Top Six Extra Things to Pack on Your Next Trip Abroad
Travelling the world is amazing, overwhelming, exciting and not half so exhausting as the time I spend trying to figure out what to pack.read more close
After three years of living out of a backpack, I've got packing down to a science. I keep two bags, my large travelling pack and a smaller daypack that can fit into my larger pack when moving between hotels.
Every day, I organize my packs based on what I'll need for the day, where I'm going and what I'm doing. Over the years, I've assembled a small list of things that I couldn't live without, so here's a short list I've compiled of necessary add-ons for adventurous travelers.
There is no cure for homesickness like the feeling of fresh socks. The soft caress of cotton, the smell of fresh laundry, it's a miniature blessing that brings you back to simpler times when mom folded your socks into little balls.
Extra socks are not so much about the socks, as they are a psychological safety net. When everything goes wrong, when you are sick, tired, wet and all your clothes are dirty, there is respite. There is comfort. There are fresh socks.
Oh yeah, and it's important to protect your feet when you are spending your days walking, hiking and exploring new places.
Have you ever walked down a dirt road in a foreign country in the middle of the night? It is…unnerving to say the least. Especially, in tropical countries where nocturnal critters lie in wait to scare the bejeezus out of you.
Once, I borrowed a flashlight from a guide while doing a night hike through the rainforest. Toward the end of the tour we came upon Costa Rica's most dangerous snake (the fer-de-lance snake), a beautiful and awesome sight… for about 15 minutes until I handed over the flashlight to walk home on a dirt road using only the light from my cell phone.
Moral of the story, bring a small flashlight in your daypack wherever you go. It's amazing how often it comes in handy, whether it's walking around the hotel grounds at night, lighting for when the power goes out, or walking home from a restaurant after the sun goes down.
I remember the first time I flew off my motorbike. Looking back I wonder why I would leave my helmet in the basket while driving on dirt roads between rice fields in the middle of rural Thailand. Needless to say the scenic tour ended abruptly with me sprawled out in the dirt, my forearms covered in road rash.
My next mistake: thinking it was good idea to use hydrogen peroxide to clean the wounds.
There is plenty of debate on the Internet about the use of hydrogen peroxide for cleaning out injuries. Well let me tell you from first hand experience, mom was wrong. Hydrogen peroxide does not kill bacteria, it only bubbles and fizzes and lets you down. It does not prevent infections. It will however, spill all over your med-kit and bleach half the belongings in you backpack.
When it comes to cleaning cuts and scrapes, stick to rubbing alcohol. It's a necessary addition to any med-kit for world travelers. It'll sting like hell when you use it, but it will prevent many unwelcome trips to rural clinics and hospitals. Just make sure you buy a plastic bottle with a tight cap.
Worried about your electronics when the rain starts coming down? Plastic bags. On a small boat moving between swells on the open seas with ocean spray pelting your stuff? Plastic bags. Need a place to keep your wet clothes so they don't contaminate the rest of your bag. Plas….well you get it.
Plastic bags are light, you can always get a couple from the hotel maintenance guy and they will save you a lot of time and hassle. Just fold 'em and use them to line the bottom of your bag as extra protection for when you accidentally set your pack down in a puddle.
Second only to extra socks, extra shoes are a lifesaver when traveling. There is nothing worse than walking around in wet shoes. It lowers moral, it's bad for your feet and it's just plain uncomfortable.
But it's not just the worry of wet shoes; you're going to want to wear those old tennis shoes when you spontaneously decide to join that ATV tour through the muddy trails of the rainforest. Horseback riding, hiking and whitewater rafting, are just a few adventurous situations where you'll wish you had brought an extra pair shoes to avoid scuffing your brand new sneakers/flats or what-have-you.
Sandals are great because you don't have to worry about them getting wet, but they don’t offer a lot of protection for ATV rides and may fly off while you are whitewater rafting. You're better off with a pair of water shoes, sandals that strap to your feet or a pair of old sneakers. I actually carry an extra pair of old tennis shoes and sandals so that I'm prepared for any beach, jungle, or night on the town that may come my way.
Nothing comes in handy like a travel journal. It has limitless uses and is the single most important extra I bring with me when I travel. Here's a few:
Jotting down tips from fellow travelers on hotels, restaurants, beaches, tours, etc.
Drawing maps to get to those local secrets/finding your way to the next hotel or hostel
Getting contact information for friends you make while travelling
Recording ideas, big and small, that you have with all the extra time you have for reflection while travelling
Remembering special locations, dates and numbers
Drawing pictures as an intermediary to translate between languages
In addition to all of these, it's a great way to remember your trip. Flipping through the journal years later can bring back all the smells, tastes, and experiences of your time abroad. Remember, it needs to be small, durable and accessible.