As all travelers know, whether for work or pleasure, packing always brings joy and happiness to our beautiful souls…
There are many different ways to pack your bags, whether you’re the last minute procrastinator, the one-week-in-advance packer, the ziploc bag fanatic, the throw-it-all-in-there or the neat folder, we all usually have our unique way of doing our bags.
Now I don’t mean to give specific advice for business travelers or small trip voyagers here. While my main point does apply to these types or trips, you can usually afford to overpack for these. Here, I want to talk to the folks who, like me, have a turtle as a spirit animal and plan to go on a trip that will last a few months, in remote places of the world they have never been.
Less is More
First rule of the game is that everything you pack, you will have to carry. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to carry all your stuff for at least one hour, because chances are, you will have to. Sure you’ll travel by bus, plane and there is usually even a very basic local public transportation system everywhere but in times where you just couldn’t resist sleeping in this cute little jungle lodge in the rainforest, you won’t have a choice.
Forget about style and fashion, forget about not wearing the same clothes 2 days in a row. Being practical should be your main focus so bring clothes you like to wear a lot. Don’t bring 5 shorts, 5 pants and 20 shirts and tops, you’ll always find a place to wash your clothes. I go with 10 days worth of clothes. It´s just enough to be able to change clothes or wear something appropriate to the weather while cleaning your other clothes or waiting out to be back in civilisation to do so. Also consider that a lot of places around the world are so hot that what you would wear in 10 days in Europe, you wear in 5 there. Finally, research the weather conditions, you simply don´t want to carry a coat with you if all you´ll ever get is 20-30 degrees celsius.
Beware of gadgets, they seem super cool when packing but they end up weighing a lot, for a very, very limited use. Take a hammock for example. It seems super cool cause you’re taking a long vacation and what’s a vacation without a hammock, right? Well, chances are, everywhere you could use a hammock, there will already be one (except if you plan to do a lot of camping) so ditch it. It weighs more than a kilo and takes precious space. It will bring you more discomfort than comfort.
Powerbanks are another easy trap. Don’t bring 3kg worth of them, you’ll find electricity to charge your phone in most places and if not, chances are you won’t be able to use it anyway. It´s also worth remembering that without 3G and wifi, your phone battery actually lasts very long so if you´re worried about being able to take pictures, don´t be. One powerbank that gives you a couple extra charges should be all you ever need.
You don’t want to end up in a situation where all your stuffs are wet cause you got caught in a lightning storm and ended drenched in 5 minutes. Plus if you have electronics, you can’t afford not to be able to protect your bag from water, mud, sand or whatever else the weather might throw at you. So bring a bunch of plastic bags and trashbags you can mobilise quickly to protect your stuff and always pack a full set of clothes in a plastic bag. That way, you’ll always have something clean and dry to wear. For electronics, passport and other precious item, I recommend buying a drybag, like the ones used in diving and sailing, it will guarantee there won’t be a tiny hole in your plastic bag you missed or anything of the sort and your stuff is well protected.
Backpacks nowadays usually have a built-in rain cover that you can envelope your bag in, get one of those, it’s also handy at airports and where your luggage gets transported by other people to protect it and keep it clean.
To bring or not to bring a whole pharmacy
You should at the very least have a basic first aid kit – some desinfectant, bandages, and a survival blanket. If you’re gonna travel in another continent, you should also plan a healthy dose of anti-diarrhea pills, trust me, you´ll need them eventually… Also, do check if you need some specific medicine such as anti-malaria pills. It will depend on your destinations. Everything else, I don’t recommend you bring, you’ll find it there if you need, medicine is not that rare around the world, and usually easily accessible with a European wallet.
Do ask your doctor before you leave but don’t necessarily follow all their instructions, they usually don’t have travel experience and they don’t think practically, they think in terms of risk-management of another level than what you need. Mine gave me so much pills I don’t even know what a third of them do anymore and so I carry this dead weight that does take a lot of space…
So to conclude, go ahead and prepare a first load for your bag, try to think conservatively already. Once that’s done, put it all on your bed and ask yourself about each item: “would I use it weekly or would I need it urgently in a specific situation?” If the answer is: ¨no¨, ditch it! Understand that such travels bring a certain dose of discomfort and unfamiliarity.
You´ll have less choice of clothing, you won´t have your full make-up kit to look as gorgeous as you usually do but that´s ok. The beautiful places you´ll feel the need to add your face too will make you look better than any make-up and locals will find you attractive just because you are exotic to them. Think of this as an opportunity to live more simply, without conditioner, creams, without the social pressure of looking on your A-game at all times. Trust me, you can do it and you will probably be more happy for it.
With all these principles in mind, you should be able to efficiently pack a bag that hopefully still leaves you with some extra space. Extra space is important because you will buy things along the way, things you forgot to bring, didn’t think of, or just souvenirs you wanna bring back.
Have a grand old journey!