Luggage: weighing in on the carry-on only debate

As I started consolidating and packing up in preparation for my departure from New Zealand, I was reminded of the carry-on vs checked luggage debate. It’s a hot topic in the travel blog community and everyone has their own preference.

Before the start of my round-the-world trip, I was a firm proponent of checking bags. Why would I want to lug my bag all around the airport when I could pass it off at check-in and really relax while waiting for my flight? It’s particularly frustrating to lug a bag when traveling solo cause it has to be lugged into every bathroom when en route. Duty free shopping is also a lot more comfortable without a large pack on your back.

Admittedly, I’ve been lucky that my checked bags have never been lost, stolen or delayed on a flight. *knock on wood* Aside from that, the main passenger complaint is that checked bags take too long to roll out on the carousel. I find more often than not this wait time is small. Interestingly, it seems slower in big first world airports than in others.

When researching packing light before I left home, I found everyone saying a big benefit of packing light is that you can carry-on your luggage. You can carry it on planes, buses and trains and always have it right by your side. Even with an appropriately small pack, it can still be a big fight with a bus driver to bring it on with you and I feel that it’s just not worth the fight. But, again, I’ve never had my bag stolen from under a bus. *knock on wood* In the spirit of being extra safe given that my whole life is in my bag on this trip, I left Canada with a carry-on backpack only.


My well loved Minaal backpack.

It was immediately clear that a backpack was a mistake given that I was dealing with sciatica when I left Canada and carrying weight on my back was exactly what I shouldn’t be doing. I’m pretty stubborn though and I persevered by carrying my pack in my hands instead of on my back as much as possible for the first five months. It took a few days after each flight for my back to recover from the transport. Finally when opportunity knocked to get a cheap rolly case in Vietnam, I gave in (thanks Frank!).


My back-saving rolly case

Now I’m traveling with just my rolly case which is basically the same dimensions as my original backpack – still counts as travelling light! It’s still quite easy to get around with in buses, taxis and when walking. In theory I could carry it on a flight but given that the case itself weighs quite a bit the full weight is over most airline carry-on limits. This means I’m back to accepting checking a bag on every flight. Although it is the best decision for the health of my back, I’m also just happy to once again leave my bag in the hands of the airline so I can relax and enjoy my flight. There’s something so satisfying about sitting down by the gate with only my purse and I feel much more secure and stress free while waiting to board.

Confessions of a nomad: memories worth keeping (part II)

My list of good and bad experiences for the books will only get longer with time and that’s a really exciting thought. I’m only sad that one day I’ll probably have trouble remembering all this. For now, here is part two of my confessions (read part one here):

The most overrated: the pyramids in Egypt. I still think a visit to these is worth the bucket list check but I didn’t find them nearly as impressive or mysterious as I’d expected. Maybe if I’d read up on the construction theories/history before going, it would have been more exciting to be in their presence.


They still make for a great picture!

The most underrated: Ghana, as a country, is beautiful, and safe, and largely English speaking (there are so many local languages that English is used to bring communities together). Its a great place to visit if you want a real taste of Africa and are looking for a cultural experience. This was my first time in a third world country and I had a great time! Also, the culture shock experience prepared me for every second/third world country that I’ve been to since.


The majority of my time in Ghana was spent with these adorable kids.

The worst accident: falling off my bicycle into a ditch in Myanmar. I tried to stop to let a large truck pass and missed the curb with my foot falling straight down into a deep ditch. Luckily a tree caught my fall, the bicycle was fine and other than being shaken up, my biggest problem was looking like I’d rolled in the dirt. I’ve seen worse things happen to others on the road so I’m thankful this is my worst story.

The best sunrise: cycling out before dawn to climb a pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar for the most magical sunrise. You can see pagodas glistening in the morning sun as far as the eye can see as hot air balloons drift by on the horizon. I woke up early again and again to see this for good reason.


So peaceful.

The best sunset: Otres beach in Cambodia treated me to the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen and I sadly didn’t get a picture. Since I don’t have a picture to compare, it will probably always remain the best in my memories. Read more about my experience here.


Not bad, but definitely not Cambodia's best showing.

The most breathtaking: the views while driving along New Zealand’s coastline on the South Island. When New Zealand offers you a scenic route, they are not kidding! It took a lot of restraint on my part to not stop every five minutes for a picture. I’m so glad I decided to drive instead of taking a tour bus.


Only $5 for a campsite with a view!

The stupidest: buying a bucket (bucket of alcohol) from the wrong stand at the full moon party on Koh Phangan island in Thailand. The warnings about spiked buckets are no joke and even though I knew to buy a bucket in a real store instead of on the street, I was just tipsy enough to forget and make that mistake. I’m lucky I was with friends and no harm came from it.

The silliest: partying all night on a club on Hvar island (where i was staying with friends) in Croatia and barely making our ferry to the mainland the next morning. It was an amazing night and I totally forgot that parties in Europe can go all night. It was only after the music stopped and the sun started to lighten the sky that we realized how little time we had to make the ferry.

The smartest: being brave enough to travel alone. The thing about traveling alone is that you quickly realize you are never truly alone. It’s beautiful and amazing and I think everyone should try it once.


You're never alone in a hostel!