The most important thing that you can possibly take with you on your travels is a good sense of humour. There will be times when whatever can go wrong will go wrong – you either learn to laugh about it or else go insane. Take your pick.
Most people desperately over-pack for a hundred paranoid contingencies and emergencies. In fact most of what you may need can be bought on the road and far more cheaply, too. What follows is The Road Junky Travel Essentials list – none of which need be all that essential, really.
1. A torch. If you’re heading into the tropics then walking around at night you should always carry a torch to see snakes in your path. Most will be scared off by the beat of your feet (walk loudly) but some are very slow and very poisonous. A good flashlight also cuts down the chances of falling to your death when cutting across country at night.
2. A towel. You can sleep on it, flag down rides when hitchhiking with it, use it in hand to hand combat and most importantly, impress people that even after months on your road you still have your towel with you.
3. Music. However much you think you’re off to immerse yourself in foreign cultures you’re going to miss the good sounds you grew up with. Figure on a lot of long bus and train journeys. On the same note carrying a guitar with you will make you every popular wherever you go.
4. A bi-lingual dictionary. Even if you don’t plan to learn the language of where you’re going (which would be a great shame) then you’ll at least benefit from being able to find the words you need. Knowing how to say ‘hospital’ or ‘beer’ may be lifesavers.
5. A good pair of shoes. If you have big feet it may be hard to find good footwear in places like Asia. You’re going to use your feet extensively so this is a good investment.
6. A good sleeping bag is useful too. Dying of cold and moisture isn’t much fun. In warmer parts of the world you can get by with just a good blanket though and this can also take the place of a jacket.
7. A good rucksack to carry it all in. Though, much as you’ll be the laughing stock of every hostel, a suitcase works just as well. You can wheel it around and when you go trekking or something you just leave it at the hostel until you get back. It also makes it easier to get through immigration in Japan.
Some travelers like to demonstrate their cool by traveling light though few could ever beat an Australian girl we heard of in India. She had one tiny handbag containing one change of clothes, a bed sheet, a stand-up portrait of Barbara Streisand and a small cactus plant. The latter two items she used to create her own mini-environment wherever she went.
What not to take
1. A huge LP Guidebook. It’s mostly crap and the only thing you’ll need it for are the cheap guesthouse listings. Anyway, