Having just left her corporate job to focus on freelance PR, Erica Valenti, co-founder of the motorcycle girl gang The Throttle Dolls, wanted to feel as free as possible on her upcoming European motorbike tour.
"This trip wasn’t just about motorcycling for me. It was very much about putting dreams into practice. I wanted to travel light and with purpose."
For three weeks, Erica would be flying and riding through Europe. First to London to visit friends, then a 1500km motorcycle ride through Italy and France, four days at the Wheels & Waves festival in Biarritz, a rest stop in Barcelona, and finally on to Copenhagen to visit more friends.
"I wanted to pack light to keep me as nimble as possible, and with the Mountain Pack I've managed to fit in riding, daytime and evening clothes, a lot more than I thought I could take. The compartments make it easy to find things and I like that it's water-resistant too, in case I get caught in the rain."
First stop – London
"It was a lot of riding the Tube. I went to East London, West London, and the Tate to see a Picasso exhibit. None of my friends in London live less than an hour from one another. Traveling with just one daypack gave me so much mobility. I'd traveled with a larger, more traditional backpacking pack before, but now that I’ve learned to carry less with me I never want to go back."
On the road – Motobike tour
Erica rode nearly 1500km from Milan, Italy to Biarritz, France, with four other women from four other countries. They hadn’t known each other beforehand, but as Erica points out, "It's sort of like thru-hiking. Spending 20 plus hours a day with other people who share your same passion has a way of making you instant best friends."
Riding on a motorcycle gave the group access to parts of France and Italy that they never would have seen otherwise, from a medieval village in Italy, over rivers and through the Pyrenees to one-lane dirt roads through vineyards in the south of France. You never know what mother nature is going to throw at you, so it's a good thing Erica planned for rain.
"You sort of need to run into trouble, or else you don't get the stories! We got rained on for four hours one day. Our clothes were completely saturated and our gear was fogged up. One of us was stung by a bee—in her boot. Another ran out of fuel...it was mentally and physically challenging, but it was the most beautiful scenery."
Next stop – Barcelona
"Barcelona is an incredible city—it has such a soul to it. I felt so light traveling with just me, a girlfriend, and my backpack. We took a trip to the ancient beach town of Sitges just an hour and a half away from Barcelona. I only took my Dopp Kit with me, and it held my swimming costume, a sarong, keys, everything I needed for the day. My girlfriend was like, 'Is that a Mary Poppins bag?' It was handy, too, because Barcelona is known for pickpockets and I could keep it front of me and use it almost like a fanny pack. It was very secure."
Final stop – Copenhagen
After Barcelona, Erica hopped on a flight to Denmark to spend her final days in Europe visiting friends.
"Something I never get to experience in Australia (nor do you in the States I suppose) is hopping from country to country with ease. The Mountain Pack fits perfectly on the budget airlines that get you around Europe."
Back at home – Australia
Reflecting on her final night in Europe, Erica admitted that before she'd made the leap to full-time freelancing, she'd been using things to bring her joy. When she left her steady income to freelance full-time, cut her hair, and planned a minimalist trip to Europe, she solidified a commitment to stripping her life down to the essentials.
"This trip was honestly a bit life-changing for me. I’m not going to apologize for being interested in fashion or wanting to look cool sometimes. But since I made it work this time, I'm inspired to go home and really be ruthless with my closet. Now that I know I don’t need it, I don't want it."
Erica's tips for one-bag travel
"It's unbelievable how much I was able to carry in that one bag. I had practiced packing it very lean before I left, but items kept on sneaking in there. There was only one shirt I didn't wear and I could have easily done with less than I brought. Still, I had room to carry all of that in the Mountain Pack plus what I bought during the trip, and it was very comfortable on my shoulders."
"I use the Pack Bag for my jeans—easy to fold and keep. It was also good to keep a firm, straight Pack Bag against the pack back panel, so no lumps and bumps. And the Dopp Kit kept my undies and socks in one place instead of hiding in my bag!"
"It's freeing to bring just one daypack on a three-week long trip, but it's not just about the mobility you get. It's about the mental lightness."