How to Do a Travel Inventory Post-Mortem & Pack Honestly for your Adventures

A long time ago, in an internet far, far away, I was a travel blogger.

Yes, it’s true!

Back then, one of my popular articles was called “How to Design Your Own Travel Inventory,” and in light of my recent travels, I’d like to give you an update on what I’ve learned since I wrote that article, over seven years ago.

Aspirational vs. Real

Honest Packing ListIf there’s one thing the last 7 years have taught me, it’s that the old adage is true: the more things you own, the more things own you, and this is an order of magnitude more intense when you’re travelling.

Now, there are packing lists, and there are Packing Lists.

Half of the packing lists I see are merely aspirational. Some travellers make such ambitious lists, aspiring to only take 20 things with them… but end up bringing six sweaters.

Lists like that are useless because they aren’t a true reflection of life. They aren’t something you can look at and say, “Oh I see, I hadn’t even realized I wouldn’t need that.” Honestly, aspirations are NOT what make a good trip, positive action is.

So in light of this, I’m doing something I haven’t done before. While in Wisconsin, I wrote down everything I had with me (pictured here). And for the first time, I’m sharing, with utter transparency, exactly what I brought on my month-long journey. I’m pulling no punches here, in the hope that seeing what I actually brought would give you some ideas. I believe this speaks louder than any advice I could give you.

And even after all these years of practice, I still felt like I brought too much. But I’ll let you be the judge:

My Honest Packing List

48L Osprey Kestrel Pack
— Over 7 years old & still seems new
— Inside of it was a small daypack, highly compressed to fit against my laptop case


— Most of this fit into one ziplock bag

water bottle
two granola bars
hand towel
travel bowl (silicone)
contact lenses & solution
glasses case & cleaner
extra nosepads
nail clippers
sewing kit (tiny)
antibiotic cream
anti-itch cream
band-aids (held in a paperclip)
shampoo (tiny 1oz)
toothpaste (tiny 1oz bag)
hand sanitizer (tiny 1oz)
lip balm
tiny comb


— While this may seem like a lot, 90% of it fit into one single-quart ziplock. (My only regret here is that I brought the shaver.)

MacBook Air (inside neoprene case)
1TB backup hard drive
electric shaver
cell phone & charger (both tiny)
iPod USB charger (& headphones)
Fujifilm S6000FD camera
AA battery charger (for camera)
Kindle (& usb cable)
Portable USB battery
2 short usb cables
tiny bundle of twine
USB thumb drive
2 sharpies


— Happy with the balance I got here. Even though I only used the sleeping sheet once, it was nearly weightless — a notable bonus of getting a silk one. (Also, since this was winter, I needed to bring more clothes than if it were another season.)

6 T-shirts
2 pants
5 briefs
5 pairs of socks
1 fleece
1 thin pajama shorts
1 silk sleeping sheet
winter cap

How to Do an Inventory Post-Mortem

Brutal honesty with yourself is the only way to come to a travel packing list you feel good about. And returning home from a trip is the perfect time to do it.

Sit down and go through what you’ve packed. Did you use everything? Is there anything you wanted to use but didn’t? Why not? Is there (and this is a big one) anything that you repeatedly bring and aspire to use, but never end up using?

By asking yourself these questions, you can save yourself time (and weight!) during your travels. Is there anything that broke (like my scissors on Maui) that you need to replace? Is it necessary to get it now or is it optional? (Odds are, you aren’t going to the Sahara, and scissors are available for purchase at your destination.)

In the past seven years, I’ve done this process dozens of times, shedding a lot from my list, such as a paper journal (now I do everything on the iPod), a flashlight (the iPod’s LED is blinding), and even duct tape! (Crazy, I know, but it’s situational.)

Constant reflection and striving toward less and less is an ideal I’ve held for many years, and only through this process of Optimus Minimus can I reach the happy medium I desire. (Think of it as Kaizen for minimalism.)

What would you change?

Experience has been the best teacher here, and I’m happy to say that I used everything I brought except the tiny comb, tiny bundle of twine, my USB stick, and the sharpies. Considering that they’re all small and light, I’d say that’s a win.

In the future, I’m going to leave the comb, one of the sharpies, and probably one of the t-shirts at home. But alas, it’s hard living with only 5 shirts sometimes. (And when you’ve been cultivating a weird T-shirt collection for as long as I have, you grow to miss it.) Honestly, the only thing I really missed in 3+ weeks of travel was my own hairbrush. (My hair was getting long at the time.)

In retrospect, what I’d love is a single charging solution for my iPod, Kindle, and camera. The camera is probably a lost cause since it runs on AA batteries, but I’d love to find a good solution to provide the correct amperage to my iPod, Kindle, and shaver in a single, all-purpose plug. Is that possible?

