How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (Plus: How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses)


The incredible Sony VAIO VGN-TXN27N laptop. This beauty is less than 2″ thick and weighs 2.8 lbs. If I add a few ounces of weight with the extended battery (on the right) and trick it out, I can get 15 hours of battery life. [Update: I now use a MacBook Air]

The name of the game in world travel is being “fashionably light.”

Practice in 30-plus countries has taught me that packing minimalism can be an art.

I returned from Costa Rica last Wednesday, and have since landed in Maui, where I’ll stay for one week. What did I pack and why? Check out the video…

I practice what I’ll label the BIT method of travel: Buy It There.

If you pack for every contingency — better bring the hiking books in case we go hiking, better bring an umbrella in case it rains, better bring dress shoes and slacks in case we go to a nice restaurant, etc. — carrying a mule-worthy load is inevitable. I’ve learned to instead allocate $50-200 per trip to a “settling fund,” which I use to buy needed items once they’re 100% needed. This includes cumbersome and hassle items like umbrellas and bottles of sunscreen that love to explode. Also, never buy if you can borrow. If you’re going on a bird watching trip in Costa Rica, you don’t need to bring binoculars — someone else will have them.

Here’s the Maui list, listed from top-to-bottom, left-to-right:


-1 featherweight Marmot Ion jacket (3 oz.!)
-1 breathable Coolibar long-sleeve shirt. This saved me in Panama.
-1 pair of polyester pants. Polyester is light, wrinkle-resistant, and dries quickly. Disco dancers and flashpackers dig it.
-1 Kensington laptop lock, also used to secure all bags to stationary objects.
-1 single Under Armour sock, used to store sunglasses
-2 nylon tanktops
-1 large MSR quick-dry microfiber towel, absorbs up to 7 times its weight in water
-1 Ziploc bag containing toothbrush, travel toothpaste, and disposable razor
-1 Fly Clear biometric travel card, which cuts down my airport wait time about 95%
-2 pairs of Exofficio lightweight underwear. Their tagline is “17 countries. 6 weeks. And one pair of underwear.” I think I’ll opt for two, considering they weigh about as much as a handful of Kleenex. One other nice side-effect of their weight: they’re much more comfortable than normal cotton underwear.
-2 pairs of shorts/swimsuits
-2 books: Lonely Planet Hawaii and The Entrepreneurial Imperative (the latter comes highly recommended. Check it out)
-1 sleeping mask and earplugs
-1 pair of Reef sandals. Best to get a pair with removable straps that go around the heel.
-1 Canon PowerShot SD300 digital camera with extra 2GB SD memory card. God, I love this camera more than words can describe. It is the best designed piece of electronics I have ever owned. I now use it not only for all of my photos and videos, but also as a replacement for my scanner. I’m considering testing the newer and cheaper SD1000.
-1 coffee harvesting hat to prevent my pale skin from burning off.
-1 Kiva keychain expandable duffel bag
-1 Chapstick, 1 Mag-Lite Solitaire flashlight, and 1 roll of athletic tape. The last is a lifesaver. It’s as useful as duct tape for repairing objects but gentle enough to use on injuries, which I am fond of inflicting on myself.
-1 Lewis and Clark flex lock (for luggage, lockers, zippers, or whatever I need to lock down/shut/together). Standard mini-padlocks are often too cumbersome to thread through holes on lockers, etc.
-1 Radio Shack kitchen timer, which I’ve been using to wake up for about five years. The problem with using a cell phone alarm to wake up is simple: the phone needs to be on, and even if you use vibrate, people can call and wake you up before you want to wake up. The second benefit to using a kitchen timer if that you know exactly how much sleep you are — or aren’t — getting, and you can experiment with things like caffeine power naps of different durations… but that’s another post ;)

What are your favorite must-pack items, multi-purpose tools, and lightweight winners?


How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses… and Videos from Costa Rica:

The secret to getting what you want is first asking for what you want, then negotiating if you don’t get it. The first part is the most neglected.

Most people never learn to ask for something properly, so they always get push-back and end up negotiating. I cover dealmaking and negotiating exhaustively in The 4-Hour Workweek, as well as in the bonus chapter,“How to Get $700,000 in Advertising for $10,000.” Let’s look at how to win the fight before it starts.

I wanted this trip to Maui, my first to Hawai’i, to be an experience of personal firsts.

Here are a few: driving a convertible sports car on the Hana Highway, flying in a helicopter, sleeping in a full-size treehouse, and scuba diving the back wall of Molokini crater. I fulfilled all of them in the first 72 hours.

How I got a Mustang turbo convertible for $278 (gas included) instead of $542 (gas not included):

I bought my plane ticket to Maui about 24 hours before I left, so I landed in luau land with no reservations of any kind. There was only one rental company, so I had to get my convertible from them. Here are the pointers that got me from $542 to $278:

1. The first representative at the desk wouldn’t play ball with discounts, so I told her that I need to take a phone call outside, took a 5-minute walk, and came back to test another rep. Choosing the person on the other side of the table — just like choosing a slot machine vs. playing slots well — is more important than negotiating technique.

2. People who get what they want, just like good negotiators or PR folk, are good conversationalists. Here’s what I said:

“Hey, man. How goes it? I’m so excited to be here. [After giving him my license and info] If you have any discounts I can use — AAA, student, magic elf, or anything at all — I’d really, really appreciate it. I’m on a budget, so whatever you can do would be awesome.”

Notice that I’m asking for what I want without asking at all. The result: $278 with gas included instead of $542 without gas.

How I got a sold-out luxury treehouse for free:

This one is even better. It’s the high tourist season in Maui. It’s so popular to drive from Kahalui to Hana for coastline and waterfalls that my local helicopter pilot said: “Thinking of staying over in Hana? Forget about it. You’ll never get a room.”

Well, I had thought about it, and I wanted nothing more than to stay in one of the famous full-size treehouses in the rain forest. Doing this in the high season is something like showing up for the last game of the World Series and asking for box seats at the door. So I called the treehouse gods and here’s how it went down:

Me: “Hi. I’m really, really hoping that you have vacancies for tonight. Please say yes.”
Goddess of the Treehouses: “Nope. Totally booked.”
Me: “Oh, no. My dream is crushed. Are you sure? Do you have anything at all? Even a dilapidated and unsafe one? [I pause while she first takes me seriously, then laughs] Hmmm… Is there anything at all I can do?”
Goddess: [long pause] “Well… how about a work trade?”
Me: “Sounds like fun. What do you mean?”
Goddess: “Moving some dirt.”
Me: “For sure! I love it. How long would it take?” [Note: I actually do love hard manual labor. It demands full attention, and the repetitive motion is like repeating a mantra. Call me crazy.]
Goddess: “About an hour.”

We talk for another 20 minutes, and she decides that she would feel guilty if she forced me to shovel while on vacation. I was secretly disappointed, but no matter: she and I met up at the treehouse, and after a trip to a small alcove beach together and much conversation, my stay ended up being free. Not only that, but I was adopted by a wild dog — the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen — who then played companion for the entire time. Dig it.

Be a joker when you can, be pitiful when needed, and learn to get a laugh as you field test the most valuable skill in the world: asking for what you want. If all else fails in Hawai’i, just tell them “Kama aina,” which means you’re a local. It should get you an automatic 15-20% off in most places. Don’t tell them I told you ;)

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Here are some clips from my recent trip to Costa Rica:

Posted on: July 11, 2007.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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339 comments on “How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (Plus: How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses)

  1. Thanks for the travel tips, I’m not sure if my wife is willing to jump on the minimalist wagon. But at least I’ll have more free hands to carry her excess luggage. We are flying out to Colorado Springs next weekend and I am certainly hoping to use some humor to upgrade our geo metroesque car to something more roomy!


  2. Hey Tim,

    I notice that one of your must-have items is Chapstick. My company makes a lip balm that uses 50% Emu Oil and no petroleum or chemicals. Emu Oil is an anti-inflammatory as well as a highly moisturizing ingredient, so it’s great for taking the sting out of bug bites, or a spot treatment if you burn yourself or get a scratch. That’s much more benefit, but in the same small package.

    Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll send you a bunch. It’s the least I can do for how much you’re book has impacted my life.




    • I can see it now – the chapstick companies will come out with advertising kind of like the Chik-Fil-A fast food folks (you’ve no doubt seen the billboards with cows painting slogans encouraging you to eat more chicken & less beef). This one will be with emus encouraging folks to save the emus by using chapstick instead of emu oil products. (no argument on your claimed benefits – but the emus won’t buy it)


  3. Don’t think you got a Mustang Turbo, unless you are actually writing from 1984 or so. Actually Could have been a GT (with a V-8), though!


