Simple guide on how not to travel
Often I find myself shaking my head at fellow travellers.. so much in so I don’t call them travellers but more over ‘GlamPackers’, or some I compare to some kinda overloaded donkey lugging around a monstrous backpack.
It seems ridiculous to me when I see a young woman, 160 cm, 60 something kilograms, which from all appearances carrying what looks like their entire house on their back.. 75 litre plus bag full of who knows what. It’s really insane to see, especially once you have put a few hard years in discovering why you should carry the least amount of stuff as possible.
In this post I’m gonna just talk about that, your bag and what you need. Not to be confused with what you want, which is an important concept when regarding what it is you really need to take on that upcoming uninhibited, free spirited adventure.
I didn’t arrive at my current setup automatically thou, over time and trial and error, I settled on an appropriate setup for most of my travelling needs. At first I began with a 65 + 15 litre bag combo for my trip across euro land in the late 90’s, and later I attempted to go with only a 25 litre bag for a significant period of time. Eventually thou I finally found a bag of 40 litres (mine by Columbia) that suits almost all conditions perfectly.
A lot of my preconditions are set by the maximum requirements of what you can take on as ‘carry on luggage’ for airlines. Typically this is around 7kg and of a size close to that of a laptop or school backpack. It really is such a carefree way of arriving at ones destination.
And how carefree I can only really sum up as follows.
Imagine cruising down the stairs off your airplane onto a scorching hot 32c degree steaming hot tarmac, puffy white clouds hang in the humid air and the smell of an nearby ocean beacons you. After clearing immigration you breeze past the luggage carousel without a 2nd look to push through the crowd of hawkers / taxi drivers confused with that fact you don’t have a huge bag in need of being carried.
A short walk out to the road you find yourself a motorcycle taxi who promptly whisks you off through all the heavy traffic to that white sandy beach with blue turquoise water lapping on its edge. By the time your fellow ‘tourists’ have even begun beating their way through heavy traffic in their overpriced taxi, you would’ve snapped up the last beach bungalow at that end of the beach and will be lounging in a hammock, cradling your first fresh coconut laced with a tidy helping of local rum!
This ladies and gentlemen is what its all about.. hassle free, sweet sweet freedom.
So with that little introduction to whet your appetite lets go over what you can get away with in that little bag of yours.
Starting with of course, clothes. You don’t need any, for a trip through south east Asia, a pair of t shirts, board shorts, and flip flops are all you need. You can throw in a pair of jeans for going out but the aforementioned items will get you into almost every nightclub anyhow.
So anyway.. on with the show!
- t-shirts 2 or 3 (you can always buy more.. like a Beer Lao ‘T’)
- underwear or boxers 2 or 3
- board shorts (never leave home without and often wear these the most)
- Long pants (cotton or some quick dry synthetic)
- fleece pullover (good for wearing in layers as surprisingly even in Asia the top of mountains can be freezing)
- waterproof jacket
- flip flops
Next lets talk about good boots, yes this is something you should get.. you’ll find lots of jungle walks, volcano climbs and sharp rocky ground to cross when you are looking around. Hiking shoes will work extremely well if you don’t want full boots. My kit I choose a descent set of walking boots as I find myself often adventuring to colder climates as well.
The biggest microfibre towel you can find.. yes.. in this case small is not better. This towel will also function as a light blanket to sleep under as well.. so grab something with this in mind.
Clothes I find are not the heavy items you’ll have to fit in your bag, but they are the bulkiest, so try keep the big items to a minimal. Fortunately you can wear the bigger pieces when flying etc.
Next on the list are the bathroom items. Please note as a male I really don’t need anything.
- wash bag (purpose made bag to hold all your stuff is worth the money check Deuter)
- tooth brush
- small tube of toothpaste
- dental floss
- nail clippers
- bar of soap
- half a roll of toilet paper
- insect repellent with 75% DEET
- Pain killers (really strong ones like Panadeine Forte)
- imodium (for diarrhoea)
- activate charcoal (for stomach issues)
- antiseptic cream (essential to prevent infections from bugs bites to cuts)
- prescription of antibiotics (really for emergency use only)
- band aids (good for cuts)
- steri-strips (butterfly strips.. good for bigger cuts)
Most of my medical kit deals with the possibility and treatment of an infected wound. In a tropical climate you need to keep a close eye on any cut however insignificant.
Pain killers are useful to insure a good nights sleep in addition to easing pain when sick. If you can get in a full 8 to 10 hours sleep your body will love you.
Note on tropical diseases:
You should really get all the vaccinations before you head out.. This is a no brainer. Goto your nearest travellers vaccination centre to take care of all of the shots your need. Keep in mind some vaccinations are taken in series and require a couple of months between shots, in particular Japanese encephalitis, to complete the program. So go down a few months before your trip. It’s worthwhile to note that some shots are cheaper to get in countries that have that issue, for example Rabies.
My only thoughts are on taking preventative Malaria tablets. I keep a supply of them in my kit but I do not take them. For 7 years in Asia I never took any, nor did I ever get malaria.. I’ve heard too many horror stories from people who take them.. from horrible side effects to being hospitalised after having a hole burned in their throat when one was lodged there.
