Kalli from Portable Professionals Shares Her Best Bag Organization Ideas

I’m Kalli. I travel with Jacob, my husband, and Ryder, our son. Jacob is from Missouri; I’m from Texas; and Ryder was born in Mexico City.

Portable Professionals
Mexico City in 2012

We have traveled for the last 10 years without a home base, until now. We currently live in Cape Town, South Africa, where I am studying music therapy at the University of Pretoria, Jacob is developing an app, and Ryder is attending German school.

What do I believe that others think is insane?

Every country is worth a visit. Even ones with dictators or human rights violations or inequality or racism or…not much to see. I see a lot of discussion whether or not to visit this or that country because of these or other factors, but look no further than your own neighborhood and you’ll find disturbing problems that need addressing.

How and why did you get into traveling?

I started because I was looking for a way to drop out of college for a while and a professor came to my class and said they were looking for people for the university’s German study abroad to Vienna.

Portable Professionals
Prater, Vienna in 2014

I took the bait and caught the travel bug almost accidentally that way. I loved living abroad so much–as first love often strikes deepest, Vienna is still my favorite European city– when I got back I began looking for English teaching jobs in China. Jacob and I got married, and all both of us wanted was to live abroad. I ended up getting a job at an international school that became blacklisted by the German government. In the meantime, with Jacob’s vision and intention and months of work, our online business was growing. So that when I left that job, we could continue our travels and eventually explore all seven continents.

How do you prepare for your adventures and travels?

I do a lot of daydreaming, researching, and mapping things out years before we actually go. When it’s actually time to go, I’m booking things last minute, arriving to the airport in the nick of time, and catching transportation by the seat of my pants.

Gym memberships are so worth it. But for a long time, I was doing dance games on my Kinect which was the heaviest item in our suitcase, and Bodyrock.

As a personal trainer, Jacob’s top priority always is access to a good gym, and when possible, a basketball court.

Recommended books: Sapiens, and Guns, Germs, and Steel for histories of the human race. The Sixth Extinction for an appreciation of what our planet has lost and is risking at human growth and expansion.

Recommended gear: I love my Taylor Swift baby acoustic guitar which can fit as a carry on on flights. It’s extremely light and though some sound is sacrificed it’s still quality

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Jacob recommends his Timbuk2 backpack for being the least stressful for his back.

You can never have too many vacuum bags from Walmart.

Luggage scale means the days of unpacking in the check-in line at the airport are over.

The JBL portable bluetooth speaker means we’ve stopped relying on poor quality laptop speakers to listen to music.

The Tumi portable charger can charge your laptop and four devices at once. It has plugins for all countries, it seems, but South Africa.

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Portable Professionals

Check out this cute Sakroots bag I received for Christmas with an extra charger inside.

Recommended travel planning: I like to use Momando to get an overall feel for flight prices. I receive daily newsletters from Flight Deal of the Day and Secret Flying. I enjoy Booking.com Genius privileges like late check out. I’m still involved in the Couchsurfing community. I enjoy the website travelindependent.info to give recommendations on must-see sights and misses on their country summary section.

How do you finance your travels?

The reason we’ve been able to do this is because of The Jump Manual, a vertical jump training program Jacob wrote for athletes, sold online. This later morphed into an ebook software program called MyEbookMaster, a CRM for home based businesses, and investing in rental properties in Utah and Florida.

Full time travel is actually less expensive than having a base and traveling, which is what we are doing now. Sometimes this means we end up paying double or even triple (if we are traveling separately) hotel costs, because we have an apartment we rent. We try to Airbnb it, but sometimes it doesn’t work out.

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Travel is at its most expensive when you don’t have an idea of the exchange rate and you book things too close to arrival. Planning in advance helps with costs, and so does scouring flight deals and using hostels to arrange tours.

I’m not sure what we’d be paying if we stayed in one place and didn’t travel. Jacob and I have traveled our whole marriage, and it’s hard to conceive of a time we might be settled and never leave at all!

Why is traveling important for you?

