Travel Challenge: 1-year business trip, 2 bags.

Think of your job and what you need to do it. Now imagine going away for a one-year business trip and fitting your essential work items in two bags (similar to the one below.) In this challenge, you may or may not have electricity, running water or a bed at your destination. You could be in one locale or constantly on the move. And people may be shooting at you so, bring body armor. But pack light.

empty travel bag before deployment

Troops have to carry the essentials for their particular mission with them. Then try to squeeze in some personal items. Depending on their job, they have to carry it on their backs. And while the luggage rules may vary, space is severely limited. I looked at this travel challenge and thought, what are my bare essentials? Could I do a business trip this way? Here’s my list:



Coffee maker

Electricity for laptop and coffee maker, coffee supplies. I can use powdered creamer if I need to “rough it” so no need for a mini-fridge to store milk. However, bringing my own electricity may prove harder to solve than the milk issue. So too the Wi-Fi.

Desk and chair. I wasn’t going to add these two items, but I have carpal tunnel and if have to sit and write in a weird position for a year, I’d come back looking like one of the dancing zombies in the Thriller video. I remember some Marines I wrote to were setting up an outpost in a remote locale and their furniture didn’t arrive. So they broke down the wooden crates that other supplies arrived in and made tables and benches.

Clothes  Our troops don’t have a lot of angst over what to wear each day. “Hmm, camo or…the camo?” This makes things easy but also caused one troop I know to lose all civilian fashion sense. I did my part and saved him from some unfortunate holiday sweaters. But while deployed, most service members don’t bring a large selection beyond a few uniforms (both work and physical training.) So I guess I could live rotating just a few things for a year.

Of course I couldn’t take my most essential, essential, my daughter Sofia. Loved ones are only carried in the heart and mind. But when I try to imagine being separated from her for a year, my heart aches.

Bouncy balls and Tinkerbell

I’ve often sent toys in care packages, just hoping to make someone smile. Rubber bouncy balls have been a hit. Apparently they are fun for games of surprise dodgeball. I found out that Dan* (name changed for privacy) carried the ones I sent him in his combat assault pack “for luck” for his entire deployment. Even after he got home, he never removed them.

Dan also carried something Sofia sent. I was making a care package for him when Sofia ran to her room and came back with a set of Tinkerbell magic markers. She put them in the box. I looked up and she said, “He needs these!” She was very certain about this so, off they went. It seems she was right because Dan replaced the black marker he used for work with the Tinkerbell one. Whenever he would use it, other guys would start to make fun of him and he’d say, “a little girl named Sofia in New York City sent me this marker.” Then everyone thought that marker was pretty cool.

What we carry with us

Both the bouncy balls and the Tinkerbell marker tell me something about what is truly essential in any journey: love and support. Those are the real items we should never leave home without.


© Gina left the mall, 2013

12 thoughts on “Travel Challenge: 1-year business trip, 2 bags.

  1. I’m a chronic over-packer, so packing for one year in two small bags would prove next to impossible. Even worse would be leaving loved ones behind…that’s unimaginable. It sounds as if little things like bouncy balls and Tinkerbell markers are palpable reminders of the comforts of home; that makes them essential in my book! Nice post, Gina.

    • Little things mean a great deal for exactly that reason– these items represent home and all that our troops left behind. For comfort, for luck or just for a smile, they are most certainly essential. As for packing, I like to travel as light as possible because I’m not entirely convinced a checked bag will arrive in the same city as me. Although I can’t imagine how I would pack for a year.

  2. I would be the worst at this due to my horrible packing skills. I have the tendancy to either under pack, or stuff y luggage to the gills with things I dont need. I certainly give our boys overseas credit.

    • After the mission essentials, it’s a tough choice- carry stuff you may not need or…be thousands of miles from home and unable to get what you need. That’s where family, friends, and total strangers come in :care packages!

  3. LOL omg I love it – its funny because packing for my civilian trips I used to bring SO much stuff, until my husband said – “It’s just like when we go on a deployment, you pack it YOU carry it” – amazing how trimmed down my hike pack got. Laptop replaced with iPad, extra SD cards for photos, and small back pack with essential camera gear. I love the story of the pen. 😉

  4. Great post Gina! I challenge anyone that hasn’t been deployed to a combat zone, to pack everything you will need in 2 gym/duffle bags and see how long you can live your life using nothing not in those bags. This includes the phones, ipods, computers, linens, cooking items AND equipment, etc… This means no stoves or ovens. You can eat out but no more than one meal every 2-3 days! No stopping for coffee or other things unless it replaces a meal eating out! Good luck…

    • Dave, somehow I don’t see a lot of people lining up to take that challenge. Although, with reality TV, you never know. Extreme Packing could be a hit 🙂 Either way, it’s a great way to visualize what troops such as yourself have endured. Without even trying, I already know I would need a lot more than luck to pull this off.

  5. Gina, once again you remind us, simply but profoundly, of the hardships our troops have to endure. The simplest things we take for granted are denied them unless some kind stranger stretches their hand across the globe in kindness and gratitude.

    • NP,
      When I first starting doing this, I was really surprised by how much troops appreciated any little thing….a postcard, a cup of coffee. But the more I learned about what they go through, the more I understood. Small touches of home mean a great deal. Kindness does too. For those are the very things that are in short supply in a combat zone.

  6. Great post! I always overpack and find that I didn’t wear or use half of what I brought! I love this post as it draws the attention to what really matters. I don’t need shoes to match every outfit…one pair can do. Simplification. I need this in all areas of life. Great analogy!

    • Thank you for the kind words! It’s amazing what becomes “essential” when you are forced to choose. I think it helps you see what’s most important to you. ps- I could also get by with less shoes. But the coffee maker is non-negotiable 🙂

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