Seven months into the pandemic, I think we can agree that COVID-19 has completely rocked everyone’s world. Staying healthy, working (or looking for work), and finding creative ways to spend time with loved ones are some of the challenges we are all facing, but everyone seems to have their unique challenges, too. For example, my fiancé Matt and I have been spending more time together than should be legally allowed, and we have not been back to our 650-square-foot NYC apartment since March 7 (read: we are paying for an extremely expensive storage unit until our lease is up in December. And yes, we tried to break our lease). Since then we’ve lived temporarily in several places and in the process, have become expert nomads.
How Our Nomad Lifestyle Began
In early March I headed to Charleston, S.C., for a week-long work trip. Shortly after, NY Gov. Cuomo announced the shelter-in-place orders, and instead of returning to to NYC—then the U.S. COVID-19 epicenter—Matt and I ended up staying at my parents’ vacant two-bedroom condo in Sunset Beach, N.C., until the end of June. This meant I had one week’s worth of clothing, a few essentials, a developing wine addiction, and a whole lot of shopping in my future.
Like pretty much everyone, adjusting to this new “lifestyle” of staying at home was tough. And as a former fashion editor, the thought of so few clothing options was disturbing. I have accumulated a lot of “things” and love them dearly.
Some may say I’m a hoarder. I like to think I have options.
After about a month of living in denial that we were going to be there for a long time, I finally started to figure out what we needed to normalize our lives in our home away from home. Walmart, being the closest and only open store nearby, became my BFF.
We started to build up on the essentials necessary to feel settled, but once COVID-19 cases started to spike in North Carolina, we knew we would want to relocate. We packed up what we accumulated over the past 3.5 months and started to figure out our next move.
Next Stops and Some Realizations
It wasn't just the fact that NYC was an epicenter for coronavirus that kept us away; it was our small apartment. As a lifestyle writer I need to focus and have minimal distractions, whereas Matt is a director of sales who is on the phone all day long, making it nearly impossible to hear my own thoughts.
This combo just wasn't going to work for us—that is, if we wanted to make it to our wedding day, which of course was postponed.
Since returning to our apartment wasn't an option for our work-from-home situation, we headed to my parents in New Jersey. Then on to Maine (for an unplanned four months), with short trips to Boston, Cape Cod, and Upstate New York sprinkled throughout.
In the process of all this traveling, we became professional packers.
I’ve learned that I can live with much less than before, creating a modified wardrobe is key, and investing in lifestyle items that benefit our travels are, ahem, way more important and beneficial than the newest designer handbag. Here are some of the lifestyle essentials that have carried us from North Carolina to all over the Northeast and will continue to help us on our travels until we can relocate when our lease ends.
01 of 06
Long Road Trips
Hard Cooler Definitely among the most expensive items that we’ve been traveling with, but worth it. This cooler is great for storing food and for putting drinks out when we had friends over, socially distanced, so no one had to go inside to get a beverage. It also doubles as a seat when you’re on the beach. SHOP YETI: Tundra 45 Hard Cooler, $299.99
- Portable Charger Car chargers are handy, but having a portable charger that you can easily move around with is much better, especially if you’re in the backseat, and those charger cords are so short. SHOP OTTERBOX: Power Bank, $34.96
- Reusable Water Bottle This one ensures that we stay hydrated, without causing any waste in the car from disposable bottles. SHOP HYDROFLASK: 40oz Wide Mouth Water Bottle, $49.95
- Sunglasses Because no one wants to be squinting in the car during long drives. These glasses are polarized, ultra-light weight, anti-reflective, and enhance your view by saturating the colors you see. The lenses eliminate 100% of UVA/UVB radiation, protecting your eyes against strain caused by glare, reflection, and distortion. SHOP MAHO: Tulum Sunglasses, $125
- Pillow The passenger might be napping, and if you don't have a pillow you’re bound to kill your neck. This compact, small pillow from Casper is comfy and easily packs into a small bag. SHOP CASPER: Nap Pillow, $35
- Protein Bars Satisfy your snack cravings and dodge fast food with 14 to 15 grams of protein per bar. SHOP RX BARS: Layered Protein Bars, prices vary
02 of 06
For Transporting Personal Belongings
When traveling for a long period of time in a car, using soft bags instead of hard case luggage is helpful in creating more space in your trunk. Having duffles and small pouches designated for different categories will help you keep everything organized when you’re living out of your car.
- Belt Bag Trying to stay active while being in quarantine, I needed a bag that I could use to take on long walks and bike rides and easily carry my wallet, mask and phone. It has adjustable straps and folds up to nothing when you’re not using it, making it easy to travel with. Plus, the company is donating 10% of the proceeds from belt bag purchases to the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program. SHOP PARAVEL: Fold-Up Belt Bag, $35
- Divided Toiletry Bag With two compartments, you can use one side of this see-through case for cosmetics and the other for face creams and serums. SHOP TDE: Clear Travel Case, $90
- Big Dufflebag This large duffle bag is lightweight, folds down under my bed when I’m not using it, and holds a TON of clothing. It’s washable which is clutch since it gets thrown around so often. SHOP DAGNE DOVER: Landon XL Carryall, $215
- Small Dufflebag When traveling often and living out of your car, you need multiple duffles. This one is smaller than the Dagne Dover, so it’s good for shorter trips and is unisex so both my fiancé and I can use it. It has a ton of pockets inside to stay organized and has straps that pull-out to convert it to a backpack which makes it easy to carry. SHOP CARAA: Remus 2, $350
- Large Tote I purchased this BC (Before COVID), and it has been my favorite tote for two years. It’s super chic, lightweight, fits a TON, doubles as a beach bag, and when we’re “settled” in one place, I also use it as our laundry bag because it doesn't hold odors. SHOPBOP: Naghedi St. Barths Large Tote, $275
03 of 06
For a Restful Sleep
There’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed, and when that’s not possible, you want to make your accommodations as comfy as you can. These items are easy to pack and will make you feel more comfortable when trying to catch some zzz’s.
