How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (Plus: How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses)


The incredible Sony VAIO VGN-TXN27N laptop. This beauty is less than 2″ thick and weighs 2.8 lbs. If I add a few ounces of weight with the extended battery (on the right) and trick it out, I can get 15 hours of battery life. [Update: I now use a MacBook Air]

The name of the game in world travel is being “fashionably light.”

Practice in 30-plus countries has taught me that packing minimalism can be an art.

I returned from Costa Rica last Wednesday, and have since landed in Maui, where I’ll stay for one week. What did I pack and why? Check out the video…

I practice what I’ll label the BIT method of travel: Buy It There.

If you pack for every contingency — better bring the hiking books in case we go hiking, better bring an umbrella in case it rains, better bring dress shoes and slacks in case we go to a nice restaurant, etc. — carrying a mule-worthy load is inevitable. I’ve learned to instead allocate $50-200 per trip to a “settling fund,” which I use to buy needed items once they’re 100% needed. This includes cumbersome and hassle items like umbrellas and bottles of sunscreen that love to explode. Also, never buy if you can borrow. If you’re going on a bird watching trip in Costa Rica, you don’t need to bring binoculars — someone else will have them.

Here’s the Maui list, listed from top-to-bottom, left-to-right:


-1 featherweight Marmot Ion jacket (3 oz.!)

-1 breathable Coolibar long-sleeve shirt. This saved me in Panama.

-1 pair of polyester pants. Polyester is light, wrinkle-resistant, and dries quickly. Disco dancers and flashpackers dig it.

-1 Kensington laptop lock, also used to secure all bags to stationary objects.

-1 single Under Armour sock, used to store sunglasses

-2 nylon tanktops

-1 large MSR quick-dry microfiber towel, absorbs up to 7 times its weight in water

-1 Ziploc bag containing toothbrush, travel toothpaste, and disposable razor

-1 Fly Clear biometric travel card, which cuts down my airport wait time about 95%

-2 pairs of Exofficio lightweight underwear. Their tagline is “17 countries. 6 weeks. And one pair of underwear.” I think I’ll opt for two, considering they weigh about as much as a handful of Kleenex. One other nice side-effect of their weight: they’re much more comfortable than normal cotton underwear.

-2 pairs of shorts/swimsuits

-2 books: Lonely Planet Hawaii and The Entrepreneurial Imperative (the latter comes highly recommended. Check it out)

-1 sleeping mask and earplugs

-1 pair of Reef sandals. Best to get a pair with removable straps that go around the heel.

-1 Canon PowerShot SD300 digital camera with extra 2GB SD memory card. God, I love this camera more than words can describe. It is the best designed piece of electronics I have ever owned. I now use it not only for all of my photos and videos, but also as a replacement for my scanner. I’m considering testing the newer and cheaper SD1000.

-1 coffee harvesting hat to prevent my pale skin from burning off.

-1 Kiva keychain expandable duffel bag

-1 Chapstick, 1 Mag-Lite Solitaire flashlight, and 1 roll of athletic tape. The last is a lifesaver. It’s as useful as duct tape for repairing objects but gentle enough to use on injuries, which I am fond of inflicting on myself.

-1 Lewis and Clark flex lock (for luggage, lockers, zippers, or whatever I need to lock down/shut/together). Standard mini-padlocks are often too cumbersome to thread through holes on lockers, etc.

-1 Radio Shack kitchen timer, which I’ve been using to wake up for about five years. The problem with using a cell phone alarm to wake up is simple: the phone needs to be on, and even if you use vibrate, people can call and wake you up before you want to wake up. The second benefit to using a kitchen timer if that you know exactly how much sleep you are — or aren’t — getting, and you can experiment with things like caffeine power naps of different durations… but that’s another post 😉

What are your favorite must-pack items, multi-purpose tools, and lightweight winners?


How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses… and Videos from Costa Rica:

The secret to getting what you want is first asking for what you want, then negotiating if you don’t get it. The first part is the most neglected.

Most people never learn to ask for something properly, so they always get push-back and end up negotiating. I cover dealmaking and negotiating exhaustively in The 4-Hour Workweek, as well as in the bonus chapter,“How to Get $700,000 in Advertising for $10,000.” Let’s look at how to win the fight before it starts.

I wanted this trip to Maui, my first to Hawai’i, to be an experience of personal firsts.

Here are a few: driving a convertible sports car on the Hana Highway, flying in a helicopter, sleeping in a full-size treehouse, and scuba diving the back wall of Molokini crater. I fulfilled all of them in the first 72 hours.

