Having bought new clothes to deal with the low temperatures of the Nepalese Himalayas, I’m in the process of throwing a few things out. Which made me evaluate what my travel essentials are. After almost a year on the road in Asia these are my top 10 handy pieces that won’t be going in the bin!
A Scarf: While it’s no secret that scarves in general are actually a life essential for me – I’m rarely seen without one – they are my go to item when travelling. A good scarf is lightweight, light, and big. Well, big enough to cover my shoulders adequately when entering temples, or when I’m feeling cold. But light enough that it doesn’t weigh anything, or take up much space in my bag. I’ve had to use it to cover my hair, cover my shoulders in Buddhist temples and once even to puke into because I didn’t have a plastic bag. True story.
A Decent Day Bag: I don’t do handbags, and I don’t do backpacks – unless I’m going for a day trek, or have to carry a small amount of shit. My daily needs require a bag that can fit my D-SLR camera and an extra lens, wallet, phone, small diary – and when travelling to another place, also my passport wallet, kobo and snacks. This bag needs to have a single shoulder strap so that I can easily rummage about in it without taking it off (eg. when changing lenses), and can easily walk with it in front if security calls for it. A fingerprint scanner and automated locking system on the side… – just kidding – a zip and a flap will do just fine to stop sneaky hands from snatching my goods.
A Maxi Dress-cum-Skirt: When you’re in a country that demands you dress modestly (Myanmar, India) but it’s so god damn hot – hello maxi dress! I’ve often taken this along in my bag and popped it over top of my shorts to enter temples that require below-the-knee coverage, so that I didn’t have to keep covered all day. It’s also perfect if you need to quickly get changed in a semi-public place (ie. a train). And, squat toilets, and squatting in general… as many transportation options in Asia don’t always offer a toilet break with actual toilet facilities, it’s much easier to cover the bum while you’re doing the deed with a dress. Trust me, I know.
A Collapsable Bag: A friend’s mum Santa gave me this in my stocking one year: a bag made from an old parachute. It’s super strong and insanely light and tiny, and comes in incredibly handy for taking clothes etc into wet bathrooms to shower, buying groceries etc.
Teatree Oil: I swear I live by this stuff. I use it for cleaning piercings (of which I have many), for cleaning any cuts/small wounds, and disinfecting needles (I’ve had to pop a few blisters trekking in Nepal, yuck), and it’s bloody strong enough to clear your sinuses if you need it. It comes in a tiny bottle and smells a hell of a lot better than Dettol.
A Compact Mirror: Not everywhere you stay has mirrors. It comes in handy.
An e-book Reader: I will admit that I was adamant that “there’s nothing like turning real pages” at first, but now I’m a total convert. No more lugging around a heavy book, or books – because, let’s be honest, most people carry a guide book as well. I have a kobo mini: so small it can fit into the back pocket of my jeans – but not so small that it doesn’t fit enough text on a page. And, if I so wanted to, I could carry around 1000 books at a mere 134g. It also has a sketchpad function so I can draw funny pictures of Angelo: #bonus.
Portable Harddrive: When you take as many photos as I do, you need somewhere to back them up. Also, to store copies of all your important information: passport, insurance policy, visas, etc. And, you know, all those seasons of Breaking Bad, or An Idiot Abroad or other such visual mastery.
Tape, or at least some Safety Pins: Hole in the mosquito net? = tape it. My zipper broke and I can’t be bothered fixing it = safety pinned it. My puffer jacket got a hole in it = taped it. Angelo lost another button on his pants = safety pin (and then mini travel sewing kit comes in, but, you know, quick fix and all that).
Small Pocket Notebook: I always have a small diary on me. I need this to make lists, to write down directions (I don’t carry a guidebook), to record all my brilliant (ha) ideas, to write down people’s email addresses (even if I forget to use them), or people’s travel suggestions, or things to look up later. All this would be impossible without a pen, so, yeah, that’s pretty important too.
What can’t you travel without?