How To Prepare For Full Time Travel [Guide To Decluttering]

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So you’ve decided to do it; the BIG trip of a lifetime! Perhaps you’re going away for a year, or perhaps you want to travel indefinitely, regardless of how long you plan to travel – good for you!

You must be feeling excited and itching to get going. I know I had itchy feet for months before we packed our bags and left Australia for a life of travel.

That being said, it wouldn’t be honest to say I wasn’t stressed about it as well. Traveling full time can feel daunting, and having spent years of continuous travel on the road, I can tell you that it’s right to have trepidation, too.

Going on a big trip, or leaving to travel indefinitely, is not as simple as packing up and going. There are a lot of things to plan and prepare before you go.

The easy part; packing up your possessions! The hardest part; decluttering!

If you’re wondering how to prepare for a life of travel and how to declutter your things, then it’s about to get real for you…

How To Prepare For A Life Of Travel

girl writing on a moving box

We have relocated internationally ten times, so preparing and packing for long-term travel is a fine art for us.

It can be overwhelming and full of mixed emotions. You’re taking years of memories and boxing, donating, or selling them and you’re leaving everything behind for a life you are unsure of. Swapping certainty for surprises.

Hold onto the joy and excitement of that, rather than the fear and longing.

We become so attached to our possessions, we often lose sight of who we are without them.

When you strip down to just a few things, you can finally get to know yourself, without the clutter butting in. Here’s how to get started…

Note: If you are preparing for long-term travel with children, it is important you involve them in this process. It’s important they feel the adventure is theirs to own too and they understand the very valuable lesson that possessions should not be the focus of life’s journey.

We show you how to do that more in-depth in our family travel planning toolkit. Click for access!

1. Let go

We hadn’t even announced our road trip around Australia, and we were out in the garage throwing away piles of stuff.

Some things we laughed at, some things were a great trip down memory lane, and others brought a bit of angst and tears.

Boxes reminded us of our painful past and all the stupid mistakes we made.

With each toss, we learned that a lot of our possessions we keep as reminders of our past – good and bad.

It became easy to let go once we realized that it wasn’t the item itself we adored, but the memories it served. Every item we threw away, we said our thanks and gave our blessing to the past, “Thank you for the lessons. We wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for you.”

This helped us to let go and throw out or donate more. Of course, there will always be those sentimental items you can’t bring yourself to throw away.

Do keep a box of those items, but ask yourself if it’s the item or the memories they serve that you want to keep, and make a decision based on this.

2. Eliminate the back door

woman holding up educational workbooks

A few months ago, I made the decision to burn my teaching license. I didn’t want any doors for quitting and retreating to be left ajar. It was scary, yet liberating.

While I don’t want to advocate that you burn your qualifications, tell your boss to suck eggs, or shred your diploma – the concept still stands. In your mind, cut out any back doors that could have you turning around and returning to your old life.

Even though I burned my license, I held onto my teaching resources: boxes of books, posters, units of work, and lesson plans. I went through each file, pondering the hours I had spent researching, planning, teaching, worrying, and helping my students.

Teaching took me around the world. It’s hard to turn your back on those memories, but that chapter of my life is now over. 

I hated teaching in the end, but I loved my students and all they taught me.

The biggest hurdle was releasing the fear attached my 15 years of teaching wrapped up in the box. I had carried them around with me across five continents, terrified that if I did not have them for backup, I wouldn’t survive. I wanted to keep holding onto them just in case what we are doing didn’t work and I may need them again.

It’s difficult to give up the “just in case” and trust your chosen path is the right one. What was once my security was now holding me back.

I lovingly took my valuable teaching resources down to the local school for other teachers to use with their students.

No more books, no more lesson plans, no more back doors.

3. Detach yourself

woman sitting on duck beach watching sunrise
The freedom on non-attachement

There’s no doubt; you’ve been planning your long-term trip for a long time.

Don’t leave it to the last minute to reduce your possessions down to a backpack. You won’t give yourself enough time to adjust to the huge change.

Start detaching yourself and reducing your dependency on your stuff a few months away from your departure date.

Box up a few things and make yourself go without those extra handbags and shoes and books.

Ease yourself into it. Once you start giving up a few things, you’ll see that it’s easy, and you don’t think about them much.