How I got a Mustang turbo convertible for $278 (gas included) instead of $542 (gas not included):

I bought my plane ticket to Maui about 24 hours before I left, so I landed in luau land with no reservations of any kind. There was only one rental company, so I had to get my convertible from them. Here are the pointers that got me from $542 to $278:

1. The first representative at the desk wouldn’t play ball with discounts, so I told her that I need to take a phone call outside, took a 5-minute walk, and came back to test another rep. Choosing the person on the other side of the table — just like choosing a slot machine vs. playing slots well — is more important than negotiating technique.

2. People who get what they want, just like good negotiators or PR folk, are good conversationalists. Here’s what I said:

“Hey, man. How goes it? I’m so excited to be here. [After giving him my license and info] If you have any discounts I can use — AAA, student, magic elf, or anything at all — I’d really, really appreciate it. I’m on a budget, so whatever you can do would be awesome.”

Notice that I’m asking for what I want without asking at all. The result: $278 with gas included instead of $542 without gas.

How I got a sold-out luxury treehouse for free:

This one is even better. It’s the high tourist season in Maui. It’s so popular to drive from Kahalui to Hana for coastline and waterfalls that my local helicopter pilot said: “Thinking of staying over in Hana? Forget about it. You’ll never get a room.”

Well, I had thought about it, and I wanted nothing more than to stay in one of the famous full-size treehouses in the rain forest. Doing this in the high season is something like showing up for the last game of the World Series and asking for box seats at the door. So I called the treehouse gods and here’s how it went down:

Me: “Hi. I’m really, really hoping that you have vacancies for tonight. Please say yes.”

Goddess of the Treehouses: “Nope. Totally booked.”

Me: “Oh, no. My dream is crushed. Are you sure? Do you have anything at all? Even a dilapidated and unsafe one? [I pause while she first takes me seriously, then laughs] Hmmm… Is there anything at all I can do?”

Goddess: [long pause] “Well… how about a work trade?”

Me: “Sounds like fun. What do you mean?”

Goddess: “Moving some dirt.”

Me: “For sure! I love it. How long would it take?” [Note: I actually do love hard manual labor. It demands full attention, and the repetitive motion is like repeating a mantra. Call me crazy.]

Goddess: “About an hour.”

We talk for another 20 minutes, and she decides that she would feel guilty if she forced me to shovel while on vacation. I was secretly disappointed, but no matter: she and I met up at the treehouse, and after a trip to a small alcove beach together and much conversation, my stay ended up being free. Not only that, but I was adopted by a wild dog — the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen — who then played companion for the entire time. Dig it.

Be a joker when you can, be pitiful when needed, and learn to get a laugh as you field test the most valuable skill in the world: asking for what you want. If all else fails in Hawai’i, just tell them “Kama aina,” which means you’re a local. It should get you an automatic 15-20% off in most places. Don’t tell them I told you 😉

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Here are some clips from my recent trip to Costa Rica:

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361 Replies to “How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (Plus: How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses)”

  1. Thanks for the travel tips, I’m not sure if my wife is willing to jump on the minimalist wagon. But at least I’ll have more free hands to carry her excess luggage. We are flying out to Colorado Springs next weekend and I am certainly hoping to use some humor to upgrade our geo metroesque car to something more roomy!

  2. Hey Tim,

    I notice that one of your must-have items is Chapstick. My company makes a lip balm that uses 50% Emu Oil and no petroleum or chemicals. Emu Oil is an anti-inflammatory as well as a highly moisturizing ingredient, so it’s great for taking the sting out of bug bites, or a spot treatment if you burn yourself or get a scratch. That’s much more benefit, but in the same small package.

    Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll send you a bunch. It’s the least I can do for how much you’re book has impacted my life.



    1. I can see it now – the chapstick companies will come out with advertising kind of like the Chik-Fil-A fast food folks (you’ve no doubt seen the billboards with cows painting slogans encouraging you to eat more chicken & less beef). This one will be with emus encouraging folks to save the emus by using chapstick instead of emu oil products. (no argument on your claimed benefits – but the emus won’t buy it)

  3. Don’t think you got a Mustang Turbo, unless you are actually writing from 1984 or so. Actually Could have been a GT (with a V-8), though!

  4. Tim,

    On the note of cameras you should ditch the Canon Powershot and get the Samsung NV10 10 megapixel. I just received mine from Amazon a week ago. A dream to use and it’s small, sleak, but still durable. Very suitable for travel, and the menu system is a dream. I have my Canon EOS 30D for professional photos, although now I find myself simply using the Samsung because the convenience is awesome and the quality extraordinary.

