All Around the World — How to Travel Lightly

Brian Huy Mac
10 min readDec 15, 2021


Original Post: April 14, 2018

I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to experience and explore so many places so far in my life. Especially, the last few years with work it sometimes feels like I am living out of a bag weeks on end and most conversations start with where are you right now? With that being said I’ve picked up some tips along the way that I hope I can share to help people enjoy the experience as much as I have :)


What’s this “mystical” aura that people associate to travel? You hear it all the time, I wish I could travel more, go there, do this. With the explosion of social media you have all these travel bloggers, Instagram accounts, travel photos from friends on Facebook, etc. it’s not hard to see where this idea of FOMO (fear of missing out) comes from. To be honest when I first started out I fell into a bit of this trap, the idea of travel as an ESCAPE. Got dumped? take a trip, bored with your day job, take a trip, not happy, take a trip, and then when you get back what then? It’s true travel is a great way to break up the routine, but it’s not a solution to problems in itself or about collecting “country points” or scratching off more countries off that map in my experience.

You see it all the time, people running from sight to sight, taking the pictures, going here and there to check it off the list, stressed with bumps along the way, delayed flight, behind schedule tour, food wasn’t great, hotel wasn’t so nice, etc. For me my favorite thing has been the experiences that come from exploring and most importantly the extremely wonderful people you meet along the way. Like being in a beat up car with 2 of your friends in the middle nowhere in Morocco and thankful that one of you speaks Arabic to talk the police out of a ticket. If you have this EXPLORE mindset you don’t need “things” to make travel an experience, and the more lightly you travel, the more open you can be to these opportunities.

Figuratively and literally travelling lightly ;)

Travel Light Principals

  • Carry — Only
  • Multi — Purpose
  • Buy it there if you need it

Seeing people haul around giant suitcases for trips I am always amazed and wonder how much stuff they need? When you travel with a carry-on only principal you are be default forced to bring less (35L). Carry-on only means going right from door to door, in and out of cars, etc. a LOT EASIER! Now there’s the odd exception for me ie. surf trip bringing boards, or a North Face Duffel bag (camping/sports gear) but I try to avoid checked-in luggage like the plague. Sucks to wait another 30–45mins just to get your bag.

Well when you are forced to carry less, the stuff you bring should be as multi-functional as possible. I’ve now replaced most of my clothing with merino wool variants, so 2 tshirts gets me through weeks of travel, black / grey, swap, workout, explore, etc. Another example is I use to have to bring 3 pairs of shoes, dress shoes work, casual shoes, and workout shoes. Now I have one pair that gets me through all 3 and frees up more room. Even the colors you bring, don’t get me wrong I love an avocado printed shirt but a grey/blue button up I can also wear for work.

Look I get it, you need, need, need to have your special shampoo… :P Most of the time where you are staying has toiletries, and you can worst case always pick up some once your there. I find most people over pack because of what if I need this for that, or that, and 95% of the time it never gets worn/used. You can always rent, or worst case buy things if you need it. Ohh I last minute got invited to a ball with the Princess of Monaco, guess I’ll rent a tuxedo lol



So it’s been a few months now and I am super happy with the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack. The split case design makes it easy to get to different stuff, has prebuilt organization, and comfy shoulder straps means I pack a ton of stuff in it. It’s taken a pounding being thrown around and still so far is still looking + working great. It even fits under the seat if I have to on the plane.

Stay Organized!

PACKING CUBES — Even thought the Allpa has built in mesh organizers the packing cubes helps me be even better organized by keeping my different types of clothes separate.

NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES — Trust me that these are worth it! Although expensive it makes long flights more bearable and when you are in busy airports, trains, buses, etc. I have the over-ear Bose QC 30, but I am going to switch to the QC 20 Earbuds as it gets heavy / hard to sleep with the big cans.

Life Saver for getting Sleep / Rest


  • Kindle — 100’s of books at your fingertips, also I love that it is a single purpose device so no distractions to get lost in the reading. Easy on the eyes and you always have down time traveling.
  • Clear Toiletries Bag/Case — Pull it out and throw it in the bin during security makes it a lot easier. I got mine from Flight 001 store in SF but check out their site for lots of cool travel goodies, like a basic Eye Mask (don’t do earplugs since I have the noise cancelling). I don’t bring a travel pillow, it has been impossible to find one that packs up and is comfortable — I just ask for extra ones on the plane :)
  • Highly suggest getting sleeping pills at the airport, pretty much during the meal I’ll pop one and by the time I am done + finish the movie I sometimes manage to grab a few hours of sleep.
  • Moleskin Travel Journal — I only write when I am traveling but I find it very refreshing to put down some highlights from your trip, reflect on things going on in life, and record any nuggets you want to remember.
  • No Plastic! — In trying to cutdown on my impact I bring some of my own reusable stuff (love when the Stewardess are impressed I have my own cup and spork lol). There’s a portable water bottle that rolls up, foldable cup, and Spork!
  • Vitamin + Electrolytes — Traveling messes with your bodies schedule, often with work don’t always eat healthy, regularly, etc. I find taking some vitamin-electrolytes helps keeps you on track and from getting sick.
  • Portable Daypack — I just use the Cotopaxi Batac 16L one that came with my Allpa, it’s perfect for day trips, carrying stuff around, etc. In retrospect I would of gone for something all black or brown.


