Florida with No Baggage

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As I window shop in the beach town of Hollywood Florida, I’m being eyeballed left right and centre. What? What is it? Is it the sweat dripping from my brow in this 100+ degree weather? Is it my gait? Or is it the over-filled black vest donned over my beach dress, making me look like a suicide bomber in search of a tan?

Regardless of what my hostile onlookers are actually thinking, this is me in the process of spectacularly failing the No Baggage Challenge in Florida.

This post was originally published in 2011. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 

How it all Started

Preparing for the No Baggage Challenge is a breeze. It is actually fun to go through my purse and finally eliminate the dead weight that I’d been too lazy to sift through. Even packing the Women’s Essential Travel Jacket is fun as I discover the 18 pockets and figure out where everything should go, packing for my week-long trip in as minimalist a way as possible.

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Getting There

But as soon as I leave the house, I feel bulky. I can barely zip up the jacket for all the things crammed into the pockets, and I resemble a beer-belly-laden-pregnant-woman once I do (no really! Watch the video below for a laugh). Somewhat unrealistically – I had taken on the No Baggage Challenge, thinking that one little jacket could actually harbour an entire week’s worth of stuff.

So as I weave my way through the airport and to my final Floridian destination donning a vest (thank goodness the sleeves zip off the jacket for hot weather travel) packed to the gills, my mind is flooded with images of anything from an old-school photographer on safari loaded with filters and rolls of film, to a terrorist with a bomb strapped to my chest, to an overzealous fisherman with lures hanging from every crevice. Although I’m convinced that I’m the laughing stock of onlookers, I realize my mind is probably in paranoid overdrive.

No Baggage in Florida: The Professional Hobo at the airport with her Scottevest for the No Baggage Challenge

No Baggage in Florida

Despite initial concerns about airport security, the act of Flying with No Baggage is a relative breeze. And once I arrive at my friend’s place, I eagerly unload all the things from my jacket that I don’t require on a daily basis: toiletries, USB charger, passport, tickets, bathing suit, change of underwear, etc. I also strip off the extra layer of clothing I wore on the plane (ingeniously coordinated so I would have an outfit to wear while I washed the other). Whew – my load is considerably lightened.

But my camera is a real stumbling block. Although it’s not big, it’s also not small, and it’s a staunch requirement for a traveling writer. Despite the thoughtful design of the Women’s Essential Travel Jacket to minimize bulky appearances, the camera doesn’t gracefully fit into any pocket without being obvious and weighty.
Florida with no baggage is starting to get complicated.

The Heat

If I weren’t going to hot-sunny-Florida, I would also have use of the pocket in my long-sleeved Q-zip. Already at this early stage of my participation in the NoBaggageChallenge, I’ve realized that I have no (functional) pockets in any of my clothing. Then again, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen summery women’s clothing with practical pockets.

Fashion vs Function

My biggest battle with no baggage in Florida is that of fashion versus function. Not only am I relegated to wearing the jacket everywhere (converted to a vest of course) for lack of having any other pockets or bags, but I realize that this vest doesn’t actually go with anything I’ve worn. I’m just not a vest person to begin with, and my poor choice of wardrobe for this trip accentuates this fashion faux pas.

No baggage challenge in Florida, with a hot bulky vest

And in fashion-consciousSouth Florida, I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. I still can’t tell if the suspicious looks I get from onlookers are real or imagined.

Ultimate Failure

Eventually I crack. Between the oppressive Florida summer heat and my insecurity about being stared at, I just can’t bear to put on the bulky hot vest on my way to the beach for the afternoon and a nice dinner in the evening.

So, with my head hanging in shame, I borrow my friend’s purse.

Want to see what I mean? Check out this video, which is worth the 800 or so words in this post!

Email subscribers, click here to watch the video.

My Fault, Not Scottevest’s

Although nobody paid (or even lightly coerced) me into saying this, I feel the need to take on the majority of the blame for my No Baggage Challenge failure. Despite 18 pockets in the travel jacket I have, it’s not magic! No jacket can easily carry a week’s worth of stuff, and without any other pockets to work with, some people (heck, let’s get serious – everybody!) would argue that I was doomed before I began.

I’ve taken this failure to heart though, and this isn’t my only attempt at No Baggage travel! My next trip is toQuebec Cityfor a week, and I’ll be applying some of the lessons I’ve learned on this trip. (And hopefully, it won’t be tropically hot either). Stay tuned!

(Editor’s Note: I received a free Scottevest Women’s Essential Travel Jacket as the impetus and inspiration for doing the No Baggage Challenge). 

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16 thoughts on “Florida with No Baggage”

  1. I could never, ever live with only 2 outfits and no handbags…and don’t get me started on shoes! LOL

  2. lol, that video was awesome! You did try your best…I would have cracked on the first day and gone shopping for clothes and shoes!
    Thankfully, the locals didn’t accuse you of having a bomb vest, so all’s well that ends well.
    The 3 days of the AC not working probably didn’t help your outlook on the heat…:)

  3. @Kate – I’m thankful it was only for one week! But realistically, I could have lasted longer if I had to (minus the heat). The outfits were well put together, allowing for multiple combinations.

    @Miki – Yes, the 3 days of no AC were probably the tipping point for me. Just recording that bit about hitting the beach required 2 liters of water to get through! 🙂

    @Jasmine – And really….I’m not sure cracking and using a purse was a total failure. I still made it down there and back without “cheating”! But grabbing a purse that night did come with its fair share of guilt!