So why to I keep them? well the treatment for Malaria is to take double doses of the pill. My view is if I get it, I should get my ass to a hospital and if I’m in a far flung place I have treatment at hand to get me through. In my opinion prevention is more important i.e. using strong anti mosquito repellent (DEET) and dressing appropriately. Call me an idiot if you want.. but do appreciate my point.
tricks to cut down your weight for the flight:
you can buy things like shampoo/conditioner, soap, and toothpaste, when you arrive at your destination.
- ear buds are useful but you can fold and roll up a square of toilet paper into a stick which will work just as well.
- You can wash your hair with soap and use conditioner afterwards to make your hair silky smooth..
- 7 to 8 inch Tablet with expandable XDHC slot for all your music (LTE with phone dialling capability, Galaxy Note 8.0 LTE for example)
- good pair of earphones with microphone (good for music, skype, and phone calls)
- crappy Nokia brick phone / cheap smart phone (one you don’t care about loosing)
- head lamp (small and powerful one + spare batteries)
- small universal power plug adaptor (you don’t need a huge one)
- double port 2amp USB charger (Carry only one charger.. yay!)
- OTG cable (useful if you have android)
- SDcard reader with built in USB hub
- USB stick
- Pencil case (excellent for storing all the fiddly items and cables in the above aforementioned list)
- spare micro USB cable! (they break!)
Note on Tablet:
Having tried various sized phones and tablets for travelling I’ve concluded that having a smart phone is just too damn small for any useful web browsing etc.. and a 10 inch or bigger tablet is just too big.. however if you get something around the 7 to 8 inch size you really hit on something that is very nice. If you can get one with phone dialling capability then you are killing two birds with one stone, you can do all of your work from here 😀
Note on Camera:
While taking photos on your phone or whatever is nice, you should really appreciate that the camera is only a half assed one. In low light conditions your photos will suck. That given if you are going to spend 5000 odd dollars on a six month holiday jaunt, you should really consider getting a descent camera to capture all those awesome moments you have.
Now obviously a nice DSLR interchangeable camera system would suit the ticket quite nicely, but it goes against my philosophy of travelling minimalism.. so you should make a compromise. My current Rig is a Sony RX100.. it takes amazing photos, is small, charges from USB (no requirement for a dedicated charger).. and generally kicks ass.
Have a look around for something similar, but I think they are well worth the investment.
- small HDD for movies, music and backing up photos
- Bluetooth speaker.. (for me this is absolutely mandatory.. music is a huge part of your adventure. I recommend the JBL charge as a unstoppable generator of noise)
- kindle (again for me a must have.. reading is a great way of passing time)
- Passport with at least 6 months validity (with scans uploaded somewhere online, stored on USB stick, and printed to carry)
- Passport photos (keep about 20 or so of these.. ideally keep the file to print more later)
- Drivers license
- International drivers license (get this before you leave home!)
- ATM/Debit card
- Credit card (for emergency use only)
- Immunisation card (you’ll get one of these if you get your vaccinations at a travellers clinic)
- Copy of next of kin details, travel insurance details. (business card size printed and laminated)
- foreign currency (100 USD for paying for visa’s etc..)
Note about bank cards:
Not only insure that your cards have at least six months validity, make sure your debit/credit cards come with Two Factor Authentication (TFA). This is important as some online retailers (airlines) won’t accept a card that isnt secured with TFA.
I always opp to have a hardware token over a SMS type authentication, as I’m always changing my mobile number with local telecom operators, this guarantees I have access to my funds.
Note about the credit card:
This is for me really really important. They work under all circumstances, and circumnavigate limits that debit cards have.. i.e. withdrawal limits, which means you can buy that ticket home hassle free and quickly. Typically I keep this one stashed away somewhere and never really ever carry it around. If you loose your ATM card, you can turn your credit card into a debit card by loading it with a positive balance using on-line banking.. Ask your bank about also linking the two cards as an alternative option as well.
Small day bag:
Having a small bag to carry your camera, wallet, passport, etc for your day excursions is essential. I highly recommend the 10 litre Ocean Pack.. this for me has been invaluable to keeping your most valuable stuff dry.. having fallen off a boat while wearing it and forced to swim to shore and can tell you right now it’s worth every cent.
Other useful stuff:
- PBH free drinking bottle (save the environment and fill up from filtered water source where possible)
- disposable poncho
- zip lock bags (get durable ones)
- compression straps (for attaching stuff to the outside of your bag)
- Pencil cases of various sizes (really cost effective way of internal item management)
- Pen x2
So there you have it.. basically if you stick to a minimalist mindset you can really set yourself free when travelling. What I’m carrying of course can be by some considered to be too much already, but if you intend to travel more than a couple of months you do need to take a few extra things.
Short trips of a couple of days you can experiment with taking nothing but a small day pack and suit up with clothes you need for the entire trip.. grab your camera, passport, some monies and go!
When you leave your life behind you realise you don’t need anything other than a keen sense for adventure, and travelling light will open up a whole new set of crazy experiences for you to try, from sleeping in parks to hanging out with the homeless in cities..
With that.. Happy Travels!