The Backpacker State of Mind

It occurred to me today as I paid the seamstress for a pile of clothing repairs and dropped off my worn-down-with-love-like-a-velveteen-rabbit boots to be resoled, that I have begun to distribute my maintenance tasks around the globe. I save all of my sewing, shoe repair and leather needs for Portugal where the craftsmanship is excellent and the cost is dirt cheap.

I’ll splurge on a massage every week here in Lisbon for $30 and skip or save it for special occasion the few months when I’m in the states. And I ain’t too proud to wait an extra month, or two, for a haircut knowing I’ll soon be in Mexico or Lisbon and can get a great cut for half the price. Eric has made his Figaro’s barbershop visits an annual ritual, because after all, Beckham gets his hair cut there! He was even plotting today how to get in again for a Peaky Blinder’s snip before we leave next week.

Since women aren’t allowed at Figaro’s, I get mine cut at Joel’s.


When I’m in California, I make the rounds at Kaiser for annual appointments, prescription refills, lab work, and of course to see if the cute pharmacist at the San Rafael pharmacy is still working there, swoon.

Since we no longer have dental insurance, this year we decided to get our 6 month dental cleanings in Sayulita for a fraction of the price, while getting our annual check-up with our fantabulous Mill Valley dentist, Dr. Yankie. And then there are the Mexican pharmacies to raid. #younameittheygotit

While it may sound like I’m just optimizing for cost (and potentially boring you to death) it really brings me great joy and validation that I’m living the life I want to live to have all of these everyday local experiences in each of theses locations around the world. My own personal global errand run.

Almost everything about our round-the-world digital nomad life has evolved in this way. It has never been a one time strategic decision to start doing things differently, but instead a gradual evolution into a distributed life playing to the strengths of each of the communities we call home. It actually never occurred to me that I was doing this, until today, when I found myself in the sewing shop, handing these jeans to the lovely woman to show her the hole, above the previous patch, that was sewn by a man in my friend’s shop in Marrakech.

And then I realized – I don’t think I EVER took my clothes to be repaired when I lived in California. Maybe I would make a pathetic attempt to fix a button, otherwise they would sit in a “defected” pile that eventually got donated. Meanwhile I hanger was free’d to be used to hang something new and exciting. Which means I buy WAY less then I used to (doh! who wants to carry it) and my desire for needing something new has dramatically waned. I still live like I did when I was backpacking around the world. Because I guess I am, just really slowly.

It seems that despite staying put and working remotely from the same place for 3 months at a time as we rotate between Portugal-CA-Mexico + somewhere new, I am still thinking like a backpacker. And guess what, still traveling with that same backpack. Owning less, buying less, reusing more, being conscious about my spending. If you ask me what the secret is, that’s it.

What I’ve experience is this. Backpacking around the world for a year changes your relationship to stuff so dramatically that you find you really don’t need much. Going from fancy San Francisco living to the small apartments we rent now without that experience in between might have felt like I was downsizing and giving up the comforts of life. But after you backpack around the world for a year with a carry on, just having a dishwasher and closet feels luxurious! It truly is all relative.

Less stuff physically also equates to less mental clutter for me. Which could be a whole separate blog post, so I’ll stop here.

What’s your version of a backpacker state of mind?

And…I wonder what it would be like to get an eye exam in Bangkok…..

One response to “The Backpacker State of Mind

  1. Amen Sista! Ditto for me . Now that I have embraced the sailing life and live in shorts and Tshirts , I have no need for more β€œ stuff” ( except the occasional cute rash guard )
    Gotta check out the cute pharmacist ….

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