It’s something I feel compelled to do. At this point, I think it’s genetic. I’m wired for this. The song playing when I was born was “I Was Born Under a Wandering Star.” My dad works for an airline and I grew up flying standby. I wrote a blog a while ago entitled 26 Reasons Why I Travel. The reasons range from experiencing freedom, education, minimalism, excitement, the opening of perspectives, child-like spontaneity, rebirth, and connection to all of humanity. As the years have passed, I’ve decided that this can be achieved while also having a place where we can have some roots.

How do you bring your things with you?

A suitcase and a backpack per person. I never have enough room because I don’t like to throw things away. I like the duffel bag backpack type where I can always stuff Just One More Thing into it. Ryder, age 5, has traveled with a backpack in the past, but does better with a small suitcase he can drag. His backpack seems to get heavy for him but he doesn’t tire of pulling this:

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How do you organize things in your bags?

I have lots of little organizer bags which then get tossed into the main bag. A clothes bag, a makeup bag, a medicine bag, a jewelry bag, etc.

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How do your bags and gear hold up?

Our bags hold up until they don’t, and then we buy new ones. I love the waist bags from the store called Ska here in Cape Town. I keep my valuables in it because the crime syndicates here are very talented at pick pocketing. When the bags wear out, I pass them on and get a new design.

We sent our Samsonite suitcase in for repair to the shop we got it from in Vancouver. They fixed it, sent it back. We’ve had it with us since 2011. It even got misplaced by Air Asia in China for months, but we eventually got it back with everything intact. A worthwhile investment. It’s a bit beat up now but still going strong.

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Furthermore my parents’ garage is like a storehouse of suitcases. If one of ours wears out I can go pick ot a new one from there.

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

We started with too much. Left a suitcase full of stuff in the first town we lived in, Heiligenhaus, Germany. Like an iron, and shirts that require ironing.

Jacob invented these clothes bags. Mesh bags sewn together onto a hanger. Pull ‘em out of the suitcase straight to the closet.

Portable Professionals

There have been different times in life that required different items. At one point we had a converter and a blender. No longer. We have had baby beds, chairs, and other gear that is no longer required with a five year old.

What has been your best travel-related purchase below $100?

I love CookSmarts recipe planning service–I find it helpful to have it organized in advance when you don’t always have your familiar grocery store and meals to make every day. It also does have a nice range of cuisines from Korean to Mexican to Greek, that I’ve grown to enjoy experimenting with.

I also love shopping at Sephora for its wide range of travel sized beauty products.

As for other favorite gear, Jacob invented this chain and phone charger contraption. If you try to steal it, you’ll get a punch in the face. It’s already happened.

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What is your best advice for other travelers?

The places you hear the most about are often the ones that have been completely overdone and lost all character at this point. Consider your options. Consider destinations that don’t get visited. You can actually determine destinations based on annual tourist visits. Everyone talks about Bali and Thailand. If you go there, you may love it…you also risk believing that this is what travel is all about when the world is so much bigger…

You don’t have to go far to make life an adventure. Look up festivals, cultural events and activities in your home state or county.

Also, I’m increasingly aware of sustainability. What will effects will your travel have on the local population? We’re in Cape Town experiencing its worst draught in history, and Day Zero–the day the city will run out of water–is fast approaching. Never before have I thought so much about water consumption, and the fact that I’m a visitor using that precious resource makes me all the more aware of my privilege in both being able to come live here–and leave if things get too uncomfortable.

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What will the future bring?

Do people dream about gear? Oh yes, that’s right, I’m married to a techie. I know they do. I let him dream about the gear, and I dream about the travel. We’ll do some more African travel this year. We’ve just finished a trip to Benin, Togo, and Portugal. Hope to do the Garden route again, and end up at uShaka Marine World water park in Durban. Ryder and I did this a couple years ago, and it was so fun we want to do it again.

We intend, after I get my degree, to find a permanent home base closer to the US.

Visit Kalli Hiller and her family on their website and follow their travels on Facebook

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