Stylish yet Multi-Functional!

Here’s where multi-functional really comes in handy! Not to mention fabrics that are odor resistant, temperature regulating, and dries fast. Over the last year I have been slowly swapping out clothes for travel with Merino Wool versions. Originally merino was only in technical clothing but more and more stylish modern versions are coming out (men’s at least for now). The fabric is odor resistant, breathable but the best part is renewable and responsibility produced. Two companies that have really captured my attention — Unbound Merino from Toronto, Canada and recently CIVIC (Brand from Taylor Stitch) from San Francisco, USA. I am starting to lean more towards CIVIC as their pieces are more slim fitting, and stylish as you would expect from a Taylor Stitch brand.

Benefits of Merino Wool


  • Learn to ROLL your clothes to save space!
  • Wear the big heavier stuff on the plane (ie. winter jacket)
  • Put your stuff in jacket pockets to get through Security faster vs dumping phone, wallet, etc. into the bin.


Just because Mom said you need a pair for everyday doesn’t mean it’s still true :P

Think at one point the slogan from the company was 20 countries, 2 months, and 2 pairs of underwear… Now people when I tell them are a little disgusted at me but honestly you can do it. They dry overnight and are super comfortable. I have 3 pairs that I rotate through. Exofficio Sports Mesh Boxers.

Socks wise I have 2 pairs of Merino Wool from Civic full length to rotate through and a pair of DarnTough ankle socks for working-out, walking around, etc.


Multi — Purpose = Winning!

Finally found a pair of shoes that seem to work well for multi-function uses! It’s leather and simple enough I can get away with them for business casual and made for running, crossfit, etc. Thanks NO BULL!

Sandal wise I am still testing these out but Xero Z-Trek sandals have been highly recommended. They are super minimalist making it easy to pack (they roll up), vegan friendly (trying to buy stuff made in a sustainable way) and the straps + heel cup make them more comfortable for more usage then just flip flops or Birkenstocks.


Optional — Depending on Trip

  • 3 Pairs of Swim Trunks — 2x Surf Shorts + 1X Chubbies
  • 2 Pairs of Chino Shorts — Just basic cotton ones now maybe switching to Merino later on
  • 2 Short Sleeve Button Up Shirts — Basic ones maybe switch to Merino
  • Light Jacket — I just have a nice spring zip up but debating a pack-able Patagonia puffy jacket for multi-use (just not so stylish :P )
  • Winter Jacket — Wear the coldest / heaviest stuff onto plane
  • Blazer — I just pack mine now (Tiger of Sweden ;) ) but new startup — Bluffworks Travel Blazer to checkout but don’t trust American styling for fit.
  • Wedding = Suit (How to fold for travel) — + Cole Hahn Dress Shoes (SO COMFY)
  • Wool Merino Sweater — Grey

“Travel Lightly”


To finish things up quickly here are some of my must have tools for booking travel, and making the whole international experience easy!

  • Google Flights — Is my go to starting spot for flights, the UI gives you tons of flexibility in options of stops, airlines, etc. Just keep in mind it doesn’t always combo with the local low cost carriers.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card — No Foreign transaction fees, 3 Points per $ Travel, PriorityPass Lounge Access (Useful if you don’t make one of the Alliance Gold Tiers), $300 travel credit back, and lastly $100 towards Global Entry.
  • Global Entry / Mobile Passport — Honestly if you are traveling into the US this is a must! I have countless times stood for 1.5 hours+ at SFO customs. Being Canadian I got NEXUS which gives me Global Entry, but man walking right up to the Kiosk and out of Customs in minutes is worth it.
  • Transferwise Borderless Account — If you need cash you know the banks and airport exchanges kill you on the exchange. Transferwise has a great Multi-Currency Account to let you hold, receive, and transfer at the best rates between currencies. They are launching a VISA card with it soon, but check out Revoult if you need a multi-currency debit card now.
  • Facebook Recommendations — Honestly, I love this feature! It helps me keep lists of things to visit, and see suggested by my local friends, or friends that have been their before. Access it via the mobile app on the go, map, etc. Let me know I’ll be happy to share the ones I’ve collected so far :)

Hope these tips and look behind the scenes at how I “Travel Lightly” helps inspire you to get out there to explore and would love to know any of your tricks/tips/gear as I always trying to get even lighter!



Brian Huy Mac

Everywhere you go, there you are