If anyone has a clue, please let me know under “Leave a Reply” below.
I’d really appreciate it!

Good luck on pairing down your packing list, and until next time, keep exploring. 🙂

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How to Play the Kindle Publishing Game & Win (A Humble KDP Player’s Guide)

Stack of The Truth Beyond the Sky books

We each choose the game we wish to play.

Some enjoy historic games like chess or backgammon. Some enjoy newer games, ranging from Tetris all the way to Halo. But the exceptionally interesting games are the ones that you don’t even know are really games.

Do you know what my favorite game is?

Easy. It’s KDP. And on the broader scale it’s the KDP/Google supergame, but let’s just keep it simple to start.

Yes, Kindle Direct Publishing is totally a game. Look no further than the book and author rankings on Amazon to tip you off. Not to mention the varying levels of difficulty presented to you, depending on which level (or genre) you decide to tackle. And what a powerful game it is, allowing indie-authors to reach millions through the Kindle store and sell their work.

Every good game involves skill of some sort, and what I love about KDP is that it requires a skill that I love to flex: telling stories well. And you can level up in this game, too. In fact, the more you write, the more you naturally improve at your craft. But what is the goal of the game? How do you win?

In fact, what would KDP’s instruction booklet look like if it were a game? Well, for starters, we need to know the—

Object of the Game

Now this is terribly important. Around this statement, everything else revolves, so we need to be clear and concise. Of course, not everyone is going to have the same goal in mind for the KDP game, but based on the many interviews I’ve heard of indie-authors, I’ve noticed that the clear majority of them want to earn a living doing it full time, so let’s go with that, since it’s the most likely.

Object: Earn a Full-Time Income.

Even if it’s just above poverty level, I’ve observed that most writers don’t really want much stuff, anyway. What they primarily want is to write, and to write they need some—


You’ll need a modern computer of course, and your brain. You’ll need a net connection and recent software to create EPUB and MOBI files for your ebook. Most importantly, the computer you choose needs to be reliable and comfortable to write on. A computer with a good keyboard is key. (Hah!)

I chose a Macbook Air for my main piece of equipment, and I absolutely love it. In addition, you should also get a backup drive in case of hardware failure and/or spontaneous combustion. Having spare room to write in is great, too, if you can manage it.

And now that you have those things, most of which could be nabbed for a cheaper price on sites like craigslist, you have everything you need to begin—


These steps will vary depending on your writing style, but they tend to be some form of:

  1. Reflect and decide on what kind of plot and idea you’d like to express.
  2. Write an outline.
  3. Hit a writer’s block and scream.
  4. Continue the outline and scream some more until done.
  5. Begin writing the book by following the outline.
  6. Get discouraged and wonder if you’re the biggest hack ever to have lived.
  7. Push through out of sheer desperation and finish the book.
  8. Set it aside for a month.
  9. Dust it off, edit it, and send it to beta-readers.
  10. Receive beta-reader feedback and scream for a third time.
  11. Grudgingly implement admit that chapter 14 is a pile of crap and cut it from the book, tears streaming down your face.
  12. Get very excited that the book is shaping up.
  13. Get very depressed and think that the book is actually terrible.
  14. Hire out for a cover or, if you’re talented, make one yourself.
  15. Finish the formatting, upload it to KDP, and test it.
  16. Send Advanced Review Copies off to reviewers.
  17. Find a glaring error as you read it on your Kindle; fix, upload, and download a working draft again. (This may occur more than once.)
  18. Finally write a description and hit publish on KDP!

And that’s just the making part. Then you have to spread the word about it, link to the people who reviewed your book, interact on social media… the list goes on.

Good thing you told a story you were passionate about and really believed in!

If you did all of those steps exceptionally well, including pricing it aggressively, you have a chance at adding to your passive income stream significantly. If you already have 3 books out there, then you have a much greater chance, too.

It really all comes down to—


Basically, on each “turn” you try to get as many of those steps done as possible. To measure your competitiveness against other authors, you can easily see your book rankings and compare them to others. And when you get really popular, you’ll get an author ranking which is an aggregated ranking across all your works.


Truthfully, this is up to you. But for me, winning is reaching the object that I stated before: selling enough books to do this full time.

At the very bare minimum, if you price your book at $2.99, Amazon will pay you about $2.00, which means you’ll need to sell 500 books per month total, to reach a passive income of $1,000/month.


So, that’s the game. Thousands upon thousands are playing it. But the one great thing about this game is that you aren’t competing as much as in a traditional game. After all, people want to buy more than one book, and many will read dozens of them before the end of the year.

The question is, will your book be one of them? If you keep at it and hone your craft, it’s only a matter of time.

Let the games begin.

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