  4. Tim,

    On the note of cameras you should ditch the Canon Powershot and get the Samsung NV10 10 megapixel. I just received mine from Amazon a week ago. A dream to use and it’s small, sleak, but still durable. Very suitable for travel, and the menu system is a dream. I have my Canon EOS 30D for professional photos, although now I find myself simply using the Samsung because the convenience is awesome and the quality extraordinary.

    Keep the great posts coming,


  5. “she and I met up at the treehouse, and after a trip to a small alcove beach together and much conversation, my stay ended up being free.”

    Taking a trip to a small alcove beach with a lady sure is a way to get a free stay! ;)


  6. Since i usually travel to places where i like to go underwater, i always bring my small waterproof camera case made by pelican. my canon powershot sd600 (i agree, the BEST point and shoot ever made) fits nicely even with a small cellphone, ipod or keys. it protects things from getting crushed in luggage and from myself, as i’m usually pretty hard on my stuff. beaches, boats, and bars… they can be unforgiving on electronics :)


  7. Tim, ha ha, right on, LOVE the story on negotiating :)

    I just bought your book for MY landlord, who rents me the warehouse for my gym – he owns a gym, a supplement company and a hair product company –

    he spoke to me about his marketing, etc. and I said to him, “Dude, let me buy you this book, you’re gonna love it!”

    I saw him 2 days later and he can’t stop thanking me, he said after rdng. the first chapter he decided to bypass all middlemen and go straight to The Vitamin Shoppe.

    That’s what I call making an impact!

    Now, i still wanna hear about your gym in Thailand that was closed down by the Thai Mob!

    Come on, make that your next post and let’s see some surfing videos from hawaii!

    Next time you’re in NJ for a presentation, I’m gonna find my way to your “class” and become a Princeton student for the day :)

    Kick a** bruddah,


    –zach :)


  8. Hello Tim,

    Loved the book. Just finished it. I have already begun the low-information diet. (Except for RSS obviously)


    Your video code is showing…

    Not the videos.


  9. I can set the alarm on my Nokia 6030, at least, even when the phone is off. So it plays ‘Baby Got Back’ – yeah, I’m a bad person – until I hit a button, then asks ‘Turn phone on now?’

    Option Two: if it’s in silent mode it doesn’t ring for incoming but the alarm still works.

    Gotta love Nokia.


  10. Tim, I just wrote a blog post like this a few weeks ago, complete with photos of everything I packed laid out on my hotel room bed. Now granted, I wasn’t traveling the world, but I was gone for a whole week with just one carryon bag. Quite the feat for a woman, if I do say so myself! Keep up the great work!


  11. Tim, I saw your book on the Amazon bestsellers list, read your personal profile and bought it without even reading what the book was about…and you didn’t let me down- it’s by far the best book I’ve read this year…I’m down to checking email twice per week, finished a major project that I’ve put off all month, and am taking steps towards automation. So thank you.

    Great post, a few quick comments:

    What was the name of the treehouse that you stayed at?

    The Canon SD1000 is a great camera- it’s a high-quality 7.1 megapixels, and I got it brand new on eBay for $280. Highly recommended.

    Any plans on coming to Ontario/Canada for a presentation?

    I gotta know- you seem to travel on your own a lot…do you need some help finding a wife or what?




  12. Hi All,

    Greetings from Makena! I just saw my first grey reef shark this morning. Happy, happy Tim. I wanted to be a marine biologist for almost a decade.

    A few answers to your questions:

    1. I sometimes don’t bring iPods, etc. if I truly want to experience nature. I find that music is a convenient and tempting crutch for avoiding conversation and other more unique interactions with the outside world. When I unplug, I really like to unplug.

    2. Nokia phones do rock. IMHO, the best phones in the world.

    3. Thanks to all who commented that the Costa Rica videos weren’t displaying properly. I can’t seem to duplicate the error, as I’m using Firefox 2 on PC and can see them just fine. Are you using macs? Please let me know the details and I’ll do what I can.

    4. Help finding a wife? Sure. I’m always open to suggestions. Athletic and smart with a sense of humor, if you please :)

    Liked by 1 person