It’s always a huge dilemma – you’ve got all the stuff you want to bring placed on your bed at home, you stare at it then glance at your tiny rucksack, then back at your bed and back at your rucksack once more…. Nope, it’s just not gonna fit!
This is the scenario every first-time traveler finds themselves in as they prepare to embark on their intrepid journey. In fact, this is the scenario I continue to find myself in every time I get ready to set off on another jaunt across the globe (you never learn!). So, in an attempt to refine the arduous task of packing your backpack – here is a list of things that you absolutely, categorically, unconditionally should bring with you as you leave – everything is can be sorted out at a later date:
1) Tiger balm: The answer to most minor medical needs actually (those ancient Chinese peeps really knew there stuff), and certainly the most effective remedy to mosquito bites. Small, compact and cheap – stock up before you leave.
2) Flash drive/USB pen: The bigger the better, (16GB, 32GB) Either way, they are a great way to back up your priceless travel pics not to mention all the music and movies you can, and will, ‘borrow’ from your fellow travelers
3) Tablets: Echinacea and Multivitamins – absolutely. Echinacea to keep all the standard traveling ailments at bay (read common cold etc) and multivitamins to supplement your diet of foreign beer and local food
4) Padlock: you often can use hostel lockers for free but you will need your own lock. Also, it stops opportunistic straying hands from entering the depths of your rucksack
Cards: Bring at least 2 cards, preferably one Visa and one Mastercard as both aren’t accepted everywhere. Keep them separate so you’re not entirely screwed when you get pick pocketed by the local rapscallion. If you have to take only one, take visa – it’s generally more widely accepted.
$200 Cash: Don’t shout it from the rooftops but this is a real necessity, just keep in hidden somewhere obscure (who’s going to want to rummage around your dirty underwear on the off chance of finding some cash). This will be a godsend when the one cash machine in the town your in doesn’t work, you have no way to contact anyone, it’s raining and you really, really need somewhere to sleep!
6) Havianas: These have to be the most comfortable, robust, durable and effortlessly cool flipflops on the market. Buy the originals and they’ll last you the whole trip – a much better investment than the 8 cheap copies you will continually buy as you wander around Asia!
7) Documents: This includes photocopies of your passport, driving license and travel insurance. Also, bring at least 6 passport photos too – true it might be cheaper to get them done in another country but when you’re at a border, and you can’t get through without a couple, you’ll be delighted at yourself for having the foresight to have a few wedged somewhere in your wallet.
8 ) A journal, a pen and a bag of motivation: Keeping a journal can seem like a real chore and no doubt it is hard work but when you get home you’ll have wished you were more diligent with it. So maximize your chances of writing regularly and bring all the things you need to stay up to date.
9) Mini medi-kit: I really mean mini – all you ‘really’ need is a box of plasters/band-aids, a pair of small scissors, a bottle of iodine and some decent painkillers. Anything that requires more probably also requires a trip to the doctors where they will invariably have a much bigger array of materials at their disposal.
10) Condoms: As the traveling mantra so wisely states “Take only memories and leave only footprints”, so pay heed to this, relish the memories and don’t feel the need to take back a nice bout of syphilis to remind you of the great time you had overseas!
And a few things not to bring…
Sunglasses – you’ll be able to buy a pair of Raybans (of dubious originality) for a dollar or two on every street corner
Any white clothing – they might look fresh and clean now but after a week or two of traveling, some dodgy handwashing and getting whacked back in your bag every day, fresh and clean they won’t be for long!
A good phone – if you feel the need to stay connected (as I do) then avoid the temptation to bring your iphone or blackberry. Ask your sister for her crap hand-me-down, make sure it’s unlocked for all networks and your good to go, without the fear of getting mugged!
Toploading rucksack/backpack. This deserves a special mention to be honest – try your utmost to get a rucksack that opens along a side zip. I have watched countless people struggle with getting their favourite Tshirt from the bottom of their toploading bag, having to remove everything! Don’t be one of them! 😛
Ok, so I think that about wraps up the bag packing session. Try not to take too much, even for a long trip anything over 15kgs is excessive and realistically 10-12kg is perfect. Good luck and safe travels…