Archive for the “My Love of Travel” Category

This is a topic dear to my heart, and with which I have a good deal of experience.  As I prepare for my next, and quite possibly last, real travel…..I think it is time to share what I’ve learned about packing.

Actually, an “all purpose world travel backpack” is a bit redundant.  If it is for “world travel”…it must be “all purpose”, and vice versa.

What is a world traveler: Though mentioned before, I will review again.

A world traveler is not on vacation.  It is a trip of undefined length with often a fixed amount of money (which is why travelers are often cheapskates).

A traveler is not necessarily trying to see or accomplish anything.  They may skip the museums or churches in favor of wandering aimlessly or sleeping till noon.

Traveling is not planned in advance.  The trip begins best with a one way ticket; the next destination is not known.

The needs of a world traveler:

The world is a big place; you need to be ready for anything…and though the world gets smaller everyday, there are still places where it is better to be a self-contained unit.  Hopefully those places will always exist, else how are we to learn the joy of self-sufficiency, and the growth associated with a little danger?

Pre-Pack: You need receptacles before you can actually pack, water-resistant preferably.

The Goldilocks Backpack: A  good travel backpack is of a moderate size. Bear in mind you are not camping, and you are not on a vacation.

Too small and you’re agile, ready to move, but not prepared for anything.  It simply can’t hold all the necessaries and also the niceties that make you happy you have it.  As you travel more your backpack tends to get smaller.

Too large and you lugging around something you can’t hike with; it becomes burdensome.  You are overprotective of it.  Seasoned travelers chuckle at the folks with oversized backpacks. Also, it is hard to run in large packs…sometimes you have to make a run for it.  That’s just the way it is.

Remember:  “Things” are fine; they are necessary, but never pack anything you are not willing to have stolen.  It will happen eventually.  Trust me.  If it does happen, your trip will get even better, and you’ll take a scooter ride across Mallorca.

Day Pack: You will need to take things with you while you’re out during the day. Some backpacks come with detachable day packs or fanny packs.  I personally use a separate bag that is much like a sleeping bag sack with some back straps.  It is quite small when not in use.

Money belt: Cash, Passport, and anything of the sort need to be kept on you at all times.  I sleep with my money belt on.  I take it to the shower.  You only need your passport stolen in Spain once to learn this lesson well.

Plastic Bags:  Any number and/or size.  They take up no space, and keep things dry.  You only need bump down a dirt road 5 hours in the back of an uncovered truck in a monsoon in Thailand once to realize it sucks to have nothing dry to change into.  I now have an airtight compression sack for clothes as well; though it isn’t necessary.  To reiterate:  keep everything in a plastic bag…even the plastic bags.

Items to Pack: In no particular order.

Rainy Day Items: This is what you pack because you are a world traveler who may be in Istanbul one day and on the train to Siberia the next.  Think you don’t need it?  Just wait.  Some of these things can be bought of course given time, but it stinks to be caught without them if they’re needed at a given moment.

Mosquito repellent:  Don’t go to Rishikesh, get eaten alive by mosquitoes, and think you have malaria.  Its dumb.  Keep some of that high DEET repellent they don’t even sell in the US with you.  Its small and packs away nicely.

Antiseptic:  Don’t cut your dirty foot on a rock in Dahab and envision an emergency toe amputation in an Egyptian hospital from the infection.  Take some antiseptic.  Again, it is small.

Sun tan lotion:  Hiking in Peru, the beach in Thailand…wherever.  Nothing can ruin a trip faster than a blistering sunburn that leaves you with chills and unable to go out.  Get that SPF 50 white paste.  You’ll be thankful.

Water purification pills:  Very unlikely you’ll get caught without access to clean water hiking in Nepal; however, since water is necessary to live you’ll be really happy if these come in handy.  Also, they are very small so its a good item just in case.

Rope:  Take some rope.  Not the big sailing rope of course; just something thin and sturdy as a precaution.

Flashlight: Holy Moly.  Don’t get caught trying to find a tarantula in your room in Cost Rica in the dark  (didn’t sleep too well that night).  Take the really good LED flashlight or mag-light.  Take extra batteries.

Leatherman:  At the least it is an overpriced bottle-opener or pocket knife that doesn’t take up much space.  They are very versatile though when needed.  I struggled with this one a while after 9/11, since it caused you to have to check your bags (no sharp objects on the plane)…but now you can’t even take normal sized toiletries on the plane, so you really have to check your backpack anyway.

Something warm:  I don’t care if you’re going to the hottest place on the planet…take something warm, a fleece, some layers…something.  It gets cold in the desert; it rains in the tropics.  Sometimes you get stuck in Salzberg in the snow at 4 in the morning and you wish you had something warm.  This one is a bit of a struggle to find the right balance, because jackets take up space…too much space.  Take something small and long sleeve. If it really gets cold and you’re stuck, you’ll need to buy something or depend on people’s help until you can buy a jacket.

Gloves/Scarf:  Take them.  They are small, warm, and invaluable if needed.

Rain coat/Poncho:  Take something in case you are outside and it rains.  These can be a bit heavy, but can pack up small if you’re careful.  I suggest a Poncho.  Even a trash bag will work if you’re creative.

Pack Cover:  Again, don’t let your pack get soaked so that everything you own is wet.  It sucks, and can ruin your electronic equipment (which should be kept in plastic bags).  Pack covers are small.

Voltage Converter/Plug Adapters:  This is a new item.  When I first traveled there were no iPods, cameras used film and batteries lasted forever.  Now with iPods and digital cameras you need to be prepared for countries with different voltage requirements and outlet configurations.  You can buy small voltage converters for low wattage devices; however, they are heavy.  The plug adapters are small and light.

Phone Card:  Though less important in the age of the Internet, and possible to workaround, it is still important to be able to call if something drastic happens, or you have to change flights, or need to call a contact in the next country.  You can always buy a local calling card, but since they are small its a good idea to keep a general purpose calling card from a major carrier with associated country access numbers available.  They don’t cost anything if not used.

Extra Space:  NEVER LEAVE WITH A FULL PACK.  You will buy stuff and it will be better than the stuff you brought from home.  I try to leave at least 1/3 of my pack empty at the outset.  Don’t forget to dress out of your backpack when you leave home (otherwise what you are wearing is an extra set of clothes).

Mainstays: These are the items you will always pack when you go somewhere.  They are less important as you can always replace them, they are rarely needed on the spur of the moment, and are generally widely available.

Clothes:  Bring two changes of clothes at least (and also at most)…so you can have something to wear while you’re washing clothes.  I take shants (pants that zip off into shorts) and a lot of synthetics (capilene, polyester, etc.  clothes that are warm, pack small, and dry fast).

Shoes:  Take one good pair of shoes that are comfortable and you’d be willing to wear everyday if necessary (because it might become necessary).

Toiletries:  Take them because you always do.  They can be replaced though.  I do recommend travel sized toiletries, a fold up toothbrush, and a small soap case.  Don’t take a big bottle of shampoo and conditioner.  They take up too much room.  Get used to being a little dirty.

Towel: Don’t take a full sized towel.  Its big.  Take a pack towel, and get used to drying yourself with something the size of a hand towel.  That’s life.

Camera:  I suggest splurging a bit on a good camera.  Travel doesn’t leave a lot of residual assets other than the memories.  Sometimes pictures are the only concrete thing left.  Bring LOTS of memory for your camera and extra batteries (charging them covered above).  You don’t want to run out in Patagonia (one of the most beautiful places on the planet) because you were too dumb to buy an extra memory card.  That being said, there is always the possibility that your camera gets stolen.  Nice, compact camera, yes.  Amazing, SLR camera; be careful.

Music:  Music is the soundtrack of your life, and Travel is the Greatest Hits.  Take an iPod or something.  I’ve traveled before portable music, with mp3 cds, and with truly portable music (iPod)….music is awesome when you travel.  I could write a whole post on good travel music.  It matters.

Items not to pack: Just as important as what to bring, is what you think you should bring that you really shouldn’t.  The general rule is to take half the stuff and twice the money you think you’ll need.  Even if you don’t have the funds to take twice the money (who does?), half as much stuff is still a good rule of thumb.

Hat:  They are needed, but you can always buy one.  If you need cover immediately, tie a T shirt around your head and improvise.  If you have a favorite hat, of course take it.

Sunglasses:  Again, usually needed eventually, but available within short order if necessary.  Expensive glasses are just something to lose or get stolen.

Toilet paper:  There are places where you will get stuck wiping your ass with leaves on the top of the world in Nepal….but you don’t need to take toilet paper with you from your home country.  Buy it and keep it with you as you go.

Jacket:  You’ll need it, but it is so bulky it is impractical to pack.  Buy it on the road.  Discard it afterward or send it home by mail if it has become sentimental.

Sleeping Bag/Tent/Cooking Gear:  We’re not camping.  They are way too bulky to bring with you.  Even sheets are too bulky.  Rent camping equipment if needed.

Clothes:  You find the coolest clothes on the road.  Buy them.  The crap you bring from home is just to get your started.

Shoes:  Don’t take a bunch of pairs of shoes.  You can’t anyway because they are too bulky, but be aware that you’ll need to make some compromises with shoes.  You can’t take a shoe for every occasion.

So there it is:   A complete guide to the all purpose world travel backpack.  Pack up, buy a ticket, and have at it.

Here is what it looks like after a job well done (the pack is small, and you are tired, but happy:)

me and gizzer

I’ve been writing on this website for years, and this is perhaps my most practical post ever…someone might actually learn something useful from wasting/spending their time here.

Tags: ,

Comments No Comments »

So many people have contacted me through Facebook lately.  Its strange to relive some of that; sometimes to be forced to.  Tessa wrote me recently.  I lived with her for a bit at Ein Gedi…in 1997 I think it was.

Here is what she said:

so i have been thnking a lot lately bout ein gedi etc, it was a long time ago now!! gemm has beautifaul photos of kids, have you children yet?? life in uk, ok, but not spent much of my “adult” life here. where are you now? how do you remember those days? take care tessaxx

My response:

Ha!  Feeling a little nostalgic lately?

Hmm…”How do I remember those days?”

I guess I don’t really for the most part (except when you send me an email and it makes me think about it).  Those years seem disconnected from my current life, like they don’t apply.  Its almost like I disappeared for 5 years or so….on another planet.

Every once in a while I’ll see something on TV, and think “I was there once; there is a great restaurant I ate at just around the corner”, but it seems very distant.

The memories are nice, but they are also hard to live with since life will never be as new and exciting as those years were.  You are only young and conquer the world once.  I’ve come to accept that.

I live in Atlanta, GA.  I play tennis.  I like to drink fancy beers.  I am an HR Consultant.  I own a house, and hang out with my friends.  I love my mom and my sister; don’t get along so well with my dad.  I complain and get sad sometimes, but I’m very fortunate.

That’s it.  The story there doesn’t really include “and for 5 years I hit 30+ countries, learned to speak another language, sailed the Mediterranean, saw the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, Petra, Machu Picchu, trekked the Himalaya, rode camels in the Sahara, blah, blah, blah, etc.”  Those things are interesting bar stories and come up sometimes, but it just doesn’t apply to most things I do.

I love those years…in a crazy way.  Its something no one can take away and it will always make me a little special.  If I had worked those years like my friends, I would have a little more money now; I might be married, but I would never have ice climbed on a glacier in Patagonia.

And yes…Gemma’s kids are cute, and no, I don’t have any kids.  I’m not married.

Thanks for the nostalgia,


Oh well.  I think I’ll go back to my wine and Monday nights on HDNet.

……………………….To understand me, you must understand this.

Tags: ,

Comments 3 Comments »