    Keep the great posts coming,


  5. “she and I met up at the treehouse, and after a trip to a small alcove beach together and much conversation, my stay ended up being free.”

    Taking a trip to a small alcove beach with a lady sure is a way to get a free stay! 😉

  6. Since i usually travel to places where i like to go underwater, i always bring my small waterproof camera case made by pelican. my canon powershot sd600 (i agree, the BEST point and shoot ever made) fits nicely even with a small cellphone, ipod or keys. it protects things from getting crushed in luggage and from myself, as i’m usually pretty hard on my stuff. beaches, boats, and bars… they can be unforgiving on electronics 🙂

  7. Tim, ha ha, right on, LOVE the story on negotiating 🙂

    I just bought your book for MY landlord, who rents me the warehouse for my gym – he owns a gym, a supplement company and a hair product company –

    he spoke to me about his marketing, etc. and I said to him, “Dude, let me buy you this book, you’re gonna love it!”

    I saw him 2 days later and he can’t stop thanking me, he said after rdng. the first chapter he decided to bypass all middlemen and go straight to The Vitamin Shoppe.

    That’s what I call making an impact!

    Now, i still wanna hear about your gym in Thailand that was closed down by the Thai Mob!

    Come on, make that your next post and let’s see some surfing videos from hawaii!

    Next time you’re in NJ for a presentation, I’m gonna find my way to your “class” and become a Princeton student for the day 🙂

    Kick a** bruddah,


    –zach 🙂

  8. Hello Tim,

    Loved the book. Just finished it. I have already begun the low-information diet. (Except for RSS obviously)


    Your video code is showing…

    Not the videos.

  9. I can set the alarm on my Nokia 6030, at least, even when the phone is off. So it plays ‘Baby Got Back’ – yeah, I’m a bad person – until I hit a button, then asks ‘Turn phone on now?’

    Option Two: if it’s in silent mode it doesn’t ring for incoming but the alarm still works.

    Gotta love Nokia.

  10. Tim, I just wrote a blog post like this a few weeks ago, complete with photos of everything I packed laid out on my hotel room bed. Now granted, I wasn’t traveling the world, but I was gone for a whole week with just one carryon bag. Quite the feat for a woman, if I do say so myself! Keep up the great work!


  11. Tim, I saw your book on the Amazon bestsellers list, read your personal profile and bought it without even reading what the book was about…and you didn’t let me down- it’s by far the best book I’ve read this year…I’m down to checking email twice per week, finished a major project that I’ve put off all month, and am taking steps towards automation. So thank you.

    Great post, a few quick comments:

    What was the name of the treehouse that you stayed at?

    The Canon SD1000 is a great camera- it’s a high-quality 7.1 megapixels, and I got it brand new on eBay for $280. Highly recommended.

    Any plans on coming to Ontario/Canada for a presentation?

    I gotta know- you seem to travel on your own a lot…do you need some help finding a wife or what?



  12. Hi All,

    Greetings from Makena! I just saw my first grey reef shark this morning. Happy, happy Tim. I wanted to be a marine biologist for almost a decade.

    A few answers to your questions:

    1. I sometimes don’t bring iPods, etc. if I truly want to experience nature. I find that music is a convenient and tempting crutch for avoiding conversation and other more unique interactions with the outside world. When I unplug, I really like to unplug.

    2. Nokia phones do rock. IMHO, the best phones in the world.

    3. Thanks to all who commented that the Costa Rica videos weren’t displaying properly. I can’t seem to duplicate the error, as I’m using Firefox 2 on PC and can see them just fine. Are you using macs? Please let me know the details and I’ll do what I can.

    4. Help finding a wife? Sure. I’m always open to suggestions. Athletic and smart with a sense of humor, if you please 🙂

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  14. Tim, this type of technique can also be applied to hotels, if your staying in a typical city that you know is a busy business district. Hit them up for the best offer during the weekends they may well need the business. Don’t be afraid to play one hotel off against another, if your taking a walk in approach night Audit will often do a super deal before they close the books for the night, they can’t sell a room once the books a closed for the nights. The right hand is not talking to the left, call the central reservations desk get the best rate and then approach the desk and negotiate a better price using your technique as outlined in the Mustang example. Great work on the 4 hour workweek, have heard so much about it yet to pick up my own copy.

