With less than 3 weeks before departure and no job, I have been thinking about packing much earlier than usual. I often pack just hours before I leave and it tends to be a mess. This time I am going to be prepared. This trip also has other packing issues that I haven’t dealt with before; extreme temperatures. It will be about -5 C in Antarctica (but add in the crazy windchill it will feel much colder) and +40 C in Brazil.
I have vowed that this is going to be my lightest packing trip ever. After moving 7 times in less than 2 months in Amsterdam with a 60 lb backpack, I vowed to never pack more than I can EASILY carry again. This time all I am taking is a medium sized duffle back and a small day backpack. In order to get everything I need into that little bit of space, everything must be multi useful.
After years of travelling I have come up with a list of things that I would never ever leave home without.
Here is my list of multi functional can’t do without items:
1) A sarong
Beach towels are bulky, heavy and hold onto sand and water but you need something to lay on if there is a beach somewhere on your journey (and there always is on mine!). A thin lightweight sarong is a great substitute. You can wear it to the beach as a skirt or a dress as well as use it for a beach blanket and a towel. A sarong is also useful as a cover for your legs, shoulders or head when visiting religious venues or anywhere modesty is a virtue. A sarong can also be used as a blanket on long flights or bus trips, or can be balled up as a pillow. It can also be used to wrap up any fragile souvenirs for the journey home. A sarong bought at a destination can also be considered a souvenir!
2) Cheap, basic, unlocked cell phone
I bought mine in London for 7 GBP. It is not fancy, but it is unlocked and can be used with a sim card from anywhere in the world. Even if I don’t have a sim card in it, the clock, alarm and calculator functions still work. A cell phone gets rid of a wrist watch (often a target for pickpocket), an alarm clock (for those early morning departures), a calculator (no more botched currency conversions done in your head) and as a flashlight (for not waking the whole dorm when you stumble in at 4am). The best part, is at only around $10, I won’t be upset if I lose it or it gets stolen (can’t say that about an iPhone!).
3) Havaianas flip flops
Call them thongs, jandles or zories, there is nothing like a pair of Havaianas flip flops. You need to buy a pair to truly understand. I am not a brand shopper, and at $30 a pair, these are not cheap. But they are the best BY FAR. I don’t usually have such a strong opinion about shoes, but I will ONLY wear Havaianas. There are amazing. I cannot stress it enough…you MUST try them! I wear them everywhere and with every thing. Me and My Havis have climbed a mountain, walked 8 hours a day for 6 months selling electricity and danced in clubs until dawn. More comfortable than runners, enough support to walk me and my 50 lb pack anywhere, and fashionable enough to be worn with a cocktail dress, Havaianas are essential anywhere. Check out the best flip flops ever here: us.havaianas.com
4) Handheld Corkscrew
Well besides the obvious, this corkscrew has a lot of useful features. In addition to opening wine, it can open beer bottles and tin cans. It can also cut through tape, rope, clothes and can even be used to give yourself a little haircut (I’ve done it, but DO NOT recommend it!). A corkscrew can also be used as a weapon, if need be.
Check out the story where I was ready to use one to defend my life: http://travellifeaway.blogspot.com/2010/12/time-i-thought-i-was-going-to-die-in.html
This is sometimes considered a luxury by true backpackers, but I think an iPod is essential. Especially with the kind of earphones that block out other noise. There is nothing worse than loud hostel roommates when you are exhausted, a crying baby on a long distance bus or a snoring seatmate on a plane. Block out those noises and zone out with whatever kind of music you are in the mood for! You can also download movies on to your iPod, which can make long distance travels fly by. Another great travelling use are language pod cast. For free you can learn another language, wherever you are! Music is also an international language, an expression of culture and some songs can bring back travel memories long after you have gone home. Swapping music with other travellers is a great way to make friends and broaden your musical horizons.
6) Quick Dry Travel Towel
Ok, so this one is not really multi functional, but it is one of the best ideas in the history of travel accessories. It weighs hardly anything and rolls up to the size of about 2 pairs of socks. Unrolled, it wraps completely around my body and leaves everything to the imagination. It will dry my whole body and my long hair, with plenty of absorbency left. It dries in minutes. If you put it away damp, it doesn’t smell funny later. Actually, I have used mine for weeks without washing, and it never smells bad. It is sturdy, no rips, tears or fraying. And did I mention it is the size of 2 pairs of socks??
From a weekend of snowboarding, to a week long family reunion to a half year trip around the world, these items will always be in my backpack.