Category “Soul”

Preparing to Travel with One Bag


“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” -Tao Te Ching

One of the earliest decisions I made as I began planning to travel over the next year or so, was to travel with just one bag. Not one rolling carry-on and a personal item. Just one bag. Moreover, that one bag had to be smaller than an allowable carry-on, and I wanted to carry less than 10 kg (22 lbs).

Joining the ranks of OneBaggers traveling the world felt instantly empowering. The idea of leaving behind checked luggage and the wait at the carousel felt freeing. Even a modest roll-aboard couldn’t match the excitement of hitting the ground sprinting in a new city upon arrival. Room not yet ready? No sweat. I’ll explore the city for a bit. Flight later than checkout? I’m good.

Sure, most places happily offer to hold your luggage, and I probably will use it from time to time.  But it’s really nice knowing I don’t have to. I don’t have to plan for the extra time. I don’t have to stop enjoying a moment because I have to go back to the hotel to grab my bag to rush to the airport. What makes this a practical approach for me, is the weight restriction I set and the fact that the pack itself is a smaller pack. I could easily put 18 kg (40 lbs) of gear in my bag and carry it. But I wouldn’t be thrilled about doing that as I wandered about a city. And I’d be more quickly pegged as a tourist if I was dragging a rolling carry-on behind me, or had a comically large pack on my back.

For someone who geeks out on gadgets and fashion, the idea of traveling the world with just a handful of wardrobe changes and minimal gear seemed like crazy talk. There was a moment in the middle of my planning when I almost threw in the towel and just said, “Hey, valiant effort, but a rolling carry-on and a backpack isn’t so bad.” But I am so glad that I stuck with it because the learning process alone was worth the effort. 

Much more important than achieving some target weight for my pack, this exercise was about examining the things I felt would be essential for my travels. It was a study in mindfulness and letting go. It was about simplifying the attachments that keep me tethered. Certainly, I’ve included things that would not diminish my experience if I didn’t bring them. But the process of scrutinizing each piece of gear I packed challenged me to think about what I wanted to get out of my traveling experience, and to make sure each item in my pack was deliberate. 

I easily got my pack under 10 kg (22 lbs), with one exception:  my work gear. Since my travels include work that enable my digital nomad lifestyle, I had to bring along certain tools that I might have left behind on a normal leisure trip. Without this added gear, my pack is less than 8.5 kg (18.7 lbs), way under my target weight. I’m going to count that as mission accomplished.

I read a great tip from some OneBag veterans and they advised not to manage against your total pack weight, but to manage each gram of each item. And if you are relentless about each 10/50/100g, they all add up to make an impact and you start to shave off significant weight. Here is a sample from my planning spreadsheet; it’s not the complete packing list, but it gives you an idea of how I thought about things. Below, are some tips on how I achieved that minimal weight:

GEAR SELECTION

One of the easiest ways to save pack weight is proper gear selection. Each extra cable may not be much in itself, but they add up quickly. So I made sure I got the best performing cables instead of the cheap ones that break easily and take longer to charge/transfer data. I could bring fewer of them, because I wouldn’t be waiting to share them across devices.

My default laptop power brick is 296g (0.65 lbs). My Anker replacement is more powerful, and half that weight. Choosing Cole Haan’s Zerogrand wingtips saved me 257g (0.6 lbs). All my deliberate gear selection saved me a total of 1.7 kg (3.72 lbs).

More power at half the weight.

SMART PACKAGING

A lot of packaging is wasted space and weight. Medications going into pill bags might have only saved 45g (0.1 lbs), but the savings in space from needlessly large pill bottles was the big winner.

Putting pills, like my dry toothpaste, into pill bags saves a lot of space and weight.

Toiletries are notoriously wasteful in packaging. I saved 286g (0.63 lbs) by moving them to more space and weight efficient containers. More efficient packaging saved 362g (0.8 lbs) in my pack.

I melted down my deodorant and poured it into a smaller (blister balm) container to set.

ONLY THE ESSENTIALS

If you’re sitting there obsessing over deodorant packaging and how many cables you should bring, then it really forces you to take a hard look at all the other gear you’re bringing. There was an additional 4.3 kg (9 lbs) of gear that I could have fit into my pack. Extra clothing, tech gear, random accessories, and other things I could easily buy on the road if I really needed them became glaringly frivolous and unnecessary. Could I have shouldered another 10 lbs of gear? Sure. But why? None of the things I was leaving behind was going to materially enhance my travel experience. At home they stay.

WITHIN REASON

There was a limit to how obsessive I wanted to be about cutting weight. It’s not supposed to rain where I’ll be traveling first, but a lightweight rain shell and dry sack are precautions where I don’t mind sacrificing the added weight. The secondary accessory bags I use to organize my gear within my backpack add up to about 300g (0.7 lbs). My backpack has nifty compartments that could have replaced some of these organizing bags. But I save weight where I can, so I can splurge where I want. In this case, all of the extra organizing bags were worth it to me because it would save me time on my travels to be able to easily pull specific gear from within my pack without having to unzip numerous pockets to search for it.

