Lessons learned from the road

Machu Picchu
Before I took my trip I did plenty of research on what I should or should not bring, since after all I was traveling with only a backpack. Here are some lessons I learned on my own, and some I took from others before I made my trip.
  1. Pack lighter! – not only will your back and legs thank you, it also allows you to pick stuff up as you go. Everything I read said this and I didn’t listen, and ended up sending home stuff with friends who came to visit me along the way. Thanks to all of those who lugged home the crap I didn’t need! You can always buy a t shirt or extra underwear/socks along the way for cheap.
  2. Having a smartphone with data is immensely helpful when traveling abroad. Buy SIM cards as you go along, they are typically pretty cheap and typically faster than a lot of wifi connections you find in hostels. Booking transportation etc on the fly is much easier this way, If you use a plan from the states only use it in dire situations. However it is really nice to detach from the phone as hard as that is to do nowadays. Make sure you bring a paperclip to pop out your SIM card slot for you iphone owners, this will make switching SIM’s easy.
  3. I bought a Macbook air explicitly for the purpose of my trip, while it wasn’t absolutely necessary, it definitely made some days on the road much more tolerable so that I could catch up on my blogging, watch movies, edit and save my pictures, and stay connected. For a short trip I wouldn’t have brought my computer, but 6 months felt long enough to warrant this item.
  4. If you’re on the fence about a nice camera, buy it before you go! Prices abroad are generally more expensive than what you can find on Amazon. I paid that price the hard way and ended up paying $700 for this camera package in the Wellington, NZ Duty Free store, and it’s $570 on Amazon. All the while it was something I wanted to have from day 1, but I was content with my point and shoot and my iphone. You’ll thank yourself later once you have a ton of amazing shots, plus it gives you a new skill to work on.
  5. Find something to remind you of all of the places you’ve been once you’re home. I collect at least one monetary note from each country I’ve been to. An expensive collection none the less, but pretty cool to see all of the money from the world. Plus it makes a rainy day fund! Some people do post cards, shot glasses, etc.
  6. Buy powdered detergent and put it in a plastic zip lock bag and then in another tote bag of sorts (think laundry bag) put it in your pack. It’ll help keep your clothes fresh (who knows when you may be in a smokey bar, there are plenty of those in Europe still), and maybe give your shirt another wear. It’s also cheaper than buying washing powder from a hostel at the price it would cost you to buy a whole box of detergent.
  7. While I’m on the topic of Ziplock bags, bring a bunch of extras in varying sizes, they’ll come in handy to store all kinds of things.
  8. Bring a mini speaker (this one is cheap and awesome, and charges with a provided USB cable), you never know when an impromptu drinking or beach session needs some tunes.
  9. Buy a travel adaptor that has a grounded prong and then buy this surge protector! It is such an amazing device, 3 outlets and 2 USB slots! I’ve had up to 6 devices being charged on this bad boy, especially when outlets can come at a premium. Remember if you’re going to buy an adaptor, make sure it can take multiple voltages, i burnt out a camera and an electric razor learning this the hard way.
  10. If you’re gonna buy a travel lock, buy one of these, the length and flexibility of the cord is better for unknown locker or bag storage situations, and make sure you check your locker. Many times while you think you locked up your goods, all someone has to do is turn the knob to open the locker, these hostel lockers are far from secure. Another good option that isn’t as intense, is this lock with a pliable cable.
  11. Noise canceling headphones might be one of the best inventions ever. Crying babies, snoring roommates on the regular, you get the idea. Just make sure you’ve got some good white noise or music you can fall asleep to.
  12. Don’t try and stick to a set itinerary for your whole trip, sometimes the best of times were buying a ticket on a whim or doing something you wouldn’t normally do. (If there are things that are on your must-do list, make sure you book them well in advance, and do it at the beginning of your stay there, so you’re not disappointed when it’s all booked up or it gets postponed.
  13. Buy an XL travel towel. You may want to buy two of them since these towels aren’t easy to find on the road if you end up losing one. They are light and compact and there’s no chance you want to carry a bath towel with you for that long. Plus, it extends the amount of time between laundry.
  14. Don’t be afraid to eat new things, plenty of awesome different foods out there, but be smart in those developing countries (I’m looking at you Asia!). Use antibiotics only if you must, try kicking the bug with lots of water, charcoal pills, and bland foods like bananas and bread and rice.
  15. Bring a reusable plastic water bottle, it’ll save you plenty of $ in the long run in those countries where the water is safe to drink. Plus it’s good for the environment!
  16. If you’re going to a remote beach town or any town where the beach is the main source of tourism (Thailand and Bali I’m looking at you), bring SPF with you, prices are typically extremely inflated, and you have no choice but to pay the price, or burn.
  17. These pedialtyte packs are perfect for bouts of food poisoning or a wicked hangover to get you re-hydrated.
  18. Buy a raincover for your pack, you never know what the weather is gonna be like, and for that matter, your water resistant jacket should probably have a hood as well.
  19. Carry USD as emergency cash, especially in those places you’ll need a visa. More often than not they accept USD and there are rarely ATM’s available, and you’ll be very lucky if they accept credit cards. This happened to me in Vietnam, Laos and Indonesia.
  20. Make sure you have an ATM card that has zero ATM fees, and zero foreign transaction fees. The Charles Schwab debit card is awesome! Plus it will give you a little bit of interest on your balance.

I’m sure there is more that I will think of to add to this list, but for now this should help all of those looking to hit the road for an extended trip!


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