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4 Tactics For Becoming an Unconventional Tourist

The following is a guest post. My love of unconventional travel started when I was 12 years old. My dad had decided that, of all the ways to spend Christmas, we should go on a cycling tour around Cuba. And so we did it. We figured out how to...

I Hate Hair: Reasons Why Shaving Your Head Skyrockets Confidence

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes is sharing how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Aron James: Hair loss is something that happens to our grandfathers. It is the sign of the wisdom that comes with old age; a rite of...

How to Be a Solo-Female Hiker: Put One Foot in Front of the Other

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes shares how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Hayley Turner (a.k.a. Little Foot): I can still remember everything about that day, from waking up and walking 12 miles by noon, the dogs...

Do You Really “Find Yourself” When You Travel?

"I know this sounds cliché, but I have to ask—do you really 'find yourself' when you travel?" the girl asked me. Her young friend crouched next to my table, gently stroking the cats as they slept. Café Neko is a small coffee shop in Vienna that allows cats to wander...

When Not Everything Goes as Planned, It Still Goes: A Story About Finding Your Passion

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes is sharing how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Jen: As a kid, I was told that I was lucky that I already knew what I wanted to do with my life. From age four, I knew I wanted to be...

The Digital Nomad’s Roadmap – A Complete Guide: Successfully Live, Work, and Travel Anywhere

So you wanna be a digital nomad. I’m not surprised: the future is bright for freelancers and location independent workers. Statistics show 40% of Americans will be contingent workers by 2020. That’s a lot of potential for digital nomads! Yet there’s no hands-on guide...

Limitations: Why the 9–5 Job Doesn’t Need To Stop You

Over the years I’ve had a number of conversations with people who talk about cool things they want to do, see, or make. A lot of these conversations end with “Well, I’d love to do it, but unfortunately I have XYZ,” and many times those XYZs are very valid limitations...

Stealing Second Base: From Side Gig to Self Employed Full Time

Welcome to #DifferentLifeStories, where Without Boxes is sharing how people are living differently right now in the real world. Enter Katherine Stimson: “You can’t steal second base with one foot still on first.” In the spring of 2010, a Facebook ad posted by a total...

Dreams Are Like Pirate Treasure: Hard to Find, But Worth the Risk

All dreams start somewhere and typically, no matter the size of the overall dream, most dreams start small. Let’s say yours is to feel better at work every day. You focus on sitting up straight in week one. Week two finds you taking a 10-minute walk at lunchtime. Week...

Leave Everything Behind

You’re the poor apprentice to a blacksmith, toiling hard every day only to be under appreciated and underpaid.

There is no light at the end of this tunnel.

You will one day become a blacksmith yourself, toiling hard every day only to be under appreciated and underpaid.

Only, one day, pirates attack your humble town. Houses burn. Soldiers are slain. You survive. You are taken aboard the ship, and they look at you and say – hey, this kid has talent. I think we should have him on board.

The captain turns to you and says “Pack what you need. We leave as soon as the sun rises.”

You are turned loose to go home for one more night. One more night before you leave everything behind.

You Are Going On A Journey

Your life is beginning tomorrow. You’re getting on board and leaving for the journey – which happens to be the rest of your life. There is no turning back. There’s no regrets. There’s no wondering what would happen if you weren’t getting on board.

There are only the possibilities of the open waters.

You don’t have a choice.

Life as it stands right now is stagnant, and unrewarding. You are unappreciated. You are underpaid. When you look around you, there’s a simple feeling of being alone and forgotten.

How can you stay here?

You can’t.

Whether you want to or not, things must change. You have to get on board and sail away from this. The more you hold on to your life in this town, the more weight you’re attaching to your anchor before you finally jump into the sea.

I won’t stand for that. I will just stand by while you try to drown yourself.

In order to move on, set sail, and discover a new world, you have to let go. Let it go.

Look Around You

What are you holding on to?

What are your shackles?

What do you actually need?

