I've made it to what feels like the end of the world. I plonk my bag down and take a look around the place we’re staying. A broad horizon of sea is interrupted by a craggy outcrop of rocks and black sand that seems to stretch for miles.
I’ve reached the halfway point of a round-the-world: New Zealand - taking the Akra bag with me. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’m travelling with my partner Rene who is also using the Akra, so between us, we have two of these packs for a four-month trip. And that's it -- no other bags, no under-seat or check-in bags at all.
“I think this is the 17th place we’ve stayed so far,” Rene comments - not without a hint of disdain. My appetite for seeing so many different places means that we’ve been moving around a lot. Starting with 5 days in Lisbon, we flew across the Atlantic to Miami for a week before heading down to Mexico. We’ve been staying in a variety of hotels, Airbnb places, and with some friends in San Fransisco. Staying in 17 lodgings in a short period of time involves a lot of packing and re-packing, as you can imagine.
The bulk of this trip so far has been spent in Mexico - we spent two weeks there with my co-founder Felix. In that time we worked on the pre-launch for our Kickstarter campaign. It was a thrill to launch it together in Mexico City and hit our funding goal within 24 hours; the hard work had definitely paid off. Even though we can work remotely, there’s nothing like being together for moments like that.
After Mexico, we spent 10 days in California and now we find ourselves at a beach house a few miles outside Auckland, New Zealand. Which takes us halfway around the world, 12500 miles away from London. In total we’ll take 16 flights; the shortest was 50 minutes and the longest 14 hours. Each airport involves having to go through security, take out our laptops and liquids - and the Akra is turning out to be a great tool for the job.
Of course, travelling with two bags for four months has its challenges. The main one is having the discipline to take less stuff with you, or at least a lighter version. It means I bought the smallest hairbrush ever made, and we have to travel without a lot of the gadgets I enjoy at home. But on the other hand, I still managed space for a few luxuries like a Bluetooth speaker and my Lumix camera.
Personally, I think it’s quite liberating to have less stuff: knowing that everything we need for 4 months is contained in just two bags is a great feeling. I'm almost dreading going back home to see what I've been hoarding. But there was one guilty pleasure I couldn’t leave behind - my cafetiere. Annoyingly, I forgot that North America doesn’t really use kettles, so this has been dead-weight in my bag and I have thought of jettisoning it once or twice.
Then there’s the laundry. I think we can probably get by for a week to 10 days without doing any washing (Rene and I are roughly the same size and we are lucky to be able to share a lot of our clothes), but doing laundry is always a challenge. If we’re lucky, we are in an Airbnb or a friends’ place with a washing machine. But there was that time in Mexico City when the ‘lavandria’ ran out of the water and asked us to wait an extra day (making it 3 days) before returning our clothes. Or the time Rene’s trousers shrunk beyond usefulness because they were washed at too high a temperature.
On the other hand, going to a laundrette can be a way to meet locals; a very purposeful man (who I suspect had taken drugs) helped me out in Los Angeles by showing me how the machines worked. And there was the lady from Israel who had dressed the Bee Gees in the 1970s - she gave me advice on how long to dry my jeans for. “I’d love to visit London someday,” she said, wistfully. “All those castles...”
One hack I learned was to use the packing cubes (which are made to fit inside Akra) for storing specific things. It means instead of unpacking fully, you can just put the cubes in a wardrobe, knowing exactly where our pants/socks/t-shirts are. Packing the bags back is also made a lot easier this way because we can just compress everything into the cubes and put them back in the bag. Likewise, I am using the shoe bag for my dirty stuff, as it's a good way to keep things separate.
It doesn’t stop us from being messy though - I’m looking at the current “floordrobe” situation we have created next to our bed and let out a little sigh. Even the most organised bag can’t stop me being a messy guy at heart! It always seems to pay to unpack properly and not to be lazy.
And as it's time to pack up again, I end up procrastinating and check my phone for Facebook updates. The UK is absolutely covered in snow and the whole place has ground to a halt. I think I've probably made the right decision to leave for a few months!
Next stop, Sydney!
Don't forget to read the following journey.