Determined to cross the globe in 90 days, our intrepid traveller 1 Booked an around-the-world ticket in business class 2 Travelled with hand luggage 3 Vowed not to buy anything It turned out to be the most carefree trip of his life. Here's how he did it.
At the end of last year, age 46, I took an around-the-world holiday and visited 17 cities in 90 days. That I had three months' holiday owing to me should speak volumes about my need to get away. Though I love my job - perhaps a little too much - work/life balance was something I only understood in the abstract. I was tired, and my brain, eyes, even my perspective on life, all needed a reboot. While planning, I recalled a holiday I'd taken to Greece 20 years earlier when working in London. With just a ticket to Athens and the clothes I wore, a small backpack with swimmers, shorts, T-shirts, my passport and wallet, I closed the door to my flat and headed to Heathrow. I remembered the exhilaration I felt then, and the sense of freedom of travelling light, taking each step as it came.
So it was that I started to announce, somewhat cavalierly, that I intended to travel (for 12 weeks, around the world) with hand luggage only. Laughter was the usual response. An "Oh yeah, right!" from friends, or "You'll last a week - at MOST!" from family and colleagues. But I was determined. Taking that amount of time out of my career, at my age, was a luxury I wasn't going to waste feeling encumbered by too much luggage. I was excited by the challenge.
Travelling light took much of the stress out of the equation, namely packing (it took me 10 minutes), lugging bags to and from airports, or on public transport (peak hour on the London Tube was a breeze), in and out of taxis, waiting for bags, perhaps lost bags. Stuff. I didn't want any of it. There were no decisions to make about what to wear each day (take it off one day, put it back on the next); and I had all the technology I needed to keep me connected.
Having minimal luggage also meant that I couldn't buy anything even if I wanted to. I hate shopping at the best of times but there was no room for anything extra and shipping things back home involved time I wasn't prepared to waste. This trip wasn't about acquisition. Removing the "shopping imperative" meant all I had to do every day was wake up, walk, eat, look, learn, talk, visit galleries, exhibitions, theatre, and satisfy my curiosity about places and people. It was the easiest I'd felt in my life.
On only two occasions did I need to supplement my wardrobe. The first was in London, when it snowed in October for the first time in 70 years. My head and ears were freezing and I bought a hat at a street market. Layering up the Icebreaker gear (see next page) worked a treat there and I didn't need any extra clothing. I left the hat with a friend when I moved on.
Chicago was another matter. It was early November by that stage and I was about to get on an architecture cruise that required sitting on the open deck of a riverboat. I'd put on every layer in the bag but knew I couldn't endure the penetrating Chicago winds without contracting pneumonia. I ran into the closest GAP store and bought another hat, and a down-filled vest. When I checked out of my hotel, I left both with the concierge.
But they were small discomforts in a longer journey that really was the smoothest ride. By the end, my wardrobe was still pretty much intact. Only the jeans had suffered. They were from a special "handmade in India" line that wasn't supposed to be washed. But they needed it after a while, and lost their shape a little - a small price. The shoes? They lasted superbly, a bit scratched and scuffed perhaps, but each mark reminds me of a cobblestone street in Paris or Istanbul, each dent of a beautiful mountainside near Rome, or a walking track in Big Sur. Every time I wear them now, those sweet, carefree memories come flooding back.
Sydney -- Shanghai -- Helsinki --Tallinn -- Berlin -- Milan -- Rome -- Istanbul -- Brussels -- Antwerp --Paris -- London -- New York -- Chicago -- San Francisco -- Big Sur -- Los Angeles -- Buenos Aires -- Sydney
I made certain the bag I bought was within the regulations for an international business class cabin bag and that I was talking to an expert. As a result, I had no problems anywhere, not even on domestic flights in Turkey. (For peace of mind, it's worth checking airline regulations as they vary.) My bag is a wheeled Victorinox Trek Pack Plus (51cm) that converts to a backpack, but I never used it like that. There's a detachable day pack that went over my shoulder. Both are black, with a green stripe.
Into the larger bag went:
* 3 Icebreaker T-shirts in red, navy blue and black.
* 2 Icebreaker mid-weight long-sleeved outer garments in navy blue and black.
* 1 Icebreaker heavyweight hoodie in light blue. (Icebreaker made it all possible. The super fine merino wool "adventure" garments made in New Zealand for climbers and trekkers come in different weights so you can layer up or down for different temperatures. They wash and dry quickly, breathe and wick moisture away so you can wear them for days. I did, and didn't smell - I think. Plus they look good. A friend in Paris, who worked in the fashion industry, said, "That T-shirt could be Armani.")
* Jocks and socks, easily hand-washable and fast drying (available from
* One pair of G-Star (handmade in India) jeans.
* One pair of Hermes linen trousers in taupe/grey.
* One Etro suit in a dark blue, mid-weight seersucker. (The suit pants went in the bag, the jacket I wore rather than packed, or hung. The suit came out, with the dress shirt, when I needed to look smart-er.)
* One white Helmut Lang dress shirt with a little elastane in it.
* One pair of black Bally dress shoes. (A single pair of shoes was the real trick. Shoes take up so much room. I debated about what pair could take me from jeans to a suit, and be comfortable enough to wear every day and handle a lot of walking. Then my friend, fashion stylist Howard Steeves, told me he always just wore dress shoes when travelling. And I had an epiphany: a pair of Bally shoes I had already were the most comfortable I'd worn. I had them resoled with heavy-duty rubber and wore them every day, walking miles, even climbing up mountains outside Rome in them. A polish at a hotel and they scrubbed up beautifully.)
* 2 cotton T-shirts.
* One pair of lightweight track pants.
* 1 Balinese sarong (for wearing around hotel rooms and pools).
* One pair of swimmers.
* One set of goggles.
* "Wet" toiletry bag (clips to the Victorinox bag).
* 2 small toiletry bags with medications and extra toiletries (can't go that long without Aesop creams, tonics and lotions).
* One cloth toiletry bag with Wahl clippers and toothbrush recharger.
* Assorted international plugs and cables for associated technology (into one net bag that clipped to the bag).
Into the day pack went:
* Black Apple MacBook computer with a black soft leather case.
* iPhone with built-in iPod.
* Sony Handycam.
* Noise-reducing headphones. (These were my best travel purchase. They cut out stressful noise, especially on planes, and plugged into my laptop, iPhone/iPod and most aircraft entertainment systems.)
* 1 book (which I would leave when I'd finished reading it and replace with a new one).
* Passport, wallet, papers.
David Clark, Editor - Vogue Living Australia. Published in Wish Magazine (The Australian), 5 June 2009.