It’s one thing to make this list. It’s another to get rid of everything that’s not on it.

Side note: This principle can apply to everything in your life – from your friends, to the way you spend time, to your physical belongings. It is most concrete to discuss physical items, so that’s the topic of today’s story.

For practice, let me review my own needs. I live in a small apartment, I sleep, eat and exercise there. I generally work for myself, but I also teach at a small college.

My overarching goal is to be able to pick up and travel at a moment’s notice (as in, one day I’m here, the next day I’m not – all on a whim). While I am living near the beach, I enjoy having the option of biking and boogie boarding.

But everything else? I should be able to pack it up and leave without requiring a moving truck.


  • Pot & pan, spatula, bowl, plate, cups, utensils
  • Cleaning supplies for kitchen

* Note: Would not travel with these eating supplies.


  • 2 pillows, blankets
  • 1 pajama pants, 2 pajama shirts


  • Bike, boogie board, running shoes
  • Jump rope
  • Lacrosse ball
  • 2 exercise pants, 2 exercise shirts, 2 sports bras

* Note: Would not travel with bike or boogie board.


  • 5 colored shirts
  • 1 overshirt
  • 2 professional black pants
  • 1 pair dress shoes
  • 1 professional jacket


  • 2-4 casual t-shirts
  • 2 long pants
  • 1 pair of comfy shorts
  • Flip flops
  • Casual shoes
  • 1 lighter jacket
  • 1 warmer jacket
  • 2-3 accessories (hats, scarves)


  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Body wash
  • Razors
  • Towel, washrag
  • Laundry bag & soap


  • Laptop
  • Hard drive
  • High quality sleeping bag
  • Camera

Now, this list looks long but I could probably realistically fit this into 2 suitcases and maybe a backpack.

What’s Left In Your House?

Well, I know I have a lot of random stuff crammed into a closet (books, DVDs, CDs, old papers, folding chairs, boxes, photo albums, games, backup jackets, backup towels, photo frames, art supplies).

That’s already a huge list that is taking up a lot of space. And this is after I got rid of about half my belongings when I moved in!

How often do I really look at those photo albums? Tactile is nice, but I don’t have the space or the time for it. It might make more sense to scan them all, get the digital copies and throw the originals out. When I’m older and have the stability and wall space to hang them, I’ll print them again.

How often do I really play those games? Honestly? Like twice a year. I usually entertain my friends with my charm, with and humor (and of course, food).

How often do I watch DVDs anymore? Probably even less than I play my games.

Do I really need a bunch of frames for photos I have nowhere to place? Not really.

Do I really need physical copies of MOST of those papers? No. I could scan them and back them up in 2-3 secure locations, and throw out all but extremely important documents that I need originals for.

I lived for 7 months without any of those things. They were packed away in boxes and I completely forgot that most of it even existed.

If I kept digital copies of my sentimental photos, make a backup of DVD movies and securely store my important documents… I could probably get rid of half of what is still cluttering up my apartment. Cleaning up would be a lot simpler, and I wouldn’t constantly be tripping over my belongings.

But This Is My Super Sentimental Stuff

For travel, function is the only thing you really need any item to have.

If you’re not planning on picking up and traveling, then that means you could be a little more lenient in how strict your list gets.

But first, try to make a functional list of items you think you need to carry about your weekly life.

I’ve probably forgotten something in my list above, and it’s already freaking long. With a few minor exceptions, it’s all bare minimum stuff I would take with me on a trip or move to know I won’t need to replenish my stash in less than a month.

You will be shocked at how much stuff you use on a regular basis… and then simultaneously be shocked at how much OTHER stuff you have sitting around your house serving absolutely no purpose.

Some of it you should keep, because you’re not a robot.

But most of it could probably go.

One tactic I’ve used is to take a picture of the items I know I really don’t need to keep around any more, but I always want to remember it. Add that photo to a folder of sentimental items, where you can always flip through and think fondly of your past.

