What's in my Bag: Hand Luggage Only Edition

by - 3:00 PM


In November one of my travel dreams came true: I bought a ticket to Cuba. Nine days in the country of cigars, Che Guevara and classic cars; I could not be happier. My ticket and accommodation were not cheap though, and as I'd be staying at an all-inclusive hotel I'd also have to pay for day trips to Havana and the Yumuri Valley. instead of taking my usual (and usually cheaper) backpacking approach. Due to lack of time, I went with the all-inclusive option for once but still tried to keep it as low-budget as possible. This means that I didn't want to fork out another €50 just so I could bring a suitcase full of clothes I probably wasn't going to wear anyway. So I decided to take hand luggage only. Nine days on the other side of the world with only one little bag: here's how I managed it and what I took with me!

Maybe it was a little misleading to talk about a bag when I actually took a very small suitcase. I got this little guy from a friend of my dad's. Expert is the name of an electronics store in the Netherlands and my dad's friend owns the local branch. He had this suitcase just lying around in the back of his store and decided to give it to us (thank you once more, Robert!). Since then it's accompanied me to Rome, Vienna, Berlin, Ljubljana and Edinburgh. It's 45x35x15 cm, which means it's exactly small enough to take onto any plane from any airline as hand luggage. This time around I was lucky to have a weight limit of 10 kgs, which was amazing. I usually pack light, so the only thing I had to do was put everything in there like I was playing Tetris in 3D. Usually it barely takes me any effort to fit everything in, but this time Hand Luggage Tetris was very difficult, thanks to a swimming mask.


Yes, I bought myself one of those masks from Decathlon that make you look like a Teletubby. Normal masks don't work for me: I have quite chubby cheeks, which means the mask can't completely follow the lines of my otherwise small face. As a result, water always trickles in, which makes me panic. Apart from that, I'm pretty much blind without glasses and this mask made it possible for me to attach my old glasses to it with washi tape so I could actually see a fish or two. My bikini, also from Decathlon, actually matches the mask's shade of blue. Usually I don't care much about matching anything, but this made me very happy. It's the little things, you know.


With the mask taking up a lot of space, I positioned my shorts and shirts around it. I was left with smaller items like sock and underwear to fill up small open spaces in the suitcase that would otherwise go to waste. I'm not showing those because I'm pretty sure no one wants to see my socks and underwear - they're all boring. Same goes for my pajamas. Anyway, I picked three tank tops for this trip: one black, one white and one the color of rust. My beloved shorts with pugs on it made the cut, just like a grey shirt with an enormous E on it.
I had to use my (non-existent) fashion sense to pick shorts that I could easily wear with these tops. I chose a denim one which I've had forever and some short sweatpants. I also took my elephant shorts from Thailand with me. They're not as easy to combine as the others, but I love them and grab every chance I get to wear them.
I also added the pants I wore to Angkor Wat. They're perfect for warmer climates, but still cover enough of my legs to keep the sun from burning my legs to a crisp within minutes.
Now 2010 Envy would have crinkled her nose if she knew what I'd also packed: a little beach dress you might recognize from my Instagram feed. There was a time when I absolutely hated dresses, but now I love wearing them. This one is perfect to wear over my bikini when I'm on my way to the beach or the pool (or when other parts of me are burning to a crisp).


I wasn't sure I was going to go on runs during my visit, but I packed my running gear and put my running shoes on on the day of departure anyway. Better safe than sorry. I hadn't been able to wear the banana top I'd bought in Bangkok in ages, so I took it with me to Cuba. Those are all the clothes I took with me in my little suitcase. I use the clothes I wear on the day of departure as my wildcard: lots of layers and everything I could maaaaybe need. In this case, I wore ripped jeans, another little dress and a hoodie. Let me tell you, on the first two days in Cuba I was glad I had jeans and a hoodie to wear to dinner. It got cold really fast after sunset.


Clothing done, next up: toiletries! No fancy bags for me, I just took a ziplock with the essentials: toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen, shower gel and a sponge. I didn't pack soap, shampoo and towels because I assumed the hotel would provide those items (which it did). All of the fluids are 100ml products, the absolute maximum. The ziplock is also more or less necessary: I would have to unpack a fancy little bag at the airport because it's not transparent. Airport security problems.
My hairbrush wasn't inside the ziplock by the way: I don't like it when my toothbrush touches my hairbrush. Not at all.


I kept my electronics to a minimum as well: phone, camera and chargers. I carry my phone in the pocket of my jeans, so just its charger was in my suitcase. My camera is well-protected inside its own little bag, which my mom found at a thrift store. It's perfect: it's exactly the size of my camera and has plenty of storage space for my street art stickers, a spare lense cap and my business cards (hey, you never know who you're going to meet).


Of course I also took my blogging equipment and a book with me. When I say 'blogging equipment' I mean my two notebooks. Every post you see here on Lost in Translation is first written by hand, no internet involved. The biggest pro of this system is that I can write whenever and wherever I want. All I need is a pen or pencil, for which I have a small pencil case, which I got on last summer's Finnair flight - because no one wants to have pens, pencils, markers, erasers and washi tape wander all through their luggage during a trip.


Just this once I also took my favorite tote bag with me. Every time I visit a new country, I color it on my bag on the day of arrival. I'm completely in love with this bad and it's only made my travel addiction worse. I made Cuba red. Because communism. I'm so clever.

All these things were in the main compartment of the suitcase, but there's also a small front pocket. This is where I kept my flipflops and sandals, which you can see in my awkward outfit pictures. The book from the previous picture was also stored here, just like my diary, so I could easily reach them during the flight. I can't go anywhere without a book, but on trips like this one I usually take a cheap book from the thrift store. I wouldn't recommend the book in the picture by the way.
My diary and I are also inseparable. Keeping a diary has a calming effect on me. It's also a perfect place to keep my photo props. The little cards I use for my Instagram posts were in the envelope attached to the inside of the cover of my diary.

With these items and my Tetris skills, I managed to go to the other side of the world for nine days with hand luggage only. It's really not that difficult: pack the essentials, think about what you really can't live without, like I can't live without my blogging notebooks, and what you could buy at your destination, like soap for example. Good luck packing!

x Envy

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5 Fellow Ramblers

  1. Nice post! I love traveling light, there's less hassle at the airport, nothing goes missing and you save money. I went to London and Edinburgh both for 5 days and brought a carry on, it is the best decision ever as it was easy to bring around on the trams.
    Róisín
    totallyro.blogspot.ie

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  2. I’m such a light packer too! My mum always tells me the story that when I was younger she asked me to pack my own suitcase to Disney Land, and all I packed was a couple of tshirts and my diary. He he! So I agree with you that diaries and notebooks are essential items 😄. Great post Envy, really interesting to read 💕 xx

    Bexa | www.hellobexa.com

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  3. Yes girl follow your dreams!! It is definitely a goal of mine to just go out and explore the world but I pack way to much, literally I was very close to paying a fee because my luggage almost exceeded the weight limit.

    Samara // themarshallwardrobe.blogspot.com

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  4. I love "what's in my bag" types of posts and combined with traveling, this was a great read. I'd definitely do the same- use plastic bags for toothbrushes and toothpaste and all that. I've never had to pack super light though so I'm not sure if I'd be mentally satisfied with just one bag xD I'd constantly feel like I'm missing something...
    Kanra Khan

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  5. Travelling with a carry on is so much easier! You don't have to wait around for your bags when you arrive, and you also limit how much you actually buy overseas! When I go to Japan I am determined to take carry on only! This is a really good post :)

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