  15. Hi Tim,

    Well, I’m hooked. I want out of the rat race. I want to recapture the true meaning of life – I know it can’t be found in my grey cubicle walls. But I can see it in my kids’ eyes. They get that there is nothing better than playing hard all day long. And when they do stop and rest – it’s to look carefully at a small blade of grass, a lightning bug, stars in the sky. It’s awesome. Except…I’m working 10-12 hour days to keep us afloat, and I’m just barely doing it, and I barely have time to spend with them.

    So…what do you suggest for a single mom with 2 kids (3 and 2 yrs) who won’t be in school for a few more years?I was thinking of looking to my company’s parent company for an opp to move to Europe where they seem to have a slightly better grasp of work/life balance. I’m also thinking of selling the ranch house and getting an RV or a camper – something mobile so I can live life on the road, head to lots of great places (Grand Canyon, Beaches, Mountains, anywhere but the !#$%%^ grey cubicle walls) where I can just breathe. But there’s all these concerns – like health care, stability, making sure the kids don’t go hungry. Would appreciate your thoughts.

    I’m loving everything you’re sharing. Thank you so much for keeping the rest of us “sheep” in the loop.



  16. Hi Tim, yes using firefox on a mac. If you copy the web address from the code and paste it into another browser window it works fine. here are the addresses for those of you on macs

    Would be interesting to see what people pack when they are going to somewhere really cold…

    also if you roll your tshirts, pants etc you fit a lot more into smaller bag.

    Enjoy the reef sharks!

  17. Hey Tim!

    I love your how to pack video…now I know what to bring to Costa Rica when I go in September.

    A few months ago I purchased the SD-630 with the extra 2 gigs and it’s nothing but awesome.

    A great blog entry, as always 🙂


  18. I’ve never used a cell phone alarm that required the phone to be on. I’m actually using my Sony Ericsson phone to wake me up every Monday-Friday with the MacGyver theme song. It’s excellent! 🙂

  19. Hi All!

    Erica, thanks for the post and kind words. For a single mother, I recommend checking out some of the family groups at (just search “4hww”), and I also recommend checking out the awesome 4HWW for families blog at Check out the flow charts! Niiiiice.

    Dan, I agree. Micki is a hottie and smart to boot. I can say that because she’s the friend of a friend. How nuts that we both took photos of our luggage — weirdos belong together.

    Mahalo from Maui,


  20. Hey Tim –

    I developed the plugin you’re using to post the videos on your site, and I don’t see the videos either. Yes, I’m on a Mac, but I don’t think that’s the problem – there are other places on your site where I see the videos posted correctly (just search your site for “kml_flashembed” – they’ll appear on the search results page).

    The version of the plugin you’re using is not the most recent, and showed some of the issues you’re having. I suggest you try upgrading to the most recent version, Kimili Flash Embed, v. 1.3.1. It should take care of the problem for you.

    You can get it at

    Feel free to email me directly if you need any more help.

    Cheers –


  21. Don’t know about the Mag-lite, cant you get brighter, lighter, smaller, longer battery life out of an LED?

  22. The link “problem” others are reporting also occurs on IE7 running on Microsoft Vista. Not a biggie, as I can just copy and paste the link into a new browser window.

    I like the “idea” of minimal packing. But I am one of those people that has to pack for every eventuality, so an overnight trip to the beach requires me to fill up my vehicle with all my gear, running shoes, bikes, dog, dog crate, etc…

    Not so good…

    I think I’m going add fastpacking the Appalachian Trail (AT) to my dreamline. That’ll make me pack light!

  23. Tim, a quick thought on your blogging and productivity. It seems to me that a lot of your blog posts, like this one, are actually two posts in one (1 on your packing, the other on your vacation). Why not split them? You could have future posted the second part of this post for a couple of days time, and freed up more time for yourself by doing two posts for the price of one. Just a thought. And thanks for the book, great changes already underway 🙂

  24. What sort of hapless fool would carry a 90 pound Samsonite suitcase through the subway in Paris?? I swear it wasn’t me!

  25. My most fun trip ever was just out of high school, got my learners license and my dad and I rode 2-up on a 500cc Honda from Vancouver to Detroit. We washed our clothes in lakes then tied them on the back of the rack to air dry in about 15 minutes at 100km/h. We cooked our food in tinfoil packs strapped on the exhaust headers. Highly recommend the AEROSTITCH motorcycle suit for protection/convenience (met the inventor Andy Goldfine in Minnesota). The bike was only worth $500 so if it broke down we were just going to buy another one, but it made it there and back. Like Tim said, I love my music, but without it, I have to go find something else to do, which is the point of taking the trip. ~Victory

  26. Tim,

    Great article, love those microfiber towels they’re great aren’t they? I’d bring along a multi-tool like a leatherman or gerber, just have to make sure it goes in the checked luggage these days (which is really stupid, in my opinion, but anyway I digress).

