The Bottom of the Suitcases Revealed!

We love hearing from you, our readers. I respond to the blog comments, although you have to revisit them to see my replies. And Michael follows up on the emails, where, if you’ve left a comment or question you’re sure to get an answer.

A follower named Kitty recently wrote to our email at at asking “What do we pack besides clothes and toiletries?” Now, that is a question worth unpacking! Michael and I don’t always see each others responses so after he asked my thoughts on this topic I couldn’t wait to see what he decided to list as our “must haves” - or at least what we seem to haul around with us wherever we go. I will share the list with you in a bit.


Meanwhile, I’ll quickly recap what we’ve “packed” into the 8 weeks since arriving in Seattle. About six months ago Michael read that citizens over the age of 60 could audit classes at the University of Washington for free. He confirmed that was true, and with the same zeal he uses when searching for the perfect Airbnb he started a “wish list” of classes he might like to take. He encouraged me to do the same.

Once we arrived in Seattle we set about registering for classes. I was sort of riding his coat-tails on this, but hadn’t committed - I was thinking I wanted to learn to scuba dive, and I also thought I’d like to work part time over the holidays. I wasn’t sure about the “back to school” idea.

And if I did decide to do it, I also wasn’t sure I wanted to attend classes at University with over 40,000 students. It turned out there was a perfect compromise. Seattle Pacific University, just two miles from where we are staying also offers opportunities for seniors. It is a private Christian College with a beautiful campus serving just 4,000 students.

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I chose an Introduction to Sociology class and Michael chose an SPU course called War, Peace and World Order. He also decided to take at the UW class as well called Water Security in the Middle East. Our classes at SPU are at the same time on Tuesdays and Thursdays so we bus to campus and then have a pleasant walk home. Michael has classes on Mondays and Wednesdays on the UW campus, which is one of the most beautiful places to see fall color in Seattle.

We’ve both had a lot reading and homework to do - mine being a little more fun perhaps. Poor Michael has twice as much work and is littering the floor of the office with books and notes and print-outs as he dives into some meaty issues - but he’s loving every minute. It’s definitely a different sort of lifestyle. As you know, we spend most every minute together when we are on the road, and now we are off to our own classes and then in separate corners of the house doing homework and studying for mid-terms. At least we’re “roommates”!

It’s also fun to be surrounded by young people again. Last year at this very same time we were in San Francisco being “Senior Interns” at Airbnb Headquarters where the average age of the employees is 28. This year we are surrounded by students who are even younger! Both experiences have been amazing for us.

We’ve enjoyed catching up with friends and family - including throwing a party we called “A Celebration of Marriage” for our 40th Anniversary. We gathered all of our favorite married folk together for a tribute to the State of Matrimony. It was a great evening.

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And, I did get a part-time job! I start tomorrow at a brand new Michael’s Craft Store. I owned my own graphic design agency for over 25 years but this is my first ever retail job! I will do my best to help people avoid glitter-gel disasters, and inspire their holiday decorating ambitions - but if my customer wants to buy a giant inflatable Nativity scene and thousands of LED lights that dance to Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas Hits who am I to judge?

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Michael and I also jumped in to help elect newcomer Dr. Kim Schrier as the first Democratic member of Congress in Washington’s 8th District. She will be the first and only woman physician in the House of Representatives. It felt good to participate in our precious democracy.

Now, back to the list of what lurks in the corners of our suitcases. Often we ask ourselves what’s in there that makes them so heavy? Sometimes it feels like that we are hauling bags full of rocks. Having said that, I did happen to pack a ten pound sack of beautiful, smooth beach rocks I picked up in the South of France to paint with the grandchildren. I still haven’t heard the end of that from “you know who!”


I am sure some of you will have a laugh at our list - and will point us to the many articles out there on packing light. But in our defense, these things have kept us comfortable in eighty countries, and countless stranger’s homes for over five years.

The email:

Hi! I’m very interested to know what you are carrying around for months at a time. Besides clothes and toiletries, what are you carrying with you? Thanks, Kitty P.

The response:

Kitty - Thanks for your email and your question. We have never made a list but I enjoyed putting this together after dinner tonight here in Valencia, Spain.

In addition to clothes and a minimum of toiletries we travel with:

Two Kindles

Two laptops

One iPad

Two iPhones, plus one extra in case we lose one.

One Skyroam hotspot

One Bluetooth speaker

Three sets of Apple ear-buds

One Leatherman multi-tool device

Charging cables for all the above plus some universal adapters to make sure we can plug everything in wherever we are.

Assorted office supplies: pens, pencils and a pencil sharpener, scotch tape, mini stapler, paper clips and rubber bands

Notepads, journals and travel documents

Our medical paperwork and copies of passports

Two large canvas shopping bags

Travel Scrabble

Travel Backgammon

Two decks of cards

A set of dominoes

Sketching supplies for Debbie (small watercolor set, brushes, pencils and pad)

Kitchen items: Debbie’s 3 small Henckels knives she couldn’t do without, a wooden spatula, salt and pepper self-grinders, tea, instant coffee, snacks, local spices, and if we are traveling by train or bus w/o weight issues, olive oil and Dijon mustard.

Our prescription medications for a year (2 for me, 2 for Deb)

An assortment of personal care items including, bandages, pills, potions, and lotions

Various books that come and go (same with Debbie’s reading glasses)

Our bed pillows from home and two sets of pillowcases

Two pairs of shoes for me.

Three pairs of shoes for Debbie + waterproof slip-ons

Usually a few candles and a fire starter.

A Small umbrella

A bit of jewelry and scarves for Debbie to dress up her wardrobe

And, no doubt a few other things I can't remember right now :)

With warm regards,


If he looked deep into my suitcase and carry-on I suppose he might have mentioned that I hoard maps and brochures from places we’ve visited, but once I’ve written about them I try and toss them.

I have become a make-up minimalist, but I do have a few lipsticks, an eyebrow pencil and a bronzer, and contrary to what I said earlier, I do still have a small bag of pretty stones and a few shells that give me peace.


Now that the first quarter is winding down, and the holidays are on the horizon we are thinking about 2019 and what that holds for us. More school? Perhaps work for both of us. Or? Just last night we started thinking about hitting the road again. What about going back to Morocco? And before you knew it, Michael said if we were that close we should visit Tunisia since we haven’t been there. Egypt anyone? Stay tuned. It’s always an adventure here at Camp Senior Nomads.

Thanks for following along,

Debbie and Michael Campbell

The Senior Nomads

p.s. If you are thinking of traveling in 2019 and using Airbnb for the first time, click here to save $40.00 on your booking.