THE POINT OF IT ALL

I set an ambitious goal of 10 kg (22 lbs) for my pack weight. It was something that kept me focused and intentional about what I was putting in my pack. At some point, I was sitting there cutting off tags, labels, and extraneous fabric/material from bags and accessories (10g in savings, by the way). Obviously, that’s a bit hardcore and more effort than a lot of people would consider worthwhile. Then again, if I was going to that level of intensity for each item, it made me think long and hard about other things I was putting in my pack. It forced me to consider how each item would either be a distraction, or an enhancement to my travels. Ultimately, I can safely say that each item I’m bringing with me serves the purpose of allowing me to be more fully present to appreciate each new adventure that will come my way.

Just me, my sturdy shoes, the pack on my back, and the road ahead.

Dare to Live the Dream

Serge's Dream Book

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Walking along an abandoned part of the Great Wall surrounded by a sea of yellow, wild flowers. Drinking tequila with a Mexican ambassador. Strolling along the Charles Bridge at dusk. Chatting up a Prince in an elevator. Eating scorpions and cobras. What’s all that have to do with a poor, li’l island boy? By most accounts, it would be nothing. Yet, this poor, li’l island boy has been blessed to meet exceptional people, travel to amazing places, and have transformative experiences.

How did all this happen? Sure, luck had a little bit to do with it. But to simply leave it at that would be dismissive and reductive. What am I, chopped liver? It happened because I live mindfully and with intention. Because I say “yes” more than I say “no.” But mostly because I make plans and execute.

Elite athletes, grandmaster chess players, musical prodigies, and successful CEOs tap into the power of visualization for exceptional results. Mindful meditation, daily affirmations, and vision boards put this concept into physical practice. I manifest my aspirations as a “dream book.” It’s probably one of the most valuable and rewarding tools you can have in your journey of an exceptional life. I’m going to show you how I made mine.

THE PLANNING

I’ve already written quite a bit about examining your purpose, what fulfills you, and living your life with intention. I’ll summarize it here by saying that it’s time to pull out your bucket list and start putting down some plans. I know, I know, shit just got real. The first step is the hardest but once you get going you’ll be glad you did. You’ll find it’s a lot easier than you think. Think back to those old school projects of cutting up magazines and making collages. Pinterest done made it crazy easy for you. Just start pinning away. Here’s mine.

THE CANVAS

You could keep your dream book digital on something like Pinterest, Facebook, or in a special folder of photos on your computer, but I find that having something physical that I can touch and feel and have as a constant visual reminder has been vastly more gratifying. Plus, it’s been great as a coffee table book that has inspired guests in my home and started many an interesting conversation.

Any scrapbook, photo album, notebook, or journal will do but since this is going to be a special place for your dreams and aspirations you might want to put a little effort into making it something you’ll look forward to flipping through again and again.

I went a little highfalutin and invested in a stunning, screwpost portfolio from Klo Portfolio. You can customize yours in aluminum, wood, and acrylic. You’ve also got the option for engraving, decal, or cut-out. Having the screwposts gives you the option to insert, remove, and move pages easily. Screwpost extenders can expand your dream book as needed. I got mine customized in black, matte, acrylic, engraved with my name and lion:

Serge's Dream Book

Come on now, tell me you wouldn’t want to check that out. I own it and I look for excuses to look through it every day.

THE VISUALS

You can make a collage of photos, articles, or anything else that help conjure up a vision board. Whatever inspires you and holds meaning for you will work. There’s no wrong way to go about it.

Serge's Dream Book

In my case, I choose a single image and print it as a high quality photo to serve as my visual. I mount it on Mohawk VIA Felt black 80 lb card stock to really set off the photo.

Serge's Dream Book

THE SECTIONS

I started off sectioning my dream book into three categories: to meet (people), to see (places), and to have (things). The lines started to blur for things like, “Have a personal cartoon drawn by Hugh MacLeod.” Is that to meet or to have? Plus, keeping the different sections balanced without forcing me to flip through a bunch of empty sections for things not yet complete started to be challenging. Pretty soon, things began to conflate so I simply combined them all into items to do (experiences).

First, I started my dream book with a short intro:

Serge's Dream Book

I followed it with a statement of intentions for my ideal self:

Serge's Dream Book

THE ENTRIES

Upon completing one of the items from my dream book, I do a brief write-up and post it to my blog. I’m a little behind; too busy doing to follow up with the writing. I’ll catch up eventually.

