pair of socks, a couple extra pairs of boxers (which doubled as both "shorts" for laundry day & as swim trunks), and a thin sarong I use as a sheet. If I had worn cargo pants and a vest/jacket like his, I would have needed no bag at all. In less developed countries, purchasing what you need as you go, costs next to nothing.
posted by gman at 4:05 PM on September 15, 2010


He does pack spare clothing and things in his extensive vest pockets. I would not call this "no luggage".

That said, he travels lighter than I probably could. So yeah, nice. Makes you think.
posted by _Lasar at 4:07 PM on September 15, 2010


He's packing a Kindle, an iPod, and chargers for both? I'd replace both with a smartphone (running Kindle software, if necessary), or load the Kindle up with music and ditch the iPod.

He could have brought an iPhone and then he wouldn't even have needed nitsuj!
posted by padraigin at 4:08 PM on September 15, 2010


Ladies and Gentlemen, using only this high-limit credit card....
posted by gurple at 4:11 PM on September 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


One of my cousins travelled for 6 months in Asia with a cotton shoulder bag and spent GBP 150 which I think is probably a lot harder (and more terrifying). Her current whereabouts is listed as 'somewhere in Central America' ;-)
posted by i_cola at 4:19 PM on September 15, 2010


Some of this concept would be difficult at best for a female traveler under age 55 if you get my drift.

I actually came to favor long skirts over pants. Trust me, it's a practical choice. Also dark colors are your friends. Man or woman, pockets are your friends. Because ready-made women's clothes are often pocket challenged, a good fanny pack is nice to have. You can also get work shoes for women which have good tread and which do not need to be boots. If you fly economy, it might not be a huge deal, but if you get an upgrade you want to look nice.

Be really really basic on makeup, a little eye-liner and maybe one of the new lip paints that don't get all smudged. Travel vests are good to have.

The fact is that you can end up not even using half the stuff you think you want to carry. Unless you are going someplace WAY out of the way or a really recent war zone you can get stuff. The basic packing rule is always take less stuff, and more money. Keep the money you are not imediatly useing physically as close to your body as possible.

I too would get the type of smart-phone that can acess music, take still pictures and video.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:26 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


that's easy. All you need is a wallet with a credit card. :D
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 4:28 PM on September 15, 2010


Those vests are like luggage that you wear. Hence the Pepsi Challenge... err No Baggage Challenge.
posted by nutate at 4:34 PM on September 15, 2010


Am I the only one that sees this as a big marketing stunt for his sponsors?
posted by Argyle at 4:35 PM on September 15, 2010


I'm impressed - I couldn't do it.

But I do think he will run into problems without an actual charger for his ipod and Canon SD1100. Not all computers will charge ipods via USB if the proper drivers aren't installed - it happens much more than you'd think. Also, the SD1100 is popular but not as ubiquious as he seems to think it is - and every Canon model uses a different charger. Its good for about 200 pictures, if you take any time to review the pictures in playback.

I agree it wouldn't be convenient - but to expect these to easily everywhere you go isn't reasonable, either.
posted by jeffmik at 4:37 PM on September 15, 2010


Am I the only one that sees this as a big marketing stunt for his sponsors?

No, you're not. This is a stunt, but like all stunts that work it has the "Ooh, that sounds interesting, how is he doing that" which gets people into the site. He's not really doing anything of interest to travellers apart from giving them the possiblilty to compare mobile phones and netbooks.

Like in all blogging circles there are more and more professional travel bloggers who started out as backpackers and found that a site, or many, could fund a permanent lifestyle. More and more however their sites become less about independent travel and more about plugging the latest company willing to pay them to shill something.

I am nothing against Mr Potts or other "celebrity" (usually by their definition) travel bloggers - in a way they have sweet lives (paid to travel to 42 countries - I'd have some of that), but as with all things, sponsored posts about airport parking in a blog about independent living in South America will start to wear thin before long and the independent travel world will lose any integrity and independence and just become another overly commercial sponsorfest like so many other things.
posted by jontyjago at 4:49 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


What he's doing reminds me of the roadtrips I used to take years ago, long routes planned or unplanned to hither and yon. No spare clothing, nothing but enough money for gas and food.

