How I Travel: Patrick Healy

Jenn Sutherland-Miller
Today in How I Travel, we talk to Patrick who is the newest member of the Tortuga Backpacks design team. As someone who, is passionate about design and interested in travel, Patrick has some interesting thoughts on packing well. Learn more about his travel style and why good design matters. 

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Patrick Healy and I’m the product designer for Tortuga Backpacks. Prior to joining Tortuga, I helped found Modern Industry, a bag and apparel brand based here in San Francisco.

When my partners and I decided to shutter Modern Industry, Fred and Jeremy approached me about the possibility of working together. After talking with both, it became clear that we shared a mutual admiration for each others work and a vision for both business and products.

What inspired you to be a designer?

I’m not sure “inspired” is the right word. I don’t really feel like I chose to be a designer. I think design chose me. From graphics to products, design is just something I’ve always done.

When I was 12, I sent product sketches to Nike outlining products I wanted them to make. Nike sent them back with a nice note from a designer… and a lawyer. Design is just something I’ve always done.

As a designer I’m inspired by everything from problems I’m trying to solve to cool materials and hardware. More than anything, I’m inspired by people. People tell such rich and beautiful stories, I can’t help but want to make things that enrich their lives.

What’s your travel style and why?

6 years ago I moved from Virginia to San Francisco to go back to school and start a company.

Design school is a series of 15 week sprints. Every week is like midterms/finals in most other majors. I typically spent 70 hours each week in the studio.

When the semester ended, I just wanted to relax and spend time with the people who matter most. That meant spending most of my vacation time in VA. Now that I’ve joined Tortuga, I plan to spend a lot more time in VA and traveling to new, preferably warm, places.

As far as budgets go, I’ve spent most of the last 6 years being as a student or a bootstrapped entrepreneur. When I traveled, I traveled on a budget. I’ve spent a lot of time sleeping on couches or in spare bedrooms.

What was your first great travel experience?

I’m not sure this counts, but I was born in Vicenza, Italy. My dad was an U.S. Army helicopter pilot. When I was a baby, my parents took me all over Europe. Of course, I don’t remember any of that.

Growing up as a Army brat, we moved every 2-4 years. Each time we moved to a new city, my parents made a point to visit as many cool places in the region as possible. When we lived in Monterrey, CA, we went everywhere from Honolulu, HI, to Vancouver, BC. Later, I spent my summers surfing in Florida.

My first great trip came during spring break of my senior year of high school. As a graduation gift, my Dad took me back to Italy. It was awesome to see the city and country of my birth. Having spent a few years in Italy, he was a great tour guide. I probably wouldn’t have been able to see have of the things I enjoyed most in Italy if I wasn’t traveling with someone who knew the country so well.

Vicenza was the home of Andrea Palladio, one of history’s greatest architects. As a designer, it was awesome to see his work in person. Vicenza isn’t a typical tourist destination, but if you’re into design of any kind, you should add it to your itinerary.


What luggage do you travel with? What do you like about it?

I’m writing this from a Virgin Airlines flight headed to DC to visit my family for Thanksgiving. For the first time, I’m traveling with my new Tortuga! It’s a lot bigger than I would typically need for this trip, leaving plenty of room for birthday gifts(my 2 siblings and I all have birthdays between Nov. 26-Dec.10).

Typically, I want to travel with the smallest bag I can. This past summer, I took a 2 week trip to Virginia using only a small Modern Industry daypack.

Whenever possible, I want to travel with a beautifully designed, high quality backpack that is both comfortable and durable.

What are some of your favorite travel products or brands?

My favorite brands for travel are typically my favorite brands in general. As a designer it’s cliche, but I really enjoy Apple products. For clothing I love Outlier and Aether on the high end side, Uniqlo for more affordable clothes.

I’ve worn Vans for years, but I really like Nike Flyknit shoes. They are the closest I’ve come to not wearing shoes.

I could go on forever talking about brands and products that I love, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this little bag company called Tortuga. If you like what Fred and Jeremy have done so far, you are going to love what we have in store for you in the future.

Which electronics do you bring and why?

As many as necessary, but as few as possible. On my latest trip, I brought a Macbook, iPad, and iPhone.

I’m a huge movie fan, so I bring the Macbook to watch movies on the plane(sadly, my James Bond collection is on DVDs… and my Macbook does not have a disc drive) and work. I’ve tried to work on a tablet, but I’m just not as effective as I am with a laptop.

I bring the iPad for reading and casual web browsing. I have the mini, so it’s a pretty decent replacement for a physical book. Not perfect, but good.

This was the first trip I have traveled without an iPod in over a decade. I only found myself missing it once or twice, so I think it was a good decision.

I don’t thing the iPhone needs an explanation.

What’s your packing strategy? Is it different when you’re traveling for fun as opposed to work?

I try to travel with as little as I think I can. Over time, I’ve significantly reduced the amount the I carry, but I still have a long way to go.

Most design teams I know, especially in San Francisco, don’t have a dress code. I wear a t-shirt and jeans most days, whether I’m working or not.

The bigger problem I have is dressing for “nice” occasions. This requires bringing at least one extra pair of shoes and an extra pair of pants. I’m less fond of traveling for occasions that require a suit. That is mostly due to the fact that I hate wearing suits.

What’s your best packing hack?

I don’t think I’ve graduated to the level of having packing hacks yet. I just try to bring as little as possible. Every garment I bring needs to be versatile. I never bring more than a weeks worth of the basics(underwear, socks, t-shirts).

When I travel to visit my family, I typically need at least an extra pair of shoes and a decent shirt or two. Other than that, I’m dress pretty simply.

So, my biggest hack might be the realization that you probably need a lot less than you think you do.

Even the most utilitarian traveler can be sentimental. What you do bring because you WANT it, not because you NEED it? I’m a very sentimental person, but I’m not very sentimental when it comes to packing. In general, I try to carry as little as I need to be comfortable.

If anything, I would say my moleskin is as sentimental as anything I carry. As a designer, it’s definitely something I use regularly, but I don’t always need it. I probably won’t use it on this trip, but I don’t like being without it.

What is something you used to pack that you no longer bring?

I used to carry an iPod in addition to my iPhone, but I’m getting over that. I’m not sure it will stick, but my outlook is positive.

Beyond that, like most travelers, I used to drastically overpack. I’m trying to cut down to 4 days worth of clothing, but I’m not there yet.

Where do you see the intersection of good design and savvy travel?

That depends on how broadly you define design. If you think of design as a tool to craft better experiences, then savvy travel is a design problem.

Virgin America has made their travel experience much better than their competitors using a combination of design and technology. Uber did the same for navigating the city. AirBnB for finding places to stay (2 of their founders were trained as industrial designers). Tortuga does the same for carrying your stuff.

Savvy travel is good design, and good design helps to enable savvy travel.