  4. I dunno, I think, like a lot of things, the design/ idea works for what it was originally intended to–men. Women have more dips and bumps, and fitting stuff around them without looking lumpy or odd is tougher.

    Also, I always forget handbags and stuff, so pretty much all my skirts/ trousers have pockets. They’re just more convenient. Then again, I’m not exactly a fashion plate…

  5. @j. – I’ll be writing in a future post about some of the challenges I experienced as a woman with the No Baggage Challenge; including not being used to using pockets all the time.

    I’ll give Scottevest points for trying to design gear that flatters women, but yes, when I look at this video and some of the pictures, I feel (especially with that bulky camera in my pocket) a bit like a beached whale! There’s no feminine “curvy-ness” to be had with full pockets, that’s for sure.

    I think the Women’s Trench by Scottevest might be a great compromise for the woman’s figure. And as much as I covet this coat, it’s just not practical for a full-time traveler carrying everything I own just about everywhere I go. I need a little more versatility and a little less material! 🙂

  6. I’m traveling for 10 weeks with no purse in warm and cold climates. I love the pockets in my clothing. I have awesome convertible pants (zippers to turn them into shorts) with cargo pockets on each leg. I usually put my slim camera on one leg and wallet on the other. In the cooler climates, I also have use of 3 pockets in my jackets. For a night out in a dress, I cheat and use my husband’s pockets!

  7. @HalfEmpty – I’ve considered fashioning special pockets for the insides of some of my clothes for extra storage and sleek protection against pickpockets. Its on my long list of “one of these days” tasks!

    And if only my camera were slim enough…but I haven’t found a slim one that has the versatility and quality I need – yet.

  8. @Nora – Pockets on the inside of your clothes seems a bit impractical. If you weren’t pleased with the bulges in your vest, surely those in your clothes would be worse. Also, how would you discreetly get to the contents of the pockets inside your clothes?

  9. @HalfEmpty – Good point. I guess I think of those inside pockets as ’emergency’ pockets, to thwart the efforts of pickpocketers or the ease of loss. But not everything can go into those pockets either. Guess I’m just a “purse gal” through and through! 🙂

  10. To be perfectly honest, I think you handled things admirably…and being a person who can’t stand heat and humidity, I totally understand the fashion vs function challenge…chin up, I think the task was done and it’s time to face new adventures 🙂

  11. OK, I’m REALLY late to this post! But I’m so pleased to see this because I watched Rolf do the No Baggage Challenge and I really though about the pros and cons of doing it, especially for a woman. I don’t think the ScotteVest clothing is very flattering on most women (it wasn’t on me, anyway) and if I wasn’t going to bring that kind of jacket on a trip, bringing it for the pockets just isn’t a good option from my point of view.
    I don’t think anyone has brought this up, but wouldn’t you have been better off just bringing the small purse from your original video as your “luggage”? You could’ve easily fit everything in there and just worn Florida appropriate clothing, and then you would have had an everyday purse while you were away too. That would be my dream minimalist luggage… maybe one day…
    Adding extra pockets to your inner clothes isn’t as helpful because you would have to empty those out at security, unless they were in another removable layer like a top. I don’t like pockets on my top half though – I’m too curvy to want to use breast pockets. I also would have felt very uncomfortable sitting in that loaded jacket on the plane, at the airport, etc and I would have been nervous to leave it over the back of a chair if I was out and about.
    I love love LOVE that you did this experiment though! and I don’t think you failed. I’m excited to see how your 2nd trip went.

    • Hi Joanna,
      Better late than never! Glad you found this post, and that you feel the same way as I do.
      Yes, a small purse would have been ideal, but the “rules” were that I couldn’t have any baggage.
      Even since this trip, I tried out a pair of pants that also has special pockets, and again, I found the same thing – pockets and a woman’s figure don’t go well. At least for me they don’t.
      I also like to know where everything is; everything has its place – it’s the only way I can travel full-time and not lose things! But not enough women’s clothing has pockets to consistently give me the ability to put everything in the same place. So when I do have pockets, I never know what to put in them, and I keep “losing” things in my pockets!
      Meh. I’ll stick to the purse.

      I will say however, that the No Baggage Challenge helped me to reduce my belongings by making me realize that I just don’t need that much stuff. Since then, I’ve reduced everything I own to carry-on sized luggage only.

      • I know what you mean about inconsistent pocketing in women’s clothing – I lose things in my pockets too! And I have had things fall out of pockets – I thought I had lost my camera on one trip – we drove all the way back to the place we had just left and searched everywhere, but it had fallen out of my pocket in the car and fallen down the side of my seat.

        I guess these challenges are meant to push too far so that you can settle on a reasonable middle ground, something that might be a lot more extreme than you imagined you could do. I’m impressed that you’ve been able to minimize so much, when you already seemed pretty minimal.

        I wish more people would open their minds and at least work towards a challenge rather than dismissing it out of hand. I see so many people respond to challenges with a flat out “I could never do that” and only some of them have a valid reason (like needing to carry medications, insulin, etc).

        I would have still considered this challenge something of a success if I had loaded my jacket up and decided that traveling with a purse was more reasonable (although I get why you couldn’t do that) because I would have never thought I could travel with only a purse.

        I’ll have to look around your blog/videos and see what you’re carrying these days. I have an unhealthy fascination with people’s baggage! 😀

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