It seems to always be the biggest issue when planning a trip (extensive or not): what to pack.
I don’t believe in “packing” so much as “stuff I can’t do without” and “stuff it would be nice to have but…” and I pile stuff on the floor accordingly.
To help out anyone who might be slightly confused about what to take on the road, here is a very non-exhaustive list of things you should not have to do without on the move.
Completely non negotiable
1 – Your passport
Ah, well, yes. It’s got to be number 1, really. Without it, there is absolutely no point in even looking at the rest of this list.
2 – A credit/ debit card
People are very hung up on credit cards. I never had one. Credit scares the hell out of me. I always travel with two debit cards, and never had any problems. The very important point here is this: have something plastic that enables you to pay for things.
3 – Cash in different currencies
When the plastic doesn’t work. Also, because it’s easier to get an idea of what things cost when you have to painstakingly look through a pile of unfamiliar coins and inspect them to find out what they’re worth. Having Euros, Dollars and Pounds are a safe bet. Plus whatever the currency in the country you find yourself in is.
4 – A backpack
Maybe that should have been number 1: this is what you will carry all your belongings in. Even if you opt for a suitcase (why oh why?), you will still need a small backpack to carry things around on a day-to-day basis, and/or to keep some of your precious belongings in and lock safely away.
5 – Copies of all the important documents
Insurance policy, passport, driving license… Just in case you lose the originals, make sure you have some kind of copy stored safely somewhere. I like the idea of having digital copies, except you might not be able to a) have access to the Internet straight away, b) be able to print them in a timely fashion.
Have some cheap photocopies with you, you’ll be thankful if anything happens to your backpack.
6 – A rough itinerary
It might take the fun out of life, but knowing ROUGHLY where you’re going is always a good idea. It doesn’t have to be specific, but not only can you reassure your mom with some not very specific (but better than nothing) whereabouts, you will also be able to organise yourself a tiny bit (and sometimes even save money).
7 – A list of contacts overseas and at home
That’s a no brainer. Again, don’t assume you will always be able to access all your online info at all time. Having your bank number, the different phone numbers of a couple of family members and friends, the number of the embassy, visa office… can seriously reduce your stress levels if anything happens.
8 – A diary/ writing material
To keep track of all your great adventures, and, again, to be able to organise yourself a tiny bit. No need to book a hostel (however interesting the sale is) in Sydney if all clues lead to you probably being in Perth at the time.
9 – Some walking shoes
Travelling is a lot of moving around. Most of the moving around is done on foot once you get to your destination. Don’t make the mistake of having super stylish shoes, which will give you blisters on your first day exploring. Yes you looked good (for the five first minutes you weren’t hobbling along), but now the rest of your week will be spent wincing, and/ or being stuck in a chair in a coffee shop.
10 – Entertainment (book, magazine, music…)
Goes without saying. You will need some kind of entertainment. There is a lot of waiting involved with being on the road, be prepared. A good book and some music will make the time go faster, and keep your spirits high. It’s also pretty nice to spend some down time sat in a park or at the beach with a book or a magazine. The road is now your home. Act like it.
Might come in handy
11 – A phone (with some calling credit)
Just in case you didn’t think about it. It’s also a good idea to have a local sim card if you’re staying for an extended period of time. In all cases, HAVE SOME CALLING CREDIT on there. No point having a phone if it’s just to check the time. Buy a watch.
12 – Torchlight
Always handy when coming back after all your roommates have decided to turn off the lights, for beach parties after dark, and everything in between. Unless you’re a cat, you might need some kind of lighting at night.
13 – Condoms/ Tissues/ First Aid Kit
All stuff you can find everywhere. Except, sometimes you can’t. Because the shops are not opened, because you’re in the middle of a jungle, because you are in a country where condoms are considered an invention of the devil, but the guy next to you on the train was so darn cute.
14 – An extra pair of flip-flops
Maybe it’s just me, but I go through an unreasonable amount of pairs of flip-flops (thongs, jandals…). Having an extra pair means you will always be prepared for a trip to the beach. And who wouldn’t want to always be prepared for that?
15 – Plastic bags
Are unfortunately necessary. They are far from environmentally friendly, but reusing them gives you at least some cookie points. Great for all kind of things: waterproffing the inside of your bag, separating muddy shoes, carrying picnics…
16 – A camera that isn’t your phone
How retro, I know. But it’s nice to have a real camera. Plus, the batteries usually last longer than your phone, AND, the memory space means you won’t have to pick between the blurry pic of your new best friend doing a handstand on the beach and one of your thumb in front of the best club ever.
17 – A nice outfit
For circumstances when your jean cut-offs and flip-flops just won’t cut it. I am not taking tails and a ballgown here: a nice shirt or a little black dress usually does the trick.
18 – A sleeping bag
Even if you don’t intend to camp, it’s nice to know you are equipped for all eventualities. Some hostels make you pay for beddings, others are so gross you will rather sleep on the pavement outside than lie down on their mattress. You’ll be happy to have a sleeping bag in both events.
19 – Matches/ a lighter
In case you camp. In case you’re stranded and need to light a fire to survive. Or simply in case you need to strike up a conversation with a smoker rummaging through his/her backpack for the elusive lighting device. You’ve survived a hypothetical disaster, and have made new friends! All thanks to the humble lighter.
20 – Yourself
That goes without saying. You will need your own amazing self to go travelling. I am not being silly (me? never!). You will preferably be ALL there. What I am trying to say is that you will be present, not only physically, but also mentally. You will have to take everything in, experience things, and get out of your comfort zone… It will be an amazing experience, I promise. But you first need to be there.