I do very little packing for the time spent in airports, on planes, in restaurants, staying overnight in hotels, and driving in rental cars. The clothes, computer, chargers, and random other stuff are for what I'm doing at my destination - meeting clients or friends, attending weddings, suiting up for the beach or mountain hikes, or whatever. If all I was doing was going from airport to plane to airport to plane to hostel to airport to restaurant to plane to..., I could leave all my luggage at home too.

Not meaning to diminish his accomplishment: Preparing for a couple days of reckless travel is easy, preparing for seven uninterrupted weeks of travel is not. But his traveling doesn't correlate very well to my traveling.
posted by ardgedee at 4:49 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't understand. Is he trying to assuage his liberal guilt about his nice trip by being a grub? Or is the trip fully underwritten by that ugly vest and therefore viral marketing that we've been suckered into looking at?

Good thing he's stopping in Thailand-- stinky shills in flak vests probably depend on the kindness of hookers.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:56 PM on September 15, 2010


I've always wanted to fly internationally with nothing but the clothes on my back, my passport and wallet; returning to my home country I wouldn't need to carry a thing, and 22+ hours of travel and three or more airports would be all the more bearable and expedient without baggage..

..unfortunately however, I'd probably have to travel through the US , and I don't think US Immigration would appreciate it much - they "randomly select" me for further searching enough as is.

I'm the wrong colour for a stunt like this - I need to be less conspicuous when I travel, not the other way around..
posted by tbonicus at 5:14 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is quite possibly the most pointless stunt I have ever read about. A butt-ugly vest doubles as a wearable backpack? How is this worth writing about? Just another reason why I don't read any travel blogs - too much about the product.

I've been in 12 countries over 61 days this year already (40 days to go). Some of those places hotel luxuries just didn't exist, and it's essential to take medical supplies. If you stick to the well-trod path like this guy is doing and stay in decent accommodations, this challenge is a cakewalk. In the real world, not so much.
posted by wingless_angel at 5:18 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm a decently ardent fan of Rolf Potts in that at least I know that he started his career as a backpacker who, like many other backpackers in the days before travel blogs, made his money writing travel journalism for airline magazines and other publications, then wrote a book that had, at its core tenet, how travel doesn't have to be difficult or expensive so long as you have your priorities straight and are brutally honest with yourself about what you need and what you want.

To that end, I find the project an interesting experiment that continues in that vein. What is the most minimal set of gear that one can bring on a longterm trip to make it comfortable? I think it would be more interesting to include an on-road budget, but I'm willing to roll with the basic premise. The fact that he's doing it with a really big ass vest is an interesting frame, but ultimately, beside the point. It's still less than what one could fit in a typical roll-aboard suitcase.
posted by bl1nk at 5:20 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't understand. Is he trying to assuage his liberal guilt about his nice trip by being a grub?

He talks about this pretty clearly on the site:
But I also see my journey as a field-test for a more philosophical idea — that what we experience in life is more important than what we bring with us.

This is an idea that goes back to the initial travel-dreams of my childhood. When I was a kid dreaming of faraway places, I didn’t imagine what I would pack — I imagined what I would do.
I mean, there's obviously some marketing involved here, primarily for himself and his writing, but I say good for him. Potts has long been an advocate for simplicity in travel so I'm willing to take his stated goals at face value.

So I don't really see much about what he's doing as being exceptionally "shilly." The fact is that these sorts of endeavors inevitably cost a substantial amount of money, regardless of how much you scale the amenities back. I'm not really sure I get the hostility for the fact that he has a few sponsors that are willing to help pick up the tab. As far as I can tell, it doesn't appear as if it's affecting the content of the site or that he's plugging them in a tasteless manner.
posted by dhammond at 5:22 PM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ugh. He wrote the great book called Vagabonding, and one of the major points of the book was the benefits of slow, deliberate travel. Kind of a bummer to see him abandon that for a stunt.
posted by lunasol at 5:36 PM on September 15, 2010


Scott Jordan is a neat guy, he'll friend you on FaceBook, and not just as a branding exercise. Yes, he obviously talks about Scott eVest, but also about what's on TV, his migraines, his poodles, sometimes even when he gets lucky with the missus (which I'm sure she's thrilled about). ScotteVests kick ass.
posted by Scoo at 5:36 PM on September 15, 2010


It's pretty incredible that you can ... get people to give you stuff in exchange for some of their bits being flipped.