    From your book, p. 198 talking about ‘how to look fortune 500’:

    “4. Do not provide home addresses. Do not use your home address or you will get visitors.”

    Ok, I’m really thinking that sounds like you learned that the hard way–there has GOT to be a good story behind that, come on, eh?? 😀



  27. Hi Tim. Your blog is one I always check for updates. Keep on posting!

    I am guilty as an overpacker…try as I might to pack light. With me, it’s the ol’ Boy Scout “Be Prepared” motto in action. So, your article gave me another perspective for being prepared. Reserving some funds to “buy as needed” is a great idea, because I usually never end up using what I pack to begin with. You know, the dress shoes in case I go out to a nice dinner, etc.

    I will also check out alot of the links from your packing list, because your items look really useful. In addition, someone posted about an MP3 player, and I would have to agree…definitely a necessity.

  28. For the record I only see code as well at work (IE6 on a PC) and at home (Safari on Mac).

    Sigh. Why do I have to be married? 😉

  29. A couple people have wondered why you don’t have a wife…I guess they forgot that you were traveling with as little baggage as possible


  30. Longtime friend and fellow GTD devotee told me about your book today, so I thought I would check out the site while I waited for the book to get here. Love it, but it is difficult not to see your experience as an anomaly. While it doesn’t seem all that difficult for a young, attractive, single man to pull off, it isn’t something I see as a potential reality as the married breadwinner of the family with 3 kids under 5, which takes some of the fun out of it for me. I’m thrilled for you though. I know I will enjoy the book.

  31. So I’m going to Switzerland tomorrow. I’m taking just a backpack and I’m going to sleep now so I won’t have more time than 25 minutes in the morning to pack all the stuff I’ll need:) I love how you advocate minimalism, it relates to everything, even music😉 Less is almost always much more.

  32. Hey Tim,

    great book and great travel tips! From your writings one gets a stronge sense that you are a person who knows how to focus on what goals are important and the fastest/cheapest/most economical/least stressful way to realize them. I would be interested to read a post based on your thought processes of how you accomplish your goals.

  33. Tim –

    Do you travel alone much? I always try to find a tag-along but it doesn’t always lead to the best travel mate.

    Any suggestions?

  34. I have my mom to thank for teaching me to travel light. When I was growing up she would often say, “Hey, do you wanna go to… [insert some place people always talk about going]?” She would tell me to grab a toothbrush and we would just wing it the entire time.

    I took my first trip out of the country this past March. I’m happy to say that I’ve seen Japan and Thailand. People thought I was crazy when I said that I was only taking 3 days worth of clothes.

    I can’t wait for my next trip. My plans are in motion. Not sure when I’ll come back exactly, but it will probably be to visit my family.

  35. My favorite must-haves for a long-term trip:

    –World Traveler medical kit from with sterile needles and sutres for peace of mind in fourth world countries. Also, a bottle of Cipro has come in quite handy once or twice.

    –A Defcon 1 bag alarm from Targus. This thing is great for sleeping comfortably knowing that if anyone touches your bag an alarm will sound.

    –Sony Vaio TR-3 laptop. Mine’s a few years old but was worth the risk of hauling around. It was so small, I used to carry it in my day bag a lot in safer countries.

    –Lonely Planet phrase books when learning the language would have taken way too long i.e. China.

  36. Wow, Tim…very good.

    This traveling light stuff is Gold, especially since my last traveling experience included me being accused by the ticketing agent that I had a larger suitcase than my girlfriend. I felt like I was in a Southwest Airlines commercial, “Wanna get away?”

    Also, one tidbit of info. When traveling, I use a sort of “travel insider” ID card that gets me to 1st class ticketing, security, I get upgraded for free (when available) and, as far as car rentals are concerned, entitles me to discounts and free upgrades.

    Let me know if that interests you.

    Anything I can do to help, my friend.

  37. Hi Tim,

    First off, I was born & raised on Maui so I hope you are enjoying your trip (are you still there?) and if you get a chance, try to get to the upcountry area. It’s so beautiful. Not all THAT much to see/do, but if you can find a local to give you a few tips, it’s really amazing – very different from the “touristy” beach areas. Always nice to get off the beaten path, right? I’d show you around myself, but I’m over on Oahu now, so if you happen to head this way, let me know! haha.