- Silk Pillowcase A silk pillowcase is great for your skin and easy to travel with. It’s perfect for your keeping your hair smooth and the silk creates less friction on your skin which can reduce stretching and tugging on your facial skin, which makes your sleep feel a little bit more luxurious. SHOP SLIP: Silk Pillowcase, $89
- White Noise Machine If your father-in-law sounds like he’s dancing around making bacon at 4am in the kitchen above your bedroom, like mine does, you’re probably going to want a noise machine to help you stay asleep. SHOP SNOOZ: White Noise Machine, $80
- Cozy Bed Linens Softer than your favorite worn in tee, these sustainable sheets fold into a pouch for easy travel and will transform any bed you lay in into a sleep oasis. SHOP PACT: Favorite Tee Sheet Set, $160-$200
- Loungewear The design and color makes this buttery jumpsuit feel dressier than sweats, which means if you’re on the go you can toss a jacket over it and look like you’re wearing a legitimate outfit, but really you’re still wearing your pajamas. SHOP COMMANDO: Butter Tank Lounge Jumpsuit, $188
04 of 06
Sticking to some kind of fitness routine will not only help you physically, but also mentally. Streaming workouts, like Lindsey Harrod's daily live (free!) Instagram classes or the Kayla Itsines SWEAT app, and traveling with minimal equipment has helped me stick to a healthy routine.
- Yoga Mat A yoga mat allows you to workout anywhere—indoors, outdoors, by the beach—and it folds down so it doesn't take up a ton of space. SHOP LULULEMON: Carry Onwards Travel Yoga Mat, $88
Continue to 5 of 6 below.
- Resistance Bands These bands are small and mighty. They weigh next to nothing, are compact, and come in varying resistances to give you a serious workout. SHOP TONE IT UP: Booty Bands, $9.99
- Apple Watch I’ve never liked the look of any fitness watch, but this watch does so many cool things. What keeps me motivated are the fitness goals you can set for yourself and challenges you can play with friends. It’s easy to not move a lot during quarantine, and closing your circles will become a game, in return making you more active. SHOP APPLE: Apple Watch, starting at $199
- Hoodie Slim, sleek and super-cute, this athletic hooded jacket blocks the chill during an early morning or late night workout and doesn't take up much space in your bags. SHOP KARI TRAA: Julie Hood, $90
- Sports Bra This perfect sports bra/crop top is great for HIIT workouts, long walks, bike rides and even comfy enough for long car rides. I’ve even gone as far as wearing it as a shirt with high waisted shorts and an oversized chambray shirt. SHOP SPANX: Look At Me Now Seamless Crop Top, $55
05 of 06
For the Beach
Since we’ve been traveling throughout the summer, we’ve been trying to spend as much time at the beach as possible. If you’ve ever packed up for the beach you know that two people can somehow accumulate enough for a family of four after you’ve packed games, chairs, umbrellas, etc. We had to cut down on our beach packing and have narrowed our needs down to essentials. The Yeti cooler is also great for the beach as it doubles as seating.
- Outdoor Wireless Speaker Waterproof, sandproof, and packing a whole lot of sound, this small and mighty speaker comes everywhere with us so we can listen to tunes. SHOP ULTIMATE EARS: Wonderboom Wireless Speaker, $100
- Chair Having a comfortable and functional beach chair was a must. With four positions, backpack straps, and a compartment in the back for essentials, this is the best beach chair for traveling. SHOP AMAZON: RIO Beach Chair, $55.99
- Beach Towel This lightweight towel isn't bulky, dries quickly and can double as a sarong. SHOP SERENA & LILY: Capri Fauta Beach Towel, $48
- Tumblers Because who wants their beverage to get cold on the beach, and the screw top ensures you don't spill anything. SHOP ORCA COOLERS: Vino 12-Ounce Tumblers, $25
- Baseball Cap Because when you haven’t washed your hair in days and you’re in the sun, a baseball cap is your BFF. SHOP MADEWELL: Canvas Baseball Cap, $19.99
06 of 06
Traveling With a Pet
We don't have pets, but we did luckily have two close friends quarantine and then safely drive to visit us in NC with their mid-sized, energetic pup, Lloyd. So I quickly learned that dogs have essentials they need for long trips, too!
- Dog Bed This durable and easy-to-clean dog bed is cozy and has a removable travel pad so your pup is always comfortable. SHOP YETI: Trailhead Dog Bed, $299
- Collapsible Water Bowl This water bowl easily folds up and clips onto your bags for easy access when your furry friend is thirsty. SHOP MAX BONE: Rubber Dog Bowl, $25
- Waterproof Collar If your dog is going to be in the water or dirt, you want to make sure they’re equipped with an easy-to-clean collar that is waterproof, dirt and odor resistant SHOP WILD ONE: Collar, $38