Seriously, Get Rid Of Your Stuff

If your identity is defined by what you own, you’re doing it wrong.

Tomorrow a disaster could strike and all of your belongings could be gone. Tonight, a robber could come and take what you hold most dear.

Your stuff isn’t guaranteed.

Your lifestyle isn’t guaranteed.

Who are you without your things? You won’t know until you live without them.

When you wake up tomorrow, start keeping a list of the things you touch and use throughout the day. Alarm clock. Pajamas. Work clothes. Pan. Spatula. Dish soap. Phone charger. Bluetooth. Laptop. Pen. Notepad. Microwave. Plate. Fork. Dish soap. Casual shirt and pants. Slippers. TV. Couch.

Write it all down. It adds up really fast. Why did you use those things? Did you need to, or were you just using it because you were bored? Okay, now cross reference all of those items with the things you did NOT use. How much stuff are you just ignoring throughout your day? Should you pay more attention to them, or throw them away?

Then, try to spend a day living with only the functional.

Are you more productive? Do realize how wasteful most of your items really are? Does that feeling of where-is-my-life-going fade just a little bit?

Who Are You?

Seriously, pretend that right now all of your stuff went away.

You have to walk into a stripped home filled only with basic life needs (roof over your head, a kitchen with food and cooking supplies, and a bathroom).

You can pick 10 items to live with for the next week.

What do you choose?

(I’m interested in seeing people’s answers because I’d like to understand where you’re at. Would you please write your list of 10 items in the comments?)

The answer to that question is your starter packing list. Those are the things you grab and take on board for your life as a pirate ninja. Most things beyond that list will just be supplemental, if it fits.

…I know the only thing stopping me right now is the time it takes to go through my stuff, scan those photos and get rid of everything not on the list, finally. What encourages me to keep trying? Knowing that when I finally reach my goal, I could pack everything into my duffel bag and walk out the door in under an hour.

We’re pirate ninjas, and that means being able to start our next adventure as soon as it calls us. Could you leave (almost) everything behind, or is your stuff tying you down?

It’s a lot to think about, but it’s worth thinking about.

– Anne
Captain of the Pirate Ninjas





  1. Avatar

    My 10 Items:

    1. A thick notebook (no lines)
    2. A combo pen/pencil
    3. My kindle
    4. My laptop
    5. A guitar
    6. A piano
    7. An awesome hoodie
    8. My iPod
    9. My favourite mug
    10. My cell phone

    That…is basically what I use on a day-to-day basis, haha. And actually, I have had to live for periods of time with much of my stuff stored, which has caused me to get very good at keeping it to a minimum. My one weakness is books, which I have in such abundance and am too sentimental to get rid of, haha.

  2. Avatar

    Your idea to take photos of sentimental objects instead of saving them all is fantastic. I’ve been wondering what to do with these things.. I’m having troubles deciding what I need to take with me following this next summer so I can work abroad. When it comes down to it you don’t need much, just a few small things. It is so hard to let go!

    • Anne Dorko

      Jill, I’m so glad you liked that idea! It’s really helped me move on from a lot of items that I really didn’t need to hold on to. I still have a small box of the SUPER important stuff, but I had so much to sort through to get down to it.

      Trust me: The opportunity to get up and travel abroad far outweighs the need for holding onto a few extra items.

  3. Avatar

    If I had to narrow it down to eight items, I wasn’t sure quite how you’d count it, so I made two lists.
    1. The necklace my girlfriend gave me. 2. My phone. 3. My phone charger. 4. My medication. 5. Deodorant. 6. Toothbrush. (not toothpaste though because sensory issues, and baking soda counts as a food item, I think?) 7. My wallet. 8. Tennis shoes. 9. A pair of jeans. 10. A t-shirt.
    If I only had those items, I’d be able to deal. I think that’s a pretty good amount to downsize to? Then the other list, for if we’re counting differently, is basically just more clothing, if you count clothing for a week-ish as one item. /shrug


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