Packing the Essentials

This isn’t a standard packing check list. If I have to tell you what clothes to pack, you should maybe re-think whether you’re ready to head off to the other side of the world…

  • Trainers. You may have gloriously hippy fantasies of trotting the globe in nothing but a pair of flipflops, hell, even barefoot! But, think it through people. You want to go trekking in the northern hills of Thailand? You’re going to need proper shoes. You want to try riding a motorbike for the first time in life? Yeah, I’m going to recommend you wear a proper pair of shoes. You want to climb the tallest mountain in South East Asia? Well I’d actually tell you not to (see Borneo’s entry) but that aside, it’s not quite bare-foot friendly terrain. So take a proper pair of shoes. I, myself took walking boots; not essential. I wore them three times and although I was grateful for them on those occasions, I mostly resented carrying them around. Trainers. Trust me.
  • Also, on the subject of footwear. If you, like me, suffer from a condition called hyperhidrosis. IT’S A REAL THING. LOOK IT UP IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME. Sorry, I get a little touchy about this. That is because hyperhidrosis is the nice name for a condition which means you sweat excessively in certain areas. For me, that is my feet. So rubber soled flip flops in 30 degree heats do not a dry foot make. I genuinely had  such an issue with this. I would slip and slide, with literally no grip on my rubber soles and would often resort to the bohemian bare-footed traveller look I previously mentioned, though not with the same happy-go-lucky mind-set. I would finish the day with black, grimey, sometimes blistered, sometimes splintered, let’s face it vomit-inducing feet. But before you write off travelling altogether (a little dramatic maybe) invest in a pair of these bad boys:$_35Maybe even two. The wicker acts as some amazing sweat absorber and you can trot about, unencumbered like a normal human being. And if you see them selling anywhere on your travels, BUY THEM. They’re like gold dust. Ugly, wicker based, felt lined gold dust.
  • Expensive toiletries. Yes you can buy most things abroad and you have to accept that levels of hygiene and appearance are going to slip just a little but certain things which are essential to you will be cheaper to stock up on at home and also, harder to find abroad. I, myself am a mosquito whisperer. If there’s any in about a ten mile radius, they will find me. So insect repellent, particularly ones with a strong deet percentage were a pretty necessary thing for me to pack. And pack it I did! One whole bottle. Well, as you can perhaps imagine, that didn’t go too far. So I hit up the local chemist and much to my horror realised the highest deet percentage I could find was 20% and cost about the same price as buying a moped. A friend of mine brought twelve bottles for three months, didn’t run out and didn’t get nearly as many uncomfortable and ugly bites and this muggins.
  • A good waterproof, better yet, a poncho. I set off with a fashion mac and this is not what you need in monsoon season! Sure it might look chic but when you’re soaked through and it’s sticking to your under-carriage, chicness isn’t really what you’re after. Invest proper money in a decent waterproof. It will come in handy, I promise you. Or if you can, a  poncho or five. When people picture backpackers, they picture the one giant backpack on the logical placement of the back. Oh how foolish people are. A real backpacker looks like this: bemused-backpacker-solo-female-backpacker-safetyThere is always, at least one other bag on the front of your person. And so my friends, herein lies the genius of the poncho. Keep all of your stuff dry in one swift, goes-without-saying stylish, action.
  • A smart phone or laptop. Now, when I first set off, I left my phone behind in a fit of “I’m going travelling … why would I want a phone? I want to be cut off from the world, only experiencing what’s happening before my very eyes!”. Now while this was idealistic and the intent was pure, it was also, very foolish. Yes don’t spend all of your time on your phone or laptop, scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed and missing out on real life experiences, BUT, don’t forget that people back home need to hear from you. Parents worry. All the time. They need an email every week or so. And you actually won’t want to be cut off from everyone you know and love. Plus, internet cafes are annoying and can be unsafe. Much better to book a flight or something using your own device.
  • An e-reader. Travelling is non-stop fun. Except when the fun stops. Believe it or not, travelling involves a lot of travelling. I honestly cannot tell you how many hours of my life have been spent on buses, coaches, minivans, boats, planes, trains, taxis, tuktuks, motorbikes, elephants. Now some of those perhaps aren’t ideal reading environments (it can be hard to read on planes) but others are the perfect chance to chill out and read. Whoever invented the e-reader is a genius. Thousands of books saved on one device, with a month’s worth of battery life and a surface which can handle sunlight or light up in the dark. Literally, g e n i u s. You might think, ‘I don’t really like reading, I’ll do something else’ … you try writing on a bus that’s driving on dirt tracks; you try playing cards on a boat where everyone is packed in like sardines. I guaranty every traveller will read at least one book. And yes you can do the retro thing and buy a paperback but you finish that four hours into a thirty six hour bus ride and you will want to kill yourself. Or if you want to carry about a library in your backpack, be my guest …
  • A journal. Now this is definitely a personal preference. I am an eternal diarist and document the every day goings on of life in Portsmouth just as easily as that of travelling Vietnam for example, buuuuuuut I still think everyone should keep a diary of their travels. There’s so much to take in at all times, you don’t want to forget a single moment and just writing stuff down helps create lifelong memories. I have reread my, ahem, five journals documenting my two year’s worth of travels and each page brings back little details I’ve forgotten, people I met, places I went and plenty of hilarious stories, obviously. I also had a blog for my friends and family. If you don’t like physically putting pen to paper, keep a blog and that way your memories are safe forever. And then maybe one day you can return home and use it to try to become a freelance writer…