4. Sort in stages

man surrounded by moving boxes

Some like to eat the frog first; others like to start with the small stuff and work up to the awful ones.

We ate the frog first by sorting through our possessions in the garage.

When you sort through your stuff, work through it one space at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself and don’t leave this to the last minute.

It’s huge amounts of stress you don’t need just before you embark on your trip of a lifetime.

Be strict with what you choose to keep and get rid of. It costs a lot of time and money to maintain your things.

What will it cost you to hold onto your items?

Many of my things had been sitting in boxes for 15 years. What is the point of that?

True, many hold precious memories, but what good are they to me in boxes? How are those boxes stuck in a garage holding those memories alive?

They aren’t, my heart is.

Every time I go through my boxes, I cull the insides by at least a third.

When you return to those boxes after 15 years, you’ll be baffled as to why you wanted to keep half the stuff.

I’m baffled now because I am very different to the person who first boxed them up.

5. Have four boxes and fill them in the following way


girls holding a cardboard sign

Be very strict with your decisions; ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to keep this?
  • What purpose does it serve?
  • How will it help me when I return?

We usually keep:

  • photos.
  • special mementos.
  • souvenirs or artifacts.
  • appliances and utensils.
  • furniture that can be stored at limited cost that we feel we’ll need and use upon return.
  • any good clothing that can be stored and will be used upon return.

Don’t hold onto anything that has bad energy attached to it.

On our clean out last week, we discovered boxes of books and materials that we were keeping that had a lot of bad energy attached to it. As soon as we opened it up the horrible memories came flooding back, and we felt sick.

Don’t box up sickness.

You’re choosing to start a new life, allow only goodness to flow through with you.


a cardboard sign in front of a toy

There is nothing like making a bit of extra cash to take on your trip with you.

  • What can you sell?
  • What are things you have of value, that are still in good condition, and you feel someone else could use?

Put it in the sell pile. You have a lot of work to do coming up with selling it, but it will be worthwhile as you’ll make a bit of extra cash. We’ve always pocketed an extra few hundred to thousands of dollars doing this.

$5 might not seem like much, but in Asia, it will give you a few beers. That makes you a happy rich traveller.

Once you have your sell pile, decide how you will sell them. You might like to have a garage sale, or sell them on sites like EBay, Craigslist, or Gumtree.


a woman holding a cardboard sign

Work out which of your possessions you feel you have outgrown and have no need for anymore.

Can they make a difference in someone else’s life?

Anything you feel you can’t sell, or can’t be bothered to sell, donate.

We usually sell the large stuff that will bring in a bit of cash, the smaller stuff that could only fetch us small amounts, we’d rather give away. It’s not worth the extra time.

Throw it in the donate box and then arrange to have it dropped off at your local second-hand store or the Salvation Army.


a man holding a cardboard sign

Then there are the things that are no good to anyone. Dump them. Make sure you follow the recycling guidelines as we want to be as kind to the environment as we can.

De-cluttering, culling and clearing the dust, this is the most liberating thing you can ever do. You don’t have to be travelling to make space for the things that matter. We recommend you do it frequently. At least yearly, if not every six months.

A good rule of thumb is if you have not used it in the last six months, or with the full seasonal cycle, then you do not need it. Decide to sell it, donate it, or trash it.

Clear your life of the clutter and give yourself more space to appreciate and enjoy the moment. That is where the lessons, the growth and the joy comes from.

Final Thoughts

woman taking a selfie

Here is to the open road and a backpack, my friends. I don’t think I’ve felt this happy and free in years.

I hope this guide helped you plan how to prepare for a life of travel and makes you feel prepared for the day you finally leave.

In the months leading to your departure, it’s all about decluttering, culling, and the clearing of the dust to get down to those bare essentials.

That’s the moment where it all starts to feel real, and at times, a little scary.

The honest truth is, when you live a life of travel you get used to owning memories rather than possessions.

It seems as soon as you get a permanent address, possessions arrive in waves.

When you leave for long-term travel, you can’t take much more than a backpack, and you’ll start to live your life much more minimalist.

You can always box up your things, return to it a year later, and decide if you want to declutter some more. Do it this way, and you’ll be amazed by how much you chuck out second time around!

Tell us how you plan to prepare and pack up for long-term travel? Are you planning to go minimal or do you have alternate seasons to think about? Let us know in the comments!

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