Is that what the kids are calling it these days?
posted by dhartung at 5:38 PM on September 15, 2010


..unfortunately however, I'd probably have to travel through the US , and I don't think US Immigration would appreciate it much - they "randomly select" me for further searching enough as is.

I spent Chinese New Year's in Bali in 2001 and came home to Toronto in late January with only a single small carry-on bag: I was wearing a windbreaker over a T-shirt, lightweight cotton pants and -- for the first and only time in my life -- socks and sandals.

I changed planes at O'Hare and was quizzed extensively by American customs officers (and remember, this was well before The Tragic Events Of), who wanted to know why someone could arrive in Chicago in the depths of winter with no winter clothing. I was being picked up at the airport in Toronto; I had been living in t-shirt and shorts in the tropics, and saw no reason to pack a parka and boots only to lug them around with me for two weeks on vacation. Indeed, I had packed the long pants and the windbreaker purely for the transit stops. No amount of pointing out that my sojourn in Chicago was entirely inside the airport seemed to convince them I was not either insane or plotting something.

I have not set foot in an American airport from that day to this.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:05 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe I can skip the US entirely travelling via Canada...
..but on second thought it may actually be interesting to have a connecting flight in the US again and have no baggage:

Agent: You don't have any bags, Sir?

Me: Nope.

Agent: Why don't you have any bags, Sir?

Me: Because the last time I passed through this country with a suitcase you guys ripped out the lining and put holes in it. I'm not made of money.

Agent: You have been selected for further screening. Please..

Me: "..step to the side." Right. Right. Got it..
posted by tbonicus at 7:07 PM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hey, cool to see this on the blue! (I am the man behind the camera.)

Here are a couple of posts that address a few of the negative points above, in case you missed them:

Why this journey doesn’t really count as vagabonding

Adventures in planning a sponsored adventure

No Baggage Challenge: The Ground Rules

Why Rolf is traveling around the world with no luggage
posted by nitsuj at 8:49 PM on September 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


Happy to see you chiming in here, nitsuj, and good luck on the trip! I think this is a fun experiment, and don't give a hoot whether the vest is "cheating." I went to Morocco once for a couple of weeks with a small children's overnight bag, and found the economy of baggage very liberating.
posted by queensissy at 9:07 PM on September 15, 2010


Please. It`s internet begging. But it`s a big pond, so you`re guaranteed to land a few fish.

Every crowd has a silver lining. - Phineas Taylor Barnum

posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:13 PM on September 15, 2010


..unfortunately however, I'd probably have to travel through the US , and I don't think US Immigration would appreciate it much - they "randomly select" me for further searching enough as is.

The Israelis make no bones about "randomly". I got a few questions about packing technique flying from Tel Aviv with only carry-on to show after 7 weeks in Syria, Jordan and Saudi amongst other destinations. (Maybe I should have pointed out I had fewer places to hide bombs...)
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:21 PM on September 15, 2010


This is the weirdest part I think: we've had absolutely zero problems going through immigration or customs so far (knock on wood). I fully expected to be waiting around for Rolf at each airport has was pulled aside for special screening or questioning or whatever, but it just hasn't happened. Airport security is pretty lax in most areas outside of the U.S. (relatively speaking) and people seem to not give two shits about his lack of luggage. They've paid much closer attention to my bag of wires and laptop and camera and microphones and electronic whatnots.
posted by nitsuj at 9:28 PM on September 15, 2010


has was as he gets

jet-lagged
posted by nitsuj at 9:30 PM on September 15, 2010


I bought a pair of wool underwear recently and making small talk with the cashier I asked how long someone had gone without washing them. She said three camping store clerks went 23 days without washing them before a girlfriend flipped out and the all promptly changed their briefs. I assume this guy is traveling solo.
posted by furtive at 9:53 PM on September 15, 2010