I tend to be a bit verbose so I know it would never fit in my dream book. Instead, I write a small haiku to place in my dream book with a link to the longer post. Printed on Crane & Co half sheets in ecruwhite. The extra effort and expense is worth it, trust:

Serge's Dream Book

Okay, so I’m far from being a haiku master and I’m sure I’m committing serious haiku faux pas (surippu?). But I gotta’ say, I am not entirely embarrassed by some of my attempts. I even go multi-lingual on you in a couple:

Serge's Dream Book

Serge's Dream Book

FINAL THOUGHTS

You know that imaginary, ephemeral bucket list that exists only in your head? Or maybe you’ve got it scribbled on several scraps of paper tucked somewhere in a forgotten drawer? You might be surprised how the simple act of putting it to paper steels your conviction to make it happen. After all, you just went through all that effort of putting together a dream book. You wouldn’t want that to have been for nothing, would you? Plus, having it staring back at you mockingly from your coffee table can be a powerful motivator. Friends and family can keep you accountable by pointing to it and pestering you incessantly. We don’t have to be all negative though. It really is a joyful experience leafing through and seeing the amazing things you’ve experienced in life. And if your dream book is still mostly empty? That’s okay. Mine was too, once upon a time.

I must confess, I have a bit of an additional, hidden agenda for putting together my dream book. Whenever I know I’m going to be completing something from my list, I bring my dream book along and deliberately flip through it. Imagine getting a chance to have soul food with Miss Patti LaBelle, flipping through the dream book in front of her and she sees that Miss Chaka Khan is on my list too. “Child, I’ve got Chaka on speed dial. Let’s give her a ring and check that one off too!” Yeah, right. Only in my dreams, right? Well, isn’t that the whole point of the dream book in the first place? Stranger things have happened.

Miss Patti and Miss Chaka, ready whenever you are. Any time. Any place.

Got a cool dream book? Snap a pic and share the link in the comments below.

MORE RESOURCES

For more inspiration, visit my good friend Corey Wadden’s take on the dream book. He adds in an extra bit of help organizing your thoughts into categories.

The Classic Crimson Cocktail

The Classic Crimson Cocktail

Rye and tobacco
With gentlemanly pursuits
Perfectly blended.

Learn how to make an old-fashioned that any gentleman would respect.

Whenever I visit a new bar the first drink I order is an Old Fashioned. Executing a proper Old Fashioned takes experience and care to blend the ingredients in just the right proportions. If the bar delivers a proper Old Fashioned then it bodes well that the rest of their drinks will be given similar consideration.

I figured it was probably time for me to learn how to make a proper Old Fashioned myself. I invited my closest partners-in-crime to be my judging panel and had a lineup that included: Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, Knob Creek, 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, and Jim Beam Signature. All single barrel reserve, of course. Alas, I could not get my hands on the much sought-after Pappy’s Van Winkle. One day, you shall be mine. Oh, yes, you will.

Bourbon Selection

Not Jack, I know, but I think Frank would’ve approved. So who else to have on the playlist but Ol’ Blue Eyes himself? Add in some Thelonious Monk, Miles, and Coltrane and you’ve got the soundtrack set for a laidback evening with the fellas.

What to serve with the cocktails? Something substantial and spicy to stand up to the sweetness of the cocktails. Cajun should do nicely. It is close to Mardi Gras, after all, and the Old Fashioned’s cousin is the NOLA sazerac. Now usually I’d do the cooking myself but in this case I left it to the experts. Poor House Bistro makes a mean po’boy and kept the fellas happily sated. Why no photos? You know how it is. Guests start arriving, drinks are poured, and food is devoured.

Of course, a proper Old Fashioned should be accompanied by a proper cigar. For the evening we indulged in Aging Room’s Quattro F55 Concerto cigars. Their well-balanced cedar, cocoa, and espresso flavors offset the cocktails perfectly.

Aging Room Quattro F55 Concerto

The verdict? I think I can properly check, “Learn how to make an old-fashioned that any gentleman would respect,” off my 360 List. The winning recipe is one I’ve dubbed, The Classic Crimson. Classic, because despite its name an Old Fashioned is timeless, and Crimson because it’s really the blood orange bitters that sets this drink apart. Did a quick search of the online drink recipe sites and I think we have a winner. No other matches found. First, bitches.

The Classic Crimson cocktail
2 oz Blanton’s Original Single Barrel bourbon
dash blood orange bitters
splash simple syrup
orange peel

Some whiskey stones or carved block ice gently chills without stealing character from the drink. Add a splash of simple syrup made from raw sugar. A dash of blood orange bitters. Two ounces of Blanton’s. Stir, then twist an orange peel over the drink and serve. I’m all for exploring new recipes, but for me, an Old Fashioned shall never be proper with a cherry in it. Cherry infused bitters? Sure. Fruit that’s better left on a sundae? Never. Remember when I said an Old Fashioned was my litmus test for a new bar? Add a cherry and you’ve got not one, but two strikes with me. That’s how strongly I feel about it.

Now that I’ve got the foundation set, I’ll be experimenting a bit with the recipe. Perhaps infusing the simple syrup with Arancia Rossa di Sicilia. Give a go with Blanton’s Gold Edition to have a bit of fudge and white pepper. Try barrel aging the cocktail.

This, of course, was merely stage dressing for an evening of jokes, stories, and conversation with gentlemen of distinction. Thanks to the fellas for sharing this experience and helping me check something off my 360 List. Special thanks to the lovely Kitten Marie for being my assistant for the evening (and helping me finally polish off my bottle of Deleón) 😉