    Second, I have to say that your book really has changed my life. I think I’ve always identified with a lot of the things that you wrote about, but seeing it in print somehow gave me the courage to really take my first mini-retirement (at the ripe old age of 27!) I convinced a friend to do the same and we’re currently planning a round the world trip starting in Jan ’07. I loved that you recommended Vagabonding, it’s one of my favorite books for inspiration when it comes to long-term travel.

    So thank you for the inspiration, and good luck on your travels. Life is just too short to NOT follow your dreams when you have the chance. I’ve seen so many people open their minds to a fresh perspective after reading your book. I really think it’s long overdue. Kudos!


    Malia =)

    1. Hi I’m Lee! I was reading this blog, and getting ready to travel to Maui. It’s pretty much living the dream as I’m sure to be surfing every waking hour, if possible…but, I know I’m going there to work. I’ll be living in the upper country close to around Haiku through the WWOOF organization, which stands for world wide opportunities on organic farms. It just so happens I’m bringing my surfboard, bike, and stuff like that–I feel good about my mini-Maui vacation and enjoyed reading your comment/post, too!

  38. Hi All!

    You guys rock. I just finished a night of Maui mojitos with some brilliant folks under the stars. Life is good.

    I have to hit the sack, but here are a few responses (sorry I can’t hit them all!):

    -Michael Bester, your plug-in rocks, and I was thrilled to see you write in. I have someone working on the video issue right now, so please hold tight, folks. I’m on it.

    -Ben, splitting posts is a good idea. The reason I’m giving 2-for-1 is that I have so much I want to tell you guys! I have notebooks full of hundreds of topics and tricks I couldn’t get in the book. We’ll see…

    -The coffee harvester hat? Check out They might have them. Otherwise, any lightweight hat with a wide 360-degree rim and some form of holes for ventilation will work just dandy.

    -Kevin, I’ll put up something soon on my learning process. It will be specific to languages, but the principles can be applied anywhere.

    -Andrew, I do have a few great stories about getting home visits, but I’m saving that for a podcast or group call of some type. They’re much better when told live 😉

    Mahalo to all, and to all a good night,


  39. Thanks, Tim.

    It was very cool for me to find out you are using the plugin on this site – a nice surprise! It looks like your team has gotten it updated already and now all is well land of FHWW video posts.

  40. Tim – excellent post, thanks!

    I’m hugely curious – what bag do you put that all in? Laptop case or messenger bag?

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  42. Great blog but I’ve never heard of Ford making a Turbo Mustang? I think a gps unit would be hand to bring on your adventures!

  43. I’d also throw in the following as essentials:

    –REI 55 degree travel sleep sack. Not quite a traditional sleep sack, not quite a sleeping bag. Kind of a sleeping bag without the filling. Very useful on dirty beds or when the AC is cranked to subzero temperatures or when it’s just cold.

    –If bringing a backpack, I really think a PacSafe wire mesh pack lock and slash protector is worth it. Even though someone could cut through the wire, they’d have to have fairly strong wire cutters with them. Those extra minutes when they’re hacking through the wire could make the difference.

    In the end, it’s best not to attach to any material items too much including your $2,000 lightweight travel laptop. A good recovery plan is key if you get all your stuff stolen.

  44. Hello Tim,

    I couldn’t see the videos, but I can now. I am using Firefox on Ubuntu Linux 7.04 (Feisty Fawn). The problem seems to be fixed.

    Again, thanks for writing such a kick-ass book.

  45. I’m all for packing light, but if I’m going to Costa Rica to go bird watching, I’m not going to mooch off of someone else for binoculars.

  46. I’m also a language lover. I studied Thai for about 9 months before going to Thailand. However, 3 weeks of immersion in Thailand taught me far more than 9 months of self study. Luckily, I’ve learned a lot about effective language learning skills as a result. I look forward to learning some Portuguese in Brazil in my future adventures around the world.

    Knowing the local language, even a little bit, really helps make travel even more rewarding.

    I’d like to recommend a few resources for other travelers and language lovers, namely the FSI Language Courses. You’ll find them advertised all over the web for outrageous prices, but the material is in the “public domain”.

    The currently supported languages include: Amharic,

    Arabic, Cambodian, Cantonese, Chinese, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Lao, Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Yoruba.

    You can get 100% free access to these courses at this address. I have a private mirror of the site just to make sure the information remains available in the future.

    Another free resource is a program called jMemorize. It’s a , “free open-source Java application that manages your learning processes by using flashcards and the famous Leitner system.” It will work on any OS that supports the Java Runtime Environment. You can find jMemorize at this address or at this address. Oh, it’s also small enough to carry on a flash drive.

