Like most travelers, I put a lot of time and effort into deciding what to bring with me on this five month adventure. I wrote and rewrote a packing list, consulted with friends and then spent a couple of exciting hours (I love packing!) making final tweaks and officially zipping up my backpack, knowing that I would be carrying it all around for months to come. Five weeks in, I’m very happy to report that for the most part, I feel like I packed wonderfully- I’ve worn everything more than once (save one dress), used every gadget and haven’t struggled to carry my pack at all. But I digress. This post isn’t about everything I brought with me, but about a few specific items that have made my trip a lot easier. Here are eight things I would never go backpacking without again plus one thing I really wish I had brought on this trip.
I’ve already expressed love for my Kindle on this blog, but I’d just like to reiterate how truly great it is for travelling. Growing up, it was always annoying packing books for a vacation; I never wanted to bring more than two or three because of the weight and space they would take up, but also knew that in a couple of days (certainly before I came home) I would finish reading what I brought with me. Oh how times have changed. With my beloved Kindle I now have access to new books whenever I want and can carry around a library’s worth of books without breaking my back. So far I’ve had the pleasure of reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson, reread The Hunger Games Trilogy by Susanne Collins, and just finished the first book (currently on the second) in the Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin (I bought the first four together for under 20 bucks). Seriously, I could go on and on about this thing.
It was always my plan to bring along my iPad (primarily for Internet access, Skype and photo uploading), and it is one of those things I’m so happy I followed through with. I must admit, at times I was envious of my friends much smaller iPod Touch and iPhone, but for certain things I’m of the opinion that the iPad just works better. I’ve written all of my blog posts on it (some even on night buses), can access the Internet with ease (the bigger screen makes all the difference), and most importantly, I’ve been able to upload all my pictures to iCloud the almighty Facebook. Also, Ninja Fish.
iPad Card Reader
Going along with the last item (shocking!), I bought a two piece kit from the Apple Store before I left which would enable me to upload my camera pictures from either the memory card itself, or from the camera using its cord. The process is completely painless and utterly foolproof, you just plug it in and press upload. I’ve since downloaded an App (Photoloader) to create albums and upload them to Facebook quickly and easily. It’s really nice to have access to my pictures without needing to spend hours on a desktop at an Internet cafe or hostel, plus, I’ve set up my iPad to automatically backup my photos on iCloud. Highly, highly recommend getting the kit.
Earplugs & Eyemask
A definite no brainer, but so critical for me to get any sleep that I kept it on my list. I’ve learned that most walls, doors and windows in Asia have little to no soundproofing ability, so the earplugs have proved extremely important for muffling anything and everything (roosters and snoring bunk mates are common). Do what I did, and buy multiple pairs as you’re bound to lose them and/or want to throw them out periodically. Quiet, dark and cool are my ideal sleeping conditions, and being able to control at least two out of the three makes all the difference.
I had originally bought a waterproof sleeve for my iPad, but realized I didn’t really need it for that the majority of the time (Songkran was the one exception). It quickly evolved into a documents folder, holding important things such as my passport, bus or train tickets, hostel reservations, and DVDs. In addition to keeping everything dry, it’s been an easy way to keep everything together and stay organized. You know what they always say, an organized traveller is a happy traveller. (They say that, right?)
I picked up a solid shampoo bar from Lush after reading about it on another travel blog, and thus far it has worked great for me. Just one less bottle to carry around and worry about it exploding all over your bag. A word of advice: put a button in the tin case and leave the lid off after you use it- this will allow air to circulate and will prevent your lovely shampoo from turning into a globby mess.
When i told a friend that I was planning on bringing my favourite scarf (a cheapie from Zara in Copenhagen) along, I got a bit of an odd look. Why in the world would you need a scarf in Asia she asked? A fair question given the heat and humidity here, but I found that I’ve used it a fair bit. Starting in Beijing, I’m pretty sure I wore it everyday except when we went to the Great Wall- it was great for the chill in the air. Since moving to a much warmer climate I’ve used it many times as a blanket (night buses and air planes can get really cold!), a pillow and even a beach towel. Try to bring a soft, lightweight one that you can roll up small, but is quite large when it’s laid out.
Lonely Planet Guidebook
The golden standard when it comes to travel, especially in South East Asia. I’ve legitimately used it in every singe city and feel like my trip would have been very different had I left it at home. Sights, hostels, good eats and pretty much everything inbetween is covered in here, I picked up the South East Asia on a Shoestring edition and couldn’t be happier.
And for next time:
Seeing as I got my camera for free (thanks RBC!), I can’t really complain. But if I was going to do it all over again, I would have made sure that the camera I brought could withstand getting wet. There have been so many experiences already where I was afraid to take my camera for fear it would meet its demise- Songkran, various activities at Halong Bay, and the waterpark at Vinpearl (that recap coming soon!) come immediately to mind. Having been to these places with no waterproof camera, I definitely think its worth the investment to get one. However, there’s always next time!
Do you have any travel essentials?