The woman who travels the world with just a small purse

(CNN) — It’s been a year of chaos at the airport, and baggage handling issues have left many travelers struggling to reunite their bags.

Flying with hand luggage only is as desirable as ever. But for one traveler, even that isn’t minimalistic enough. She hits the road with only a small 12 liter shoulder bag.

Brooke Schoenman is an American woman living in Australia and the publisher of Her Packing List, a website she uses to pass on her wisdom when it comes to minimizing what to take along the way.

And that’s something she’s tested almost to the limit on the road.

Schoenman’s path to burden relief began when she studied in Italy before embarking on a postgraduate journey around the world. Along the way, she explored Guatemala and later worked as an English teacher in Ukraine before going down 13 years ago.

“I think I had a 55 liter backpack and a daypack that I wore on the front,” she tells CNN Travel of her first trip. “And that was me really trying to pack light. That was me thinking, ‘I don’t know how people do with a 30 liter bag.’

“I didn’t use all those extra things I had packed.”

As she gained experience as a traveler, she said packing light became more important to her.

“It was literally wearing things that started to wear me out. Every time” [I’d] walk across this airport or find my way to the bus, to the train, to the airport or whatever, I’d just say, ‘This sucks.'”

This realization was one of the reasons to start Her Packing List in 2010. The goal of the website is to help all travelers, especially women, pack and better plan their trips through packing guides and insider tips. The website gets its name from the checklists that Schoenman believes are an important tool in preparing for travel.

“Is that all you have?”

Brooke Schoenman has been refining her packaging techniques since she launched a blog on the subject.

Brooke Schoenman has been refining her packaging techniques since she launched a blog on the subject.

Brooke Schoenman

“Prepare for [a trip] was all you could do to bide your time before leaving,” she says. “So thinking about it and thinking about all the things you could take and pack, it was exciting.”

The website wasn’t always about minimalist packing, initially offering advice to travelers checking in luggage, but it has evolved over the years as Schoenman settled for less himself.

“When [I] When I first started the site, I wasn’t talking about packing carry-on all the time,” she says. “Valuable or fragile like an extra outfit and an extra pair of underwear, that sort of thing. And then I started packing lighter.” .”

Schoenman reached her peak in minimalist packaging in 2016 when she went on three weeks of international travel with just a 12-gallon handbag and a US itinerary that included Portland, Vegas, Chicago, San Francisco and three days on an Amtrak train.

“I got into the Uber on my way to the airport in Sydney,” she recalls. “The man said, ‘Where are you going? Which terminal?’ And I was like, ‘International.’ “Where’s your luggage? How long is your trip?” “Three weeks.” And he says, ‘And that’s all you’ve got?’ ‘Yes.'”

Schoenman says people are "shocked" to learn how minimal they can pack.

Schoenman says people are “shocked” to hear how minimal they can pack.

Brooke Schoenman

Her friends and family were also amused by her lack of luggage. “My mom laughed a little when she saw my bag and realized it was all my luggage.”

She stuffed the essentials into her laptop-sized handbag. This included a packing cube with clothes that could be worn in multiple ways, foldable shoes, a mini keyboard for her smartphone, and small containers of essential toiletries. She visited a wide variety of environments, so wardrobe planning was important.

“I traveled in April and I was completely taken aback when temperatures in Portland hit the 80s (20 degrees Celsius) on that trip,” she recalls.

“Luckily I had packed a wardrobe designed with layers in mind, so I had lighter pieces suitable for the warmer temperatures. It was also quite cold and windy when I visited Chicago on that trip. So layering was super important.”

‘Beautiful’ weightlessness


Schoenman demonstrates a minimal travel backpack.

Brooke Schoenman

Its light packaging also made transportation a breeze.

“I felt like I had a lot more mental bandwidth on this trip when traveling between destinations because I didn’t have to worry about my luggage or think carefully about what to carry due to my limited options.

“It’s nice to be able to leave the airport or the train and go straight out with all your luggage and not be weighed down in the process.”

It also helped when it came time to check out of her room.

“On my last day in Vegas, I checked out of my lodging and went shopping in the afternoon with all my luggage and belongings,” she says.

“Since I was only packing my messenger bag, this wasn’t uncomfortable or out of place. Also, it was great not having to worry about having to go back to my stored luggage before heading to the airport.”

Schoenman says it’s more important than ever to travel light now as airport operators struggle to maintain workforces following the pandemic.

“I just had someone tell me they were going on a trip and it would take eight weeks to get their bag back,” she says. “Their bag went all over the world in the opposite direction of where they were going.”

After receiving positive feedback from her blog post about her minimalist journey, she started giving seminars on how others can do the same.

“People are very shocked that they have been able to achieve what they have been able to achieve,” says Schoenman.

“I give them a framework, and then we focus on one area of ​​packing every week. I give them lessons and assignments and step by step.”

Maximize Minimize

Schnoenman says minimal packaging has in part to do with a state of mind.

Schnoenman says minimal packaging has in part to do with a state of mind.

Brooke Schoenman

Class graduates have shared photos with her about their own minimalist travels. But at its core, she says, the class and journey that inspired her aren’t about what to pack and what not to pack. It’s a mindset.

“A lot of it is just realizing your priorities and being comfortable with less, which is really hard for some people to deal with.

“I’ve had people come out of the classroom and then they’re going to sign up for clearing classes and stuff because their minds are ready. They’re like, what else can I minimize in my life?”

For those planning their own lightweight packing list for an upcoming trip, Schoenman says certain items are helpful, but not entirely necessary.

“Obviously, different types of packing cubes can be very useful, especially anything that can compress things so it’s easier to get into your small space.

“Another thing is just finding items that are the right size for your trip. Travel-sized toilet containers are often much larger than you need for your trip for many of the products you use.”

Today, Schoenman doesn’t travel every trip with just a handbag, but she still keeps it light with similarly sized backpacks, especially on frequent opal mining trips to the Australian outback.

“My max bag is a 26 liter bag. Really. That’s my high-end travel.”

(Top image: Image by Leah Abucayan, CNN. Photos courtesy of Getty and Brooke Schoenman)

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