    I have extensive linguistics resources that I’ve collected, including numerous sites which provide hard to find fonts. Anybody that needs a little help is free to contact me. Eventually I’ll get a language blog going, but my semi-permanent move out of the US is more of a priority.

  47. Nice Article.

    Just one point, I find that on a lot of phones (certainly my most recent motorola and old nokia) the alarm functions even if you turn it off, so you can use it to wake up without risking being woken early by calls.

  48. Tim: I’m glad you liked Carl Schramm’s book, The Entrepreneurial Imperative. I’m with the Kauffman Foundation – we’d love to talk to you! Please get in touch with me via email.

    Congratulations on the success of your book!

  49. Great stuff – I’m a big fan of travelling light and am often the only one in the group with only hand luggage (waiting for everyone else to collect theirs from the conveyor is a tad tedious though :D).

    I would pack a head torch too as they are just as small and can also be used hand held but make doing anything in the dark so much easier.

  50. Matthew,

    I too studied Thai (in Chiang Mai) for a few weeks and, due to my spending several hours a day on it, was able to converse fairly well over the 3 months I was in the country.

    As for Brazilian Portuguese, I can tell you alot about that because I’ve studied it for over two years now. It’s one of my great passions. I first studied it at a school in Rio for a few months but it was only after I returned back to the US that I really began to focus on it like I have with no other langauge before.

    To be sure, the FSI course is good, especially for pronunciation which many gringoes have a tough time with. But despite it’s 12 tapes, it won’t make you fluent by any measure. It’s very short on vocabulary expansion due to its attempts to explain the difficult concepts of the language, mainly verbs. The hardest part of Portuguese (or most of the other Romance languages) are the verbs and their assorted tenses and endings.

    To really develop a massive vocabulary, I use SuperMemory ( which I feel is simply the best system (even better than the Leitner). It was written by a guy in Poland and makes learning a large amount of vocabulary as painless as possible. Basically, you create your own collections as you would a flash card with words and phrases and then the program does the work of asking you the question. You provide some basic feedback and the program automatically knows when to ask you the question again. As you know, continual repitition is the only way to make anything really stick. I use SuperMemo everyday for nouns, verbs in all conjugations, and phrases from a very good Brazilian Portuguese phrase book called “How To Say Anything in Portuguese” by Ron Martinez.

    I also do translation from news stories and articles I find on the web. I have this cool program called Babylon ( that has a dictionary and machine translation feature that will translate any text by simply highlighting it. Translation is super important if you want to develop true fluency.

    Last (sorry for the long post), I take a class every week in San Francisco near where I live and try to speak with native Brazilians as much as I can. I think going to the actual country is important if you want to develop true fluency, but sometimes it can keep you making bad mistakes over and over until you have to unlearn them. When you need to speak a language to survive, you have to say whatever you know to get the job done and this is very often not the correct way to say it. Mastering a lot of the basic grammatical structures and words will take you a long way once you finally do visit the country.


    Other Tim

  51. Hi.

    All in all, great tips. One suggestion I’m going to counter is your pitch to just borrow someone’s binoculars if you go on a birding trip – don’t go assuming that you’ll be able to. You may be able to borrow or rent a pair from the guide/company leading the trip, but assuming that another birder on the trip will lend you theirs is obnoxious. A lot of birders go to places like Costa Rica and bring their $1100 binos, and they’re not going to be willing to lend them out to someone in your situation – I certainly wouldn’t; after all, if I lend mine to you, what the hell am I supposed to use? Someone might have a spare pair, but then you’re stuck with an 8×32 pair of binos and you won’t see much.

  52. Hello Mr. Ferris.

    I have the utmost respect and admiration for your life and work.

    However, I have an important question to ask you that’s not covered in the book.

    I’m currently a sophomore at the UW and I’m wondering what’s a good major to go into. My mom tells me i should choose a major that isn’t very popular among other students so that it’s easy to get to the 1% who makes 99% of the money. What is your opinion on this one?

    I’m grateful for your time and instruction. Thanks for your fastest reply!


    Longfei Jiang.

  53. If you’re going on a bird watching trip in Costa Rica, you don’t need to bring binoculars — someone else will have them.

    Wouldn’t it be fun if everybody going bird watching to Costa Rica read this and acted on your tip? I will, when I go there next time. 🙂 I like your “BIT method of travel”.

  54. Hi All!

    Longfei, I recommend you major in what interests you most. Don’t worry about the job that will follow. When in doubt, I recommend either a science or English. Both will help you develop clear and concise thinking, which is number one and can later be applied to anything. Writing is just thought on paper.

