After over 50 countries and some pretty rough travel including top to toe Amazon and Nile Rivers. The length of Africa and Badlands of South America here
is Martins list:
Take as little as possible!!!!!
LAY OUT YOUR CLOTHES THEN CHUCK HALF OUT.
Do include: Passport, Tickets Travel Insurance, Visas. Vaccinations, Prescriptions.
Take several passport-size photos of yourself to attach to visa applications – again, it saves you running around looking for a photo machine at the
I am not going to get into the clothes too much other than to recommend concealing in the waistband of the 3 pairs of the pants you have (two long
one short) a heat-sealed packet containing 2 x US $50 a copy of your passport and an emergency contact list. This naturally includes your Mum and
Dad but also a list of the numbers of your bank, credit cards etc. that you need to call to cancel. Also have copies in your internet email account.
A quick way to do this is lay out all your cards and documents face down and take a photo with your cell phone.
Should you lose everything its probable you will have one of these pairs of pants on – 1 of the $50 is for a bribe the other to get you to the consulate.
You can always access this money if funds run super low.
In your toiletries conceal empty tube of chap stick/lipstick to make a secret money stash.
Equally a Berrocca tube with a couple of tablets on top is a slightly larger version of the same.
Roll, don’t fold clothes. Stuff clothes inside other objects. Space is limited.
Put loose cables such as ear bud’s, charger leads etc. in an old sunglass case.
I also recommend keeping your passport and credit/debit cards on your skin at all times- except maybe in the shower or swimming! (airports and embassies
are generally ok to have them in the hand) you always know where they are then, and an underarm around the neck pouch with a slash proof strap
is perfect. Reinforcing existing straps with fishing braid(not Mono) will keep it airport security scan friendly. Another good trick is to have
a cheap cloth version around your neck. This is basically a decoy with a small amount of handy local currency and a “non-wallet” with dead credit
cards in it. This can also serve as an extra pocket for cigarettes etc. if you are silly enough to smoke.
A very basic first aid kit can consist ofsteri-strips a bottle of betadine a couple of Elastoplast and a few disprins, plus some anti diarrhoea
such as Imodium, Kaopectate 1-D, Maalox Anti-Diarrheal, or Pepto. Any more than medicine than that, see a local doctor or pharmacy, do however
take a good supply of any prescription medicines you require and or contraceptives. Asian countries have notoriously small and poorly made condoms.
Girls may consider a Diva Cup – a menstrual cup that can be reused throughout your trip. Places like the Kalahari
desert, outer Mongolia and the upper reaches of the Amazon are hard s to source Tampons but that shouldn’t mean you don’t go there.
Have an up-to-date copy of any prescriptions before you leave.
Sunscreen, toothpaste shampoo, soap, disinfectant etc. get local and discard. Good heavy zip lock plastic bags are perfect for these and also for a
designated washable cloth. It is less bulky than toilet paper and many 3rd world toilets won’t even have a tap let alone tolerate toilet paper.
Disinfect often. Wash your hands often and well.
Quick Dry Towel– Super lightweight and non-bulky can double as a neck pillow on a bus
A torch is a good idea either a cheap headlight type which equally works by hand or something super bright (heavy and expensive) which doubles for
A hardcover notebook.
A Swiss army knife or Leatherman is a great thing but if you are all about carry-on luggage (the ultimate goal) then you are better to buy a cheap
utility knife on the ground and chuck it when you board a plane. The same with a cup or bowl. The spork has a good rep but I haven’t used one. They make sense for hygiene in not too sanitary eating places.
Typically some of the best local food is from roadside vendors but……
if you like books, a Kindle is an absolute godsend while travelling.
A water bottle- Nalgene is a good brand. Be very fussy about what goes into it. Sterilise often. I got so used to the taste of Iodine –the cheapest
available purifier back in the day that water tasted odd without it. There are a number of UV systems available now but I haven’t tried them. Remember
fruit with its high-water content can easily have the nasties that live in the water-watermelon being an obvious one.
Be careful but don’t be too exclusive as you do need to build up your natural tolerances.
A roll of electrical tape can mend all sorts of things.
A short length of heavy cord such as venetian blind cord makes for a washing line and is generally useful.
So are carabiners.
Garbage Bags will protect your backpack and you in the rain and be generally useful for dirty boots/washing and the like.