This guy must really be into the Jack Reacher books.
posted by zardoz at 9:59 PM on September 15, 2010


OMG ! Jet Lag! The trials of the completely connected. Quick, tweet about it.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:06 PM on September 15, 2010


I'd be more impressed if he did 42 countries in 12 days.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:56 PM on September 15, 2010


I was really intrigued until I saw that all he was doing was filling the (numerous) pockets of his vest and pants.

The shtick of the Jack Reacher novels is that he carries almost nothing -- just some cash and maybe a toothbrush. He buys cheap clothes as his current ones get dirty, and moves unencumbered in a world full of possessions and material goods.

And I've known a few people who travel carrying old, almost worn-out clothes that they discard each day, ending the trip with nothing.

Both of those seem to me to be interesting exercises in forms of minimalism, well worth writing about and learning from. Packing the same short list of possessions -- clothes, toiletries, gadgets, etc -- into pockets instead of a small bag is academic at best, and flat out dorky at worst. Yawn.
posted by Forktine at 12:05 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


This guy must really be into the Jack Reacher books.

Hey, I was typing that at the same time!
posted by Forktine at 12:07 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want to write something here about Rolf because I have known him for over a decade and I really disagree with some of the comments about him on here. He is one of the most professional, dedicated and straightforward people I know, and he has won numerous travel writing awards and published extensively in almost all of the major travel publications. He is far from a clueless yuppie traveller or a corporate shill. I don't think he would have participated in this project unless he really believed in the product, and I also think he will be reasonably objective about his experience. Maybe you would never buy the product, but a lot of the personal comments about Rolf are just ignorant.
posted by banishedimmortal at 2:34 AM on September 16, 2010


I'm still waiting for a travelogue by someone with an artificial crisis inducer.
posted by sonascope at 4:22 AM on September 16, 2010


Yes, perhaps a marketing stunt, perhaps easier with a high-limit credit card, etc. Still, I think it's pretty cool.
posted by flyawaygal at 9:29 AM on September 16, 2010


He is far from a clueless yuppie traveller or a corporate shill.

So what do you call someone who goes from place to place to promote a product?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:02 PM on September 16, 2010


PareidoliaticBoy, if you think that's the point of this trip, you obviously know nothing about Potts, his work or any of the stuff on the linked blog. And you've pretty much missed the point entirely.
posted by dhammond at 1:15 PM on September 16, 2010


if you think that's the point of this trip, you obviously know nothing about Potts, his work or any of the stuff on the linked blog.

All I know about him and his trip is what I've read in the links here. Based on that, I'd agree that it's a pretty clueless and shill-y project. I mean, good for him that he's getting paid to live his dream. If you are a travel writer, being paid to travel is pretty sweet stuff. But this just isn't a great project, and it deserves the lukewarm response it is getting here.
posted by Forktine at 1:54 PM on September 16, 2010


One of the sponsors is SCOTTEVEST. I have several of their workout shirts, which are great if overpriced. I also have one of ther tech jackets and it is the most ridiculous and over designed garment I own. It has pockets within pockets within pockets*. I can't imagine using it on a regular basis because you can feel things in your jacket and then spend 5 minutes trying to figure out which pocket opening you need to use to get to it.

* God's truth. There is a pocket that has a zipper in front to hide another pocket, which has a tiny velcroed pocket inside that. It's like wearing an inside out Russian doll.
posted by chairface at 4:38 PM on September 16, 2010


All that crap's incredibly overpriced, and thoroughly useless. Here's a frikken clue. Go to any yard sale and pick up a used backpack for.... like ... $2.

It's way better for the environment, and far more practical. But then, you won't get gullible consumers to subsidize your pointless meandering; and pay you to become a carbon-burning self-involved dilettante.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:44 PM on September 16, 2010


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