    To all the birdwatchers… I’m sorry!

    I didn’t realize my recommendation to borrow binoculars would set off such civil unrest 😉 Replace “binoculars” with “sunscreen” and you’re all set. I only used the first example because on wildlife tours I’ve taken in Panama, Costa Rica, and Brazil, we usually only spot two or three highlight birds on a 3-4-hr. tour, and asking to take a 10-second peek hasn’t bothered anyone thus far. I’m not advocating you hog someone’s $1,000 camera on their trip of a lifetime while they miss great opportunities. I’m just saying: borrow instead of buy when it won’t cause grief for others. M’kay? I should have made that clear — my apologies.

    Have a great weekend! There are some great opportunities coming next week…

    Pura vida,


  55. I don’t mean the following to be antagonistic, but: What kind of roach infested, flea bag motels are you staying in that you need to bring your own towel?

  56. Great advice on packing light, Tim. I also swear by the solid tips at, Doug Dyment’s excellent resource for those dedicated to using carry-on luggage only. Includes sections on What To Pack, What To Pack It In and How To Pack It.

  57. Tim,

    What’s up! I just recently started reading your book and your website. I find your ideas and perspective very interesting. I live on Maui and if you are still here on July 16th, hit me up! Keep up the goodness.



  58. A month ago I relocated back to South Korea after leaving 6 years ago. I love living in Asia. Using my personal philosophy of “Possess Less Exist More”, I eliminated all my possessions to fit into one suitcase. Mind you this is for a 1 year relocation, but my top 5 must-haves:

    1. VOIP phone router

    2. copy of the Four-hour Work Week

    3. Sony Cybershot Camcorder

    4. Laptop (similar to Tim’s setup)

    5. All my music conveniently stored on a 300GB external hard drive.

  59. Eh, I think borrowing binoculars–or anything else that you would only use once or twice for a limited amount of time– is fine. Offer to buy anyone willing to share dinner or drinks or something in return. Good way to break the ice with other travelers, IMO, and not a big huge deal.

  60. Shana said Tim’s lifestyle “isn’t a potential reality as the married breadwinner of the family with 3 kids under 5.” Here’s how our family manages to do it.

    1. Home school your kids. This allows us to travel without pulling our kids out of school or waiting for summer break. The biggest misconception about home schooling is the kids don’t get socialized. Quite the opposite. Our kids go to many daily activites with other kids. Plus, they get to be with kids from other countries when we travel.

    2. Use schools in other lands for playmates…and a little learning. A private school in Buenos Aires cost us about $100 US a month and gave our oldest daughter a bunch of instant friends. She’d spend six hours a day learning Spanish and playing with her pals while Mom and I explored the city.

    3. Use a VOIP phone. It allows people to call me on my local number and it rings anywhere I am. My clients have no idea I am answering in Buenos Aires, not San Diego. I have used Vonage for years.

    Good luck on your life change. It’s possible and wonderful.


  61. Great post! I found the jacket particularly amazing, especially when you rolled it up into a tiny ball 🙂

    I’m almost done with your book, and I have to say it’s arrived at a very strange time in my life. I’m studying to take the Philippine bar exam, which is in a couple of months. The Low-Info diet has helped me focus, but the rest of the book has upended a lot of my priorities.

    I’m still trying to sense of it all right now. But I guess it’d be better to finish the whole book first. 😀

  62. Hi All!

    Michael Davis, thanks so much for the brilliant suggestions for family 4HWW.

    Adam, I don’t go to flea bag hotels! LOL… I brought the towel for snorkeling, boat trips, camping, sleeping on the beach, etc. If I stay at a hotel — like I did at — I’ll just use their plush towels 🙂

    Have a great Sunday,


  63. I came across your blog while looking for travel tips. I have to admit, I’ve been on your site all day checking out your book and videos. I think your book hits that chord that all recent college graduates want to hear. We don’t want to do things the old way. We want to work to live, not live to work, and you’ve obviously found a way to do it. Kudos!

  64. On a 6 week road trip to Alaska right now & with the iPhone didn’t even need a laptop 🙂 love the tip on the towel, haven’t seen one of those.

    Thanks for the book, love the 5 things to do in the next 6 months, don’t usually have blocks, but have been wanting to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the last 10 years & kept not going because I didn’t want to get hit in the face (which I suppose is pretty reasonable for a girl), but when I did the no limitations exercise earlier tonight realized it’s time to go. Already let my buddies at the local MMA gym know and I’m training as soon as I get back from Denali.