Luggage padlocks are Ok, zip ties will do the same job as well, but may piss off the customs dude. A padlock though can secure lockers, doors, and
your belongings when needed.
Make sure you have a suitably rugged case for you cell phone which means it can withstand being dropped and splashed with water. Otterbox provide some excellent ones, not pretty but tough as.
A personal safety alarm is something I have never bothered with, but something to consider particularly for solo
girl travellers. They are small and easy to walk around with, and make a very loud noise if you press it in an emergency.
Assume the worst of people, including fellow travellers, but not much so that it affects your enjoyment.
Avoid those people that are most anxious to be your newest best friend. These particularly include those that hang around bus/ train stations and airports.
Above all enjoy what are probably going to be the best times of your Life.
-1 featherweight Marmot Ion jacket (3 oz.!)
-1 breathable Coolibar long-sleeve shirt. This saved me in Panama.
-1 pair of polyester pants. Polyester is light, wrinkle-resistant, and dries quickly. Disco dancers and flashpackers dig it.
-1 Kensington laptop lock,
also used to secure all bags to stationary objects.
-1 single Under Armour sock, used to store sunglasses
-2 nylon tanktops
-1 large MSR quick-dry microfiber towel, absorbs up to 7 times its weight in water
-1 Ziploc bag containing toothbrush, travel toothpaste, and disposable razor
-1 Fly Clear biometric travel card, which cuts down my airport wait time about 95%
-2 pairs of Exofficio lightweight underwear. Their tagline is “17 countries. 6 weeks. And one pair of
underwear.” I think I’ll opt for two, considering they weigh about as much as a handful of Kleenex. One other nice side-effect of their weight:
they’re much more comfortable than normal cotton underwear.
-2 pairs of shorts/swimsuits
-2 books: Lonely Planet Hawaii and The Entrepreneurial Imperative (the latter comes highly recommended. Check it out)
-1 sleeping mask and earplugs
-1 pair of Reef sandals. Best to get a pair with removable straps that go around the heel.
-1 Canon PowerShot SD300 digital camera with extra 2GB SD memory card. God, I love this camera more than words can describe. It is the best designed piece of electronics I have ever owned.
I now use it not only for all of my photos and videos, but also as a replacement for my scanner. I’m considering testing the newer and cheaper SD1000.
-1 coffee harvesting hat to prevent my pale skin from burning off.
-1 Kiva keychain expandable duffel bag
-1 Chapstick, 1 Mag-Lite Solitaire flashlight,
and 1 roll of athletic tape. The last is a lifesaver. It’s as useful as duct tape for repairing objects but gentle enough to use on injuries, which
I am fond of inflicting on myself.
-1 Lewis and Clark flex lock (for luggage, lockers, zippers, or whatever I need to lock down/shut/together). Standard mini-padlocks are often too cumbersome to thread through
holes on lockers, etc.
-1 Radio Shack kitchen timer, which I’ve been using to wake up for about five years. The problem with using a cell phone alarm to wake up is simple:
the phone needs to be on, and even if you use vibrate, people can call and wake you up before you want to wake up. The second benefit to using
a kitchen timer if that you know exactly how much sleep you are — or aren’t — getting, and you can experiment with things like caffeine
This is now pretty dated
1. Don’t check luggage. If you’re bringing that much stuff with you, you’re doing something wrong.
[TIM: I second this and encourage you to take things to extremes. Here’s exactly how I travel the world with 10 pounds or less.]
2. Instead of doing a TON of stuff. Pick one or two things, read all about those things and then actually spend time doing them. Research
shows that you’ll enjoy an experience more if you’ve put effort and time into bringing it about. So I’d rather visit two or three sights that I’ve
done my reading on and truly comprehend than I would seeing a ton of stuff that goes right in and out of my brain. (Oh, and never feel “obligated”
to see the things everyone says you have to)
3. Take long walks.
4. Stop living to relive. What are you taking all these pictures for? Oh, for the memories? Then just look at it and remember it.
Experience the present moment. (Not that you can’t take photos but try to counteract the impulse to look at the world through your iPhone
5. Read books, lots of books. You’re finally in a place where no one can interrupt you or call you into meetings and since half the television stations will be in another language…use
it as a chance to do a lot of reading.
[TIM: I strongly suggest that non-fiction bigots (which I was for 15+ years) read or listen to some fiction to turn off their problem-solving minds.
Try The Graveyard Book audiobook or Zorba the Greek.
6. Eat healthy. Enjoy the cuisine for sure, but you’ll enjoy the place less if you feel like a slob the whole time. (To put
it another way, why are you eating pretzels on the airplane?)
[TIM: If you want to follow The Slow-Carb Diet, my default cuisine
choices in airports are Thai and Mexican food. Also, keep a *small* bag of almonds in your bag to avoid digressions in emergencies.]
7. Try to avoid guidebooks, which are superficial at best and completely wrong at worst. I’ve had a lot more luck pulling up Wikipedia,
and looking at the list of National (or World) Historical Register list for that city and swinging by a few of them. Better yet, I’ve found a lot
cooler stuff in non-fiction books and literature that mentioned the cool stuff in passing. Then you Google it and find out where it is.
[TIM: I like to spend an afternoon visiting hostels, even if I’m staying in an apartment or hotel. The hostel staff will know which free and low-cost
activities get the best reviews from the non-museum-going crowd.]
8. I like to go and stand on hallowed ground. It’s humbling and makes you a better person. Try it. (My personal favorite is battlefields–nothing is more eery or quiet or peaceful)
9. Come up with a schedule that works for you and get settled into it as soon as possible. You’re going to benefit less from your
experiences if you’re scrambled, exhausted and inefficient. Me, I get up in the morning early and run. Then I work for a few hours. Then I roll
lunch and activities into a 3-4 hour block where I am away from work and exploring the city I’m staying it. Then I come back, work, get caught
up, relax and then eventually head out for a late dinner. In almost every time zone I’ve been in, this seems to be the ideal schedule to a) enjoy my life b) Not actually count as “taking time off.” No one feels that I am missing. And it lets me extend trips without
feeling stressed or needing to rush home.
10. When you’re traveling to a new city, the first thing you should do when you get to the hotel is change into your work out clothes and go for a long run. You get to see the sights, get a sense of the layout and then you won’t waste an hour of your life in a lame hotel gym either.
11. Never recline your seat on an airplane. Yes, it gives you more room–but ultimately at the expense of someone else. In economics,
they call this an externality. It’s bad. Don’t do it.
12. Stay in weird-ass hotels. Sometimes they can suck but the story is usually worth it. A few favorites: A hotel that was actually
a early 20th-century luxury train car,
a castle in Germany, the room where Gram Parsons died in Palm Desert,
a hotel in Arizona where John Dillinger was arrested,
and a hotel built by Wild Bill Hickok.
13. Read the historical markers–*actually* read them, don’t skim. They tend to tell you interesting stuff.
14. Add some work component to your travel if you can. Then you can write it all off on your taxes (or better, be paid for the whole
[TIM: Here’s how an entire family moved to a tropical paradise in Indonesia and continued to earn income.]
15. Don’t waste time and space packing things you MIGHT need but could conceivably buy there. Remember, it costs money (time, energy,
patience) to carry pointless things around. (Also, most hotels will give you razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other toiletries.)
[TIM: If you go to Japan, don’t miss the incredible Ghibli Museum, made by animator Hayao Miyazaki and
located in Inokashira Park.]
17. Ignore the temptation to a) talk and tell everyone about your upcoming trip b) spend months and months planning. Just go. Get comfortable with travel being an ordinary experience in your life and you’ll do it more. Make it some enormous event, and you’re liable to
confuse getting on a plane with an accomplishment by itself.
18. Regarding museums, I like Tyler Cowen’s trick about pretending you’re a thief who is casing the joint. It changes how you perceive and remember the art. Try it.
19. Don’t upgrade your phone plan to international when you leave the country. Not because it saves money but because it’s a really
good excuse to not use your cellphone for a while. (And if you need to call someone, try Google Voice. It’s free)
20. Explore cool places inside the United States. The South is beautiful and chances are you haven’t seen most of it. There’s all
sorts of weird history and wonderful things that your teachers never told you about. Check
it out, a lot of it is within a drive of a day or two.
[TIM: Here are 12+ gems of the Pacific Northwest,
encountered on a road trip from San Francisco to Whistler, Canada.]
[TIM: 21. OK, this one’s from me, just because it’s so much fun. Take pictures of yourself jumping in different places! It
can turn a boring “adult” afternoon into a giddy kid-like experience. The below is from Burning Man 2010.]