Whether I’m travelling domestically or internationally, I never ever leave the house without the following ten items.
We begin my list of the things I don’t travel without with the very thing that I forget most often: my bloody sunglasses.
Seriously, there are photos of me in Morocco and in Spain, in particular, where I’m wearing the most ridiculous sunglasses on my stupid little face because I’ve left my ones at home and I’ve been forced to pick up a cheap pair at the local market. Because there’s nothing worse than squinting all holiday long (except contracting a deadly disease or being robbed in Spain or something).
Perhaps it’s a Kiwi thing, but I honestly think jandals are the Michael Jordan of footwear (i.e. I’m saying they’re the greatest; not that they’re suitable attire for playing basketball). They’re cheap, cheerful, light to pack, and unfashionably fashionable.
And even if you’re travelling in the middle of winter, jandals are handy to have in case you have to use a communal bathroom or shower. You’ll thank me when you don’t contract a nasty foot fungus or, worse, step in some number one or two. Ewww!
Another Kiwi-ism. The quintessential black singlet is as synonymous with New Zealand as Jake the Muss from Once Were Warriors (himself a proud wearer of what our British cousins would call a black vest).
I always pack a singlet when I travel because you never know when you might need some extra warmth, or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, when you’ll just be too hot and need to strip down to something other than your bare naked chest (behave yourselves, ladies!).
4. Camera/cell phone
I’m not a fan of the whole “take a photo or it didn’t happen” mentality. Some travellers just spend too much time looking at the world through their camera lens, if you ask me (it’s probably why their photos are a lot better than mine). And yet photographs are the ultimate travel souvenir – and the only one I collect besides experiences – so I’d never leave the house without a camera.
Younger readers may not believe this, but once upon a time we didn’t even have cameras in our cellphones, so we’d have to lug an actual camera around with us. Those were the dark ages when we actually used to talk to one another and not just stare at a screen all day.
Speaking of talking, sometimes you just don’t want to talk; you want to listen. Either that or you’ve got no-one to talk to and you’re feeling lonely, or you’re sick of your travelling companions and you just want to listen to someone else talk for a while. That’s when a podcast really comes in handy.
I’ve whittled away many an hour on the road or in the sky listening to those clowns from The Flop House podcast discuss bad movies, or Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo discuss good ones in their film review podcast for the BBC (perhaps I need to expand my preferences to more than just podcasts about cinema).
Because apparently some cultures don’t take kindly to folk who go skinny dipping. I know. It’s weird the hang-ups that some people have, right? I’ve even heard that in some countries you can get arrested for walking around naked at the beach, the spa, or the public swimming pool. Especially if there are families present.
When I first dabbled in travel blogging, way way back in 2008, I’d have to do all my writing at internet cafes and on hostel computers (I mean the ones available at hostels; not computers that were literally trying to hurt me), because I thought laptops were just too cumbersome to travel with back then.
Now I don’t go anywhere without my netbook (it’s considerably smaller than your average laptop, but these days most laptops are light enough to travel with anyway). And as well as being used for writing, my computer is a multimedia machine, loaded up with photos, movies, music and TV shows.
Looking back now, I honestly don’t know how I survived my initial European travels without one. What did I do with all my downtime? Read?
When I left New Zealand in 2008 to move to the United Kingdom – travelling via Thailand, France, Belgium, Italy, and Greece for five months or so – roughly one third of my backpack was filled with paperback novels. I’m not even kidding you right now. I lugged those books halfway round the world.
When I’d eventually run out of books to read, I’d literally have to traipse all over town, looking for a second-hand book shop that’d sell English-language books for a respectable price, trading in my old books for an embarrassing discount. I vividly remember having to do that in Chiang Mai, Athens, and Milan, and it was a huge pain in the ass because we didn’t have smartphones back then, so we’d have to rely on tourist maps and bad directions.
Now, I’ve literally got around 50 novels on me at any one time, all on my handy little electronic book reader. Isn’t technology grand?
9. Suitcase or a backpack on wheels
Now brace yourselves, because I’ve got some great news for you that you may want to sit down for. We’ve finally done it – we’ve invented the wheel! So now you don’t have to walk around everywhere with your belongings strapped to your back; you can wheel it around behind you in a suitcase. I know, right? It’s revolutionary!
Seriously, I’ve backpacked all around Asia and Europe with a proper backpack that also happens to have little wheels on it, and I can only think of maybe only two times maximum when I haven’t just wheeled it around behind me – Don Det in Laos, when I had to walk it across a sandy beach, and in Florence, Italy, when I just wanted to know what it was like (I gave up after, like, 2 minutes).
So get a backpack with wheels, readers; your chiropractor will thank you for it one day.
10. My partner
Although there’s a huge bunch of inspirational and educational solo female and male travel blogs out there, I still don’t know how you people do it. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve got nothing but the maximum amount of respect for people who do it alone; I’m simply just not someone who would be able to hack it out there on the road by myself for very long.
I need someone to watch my back, someone to share the highs and lows of travelling the world with. I need Mrs Man vs World; without her, I would still travel, sure, but the scope and enjoyment of my adventures would be greatly diminished.
So, to my wife of two years – and all those who are travelling alone – I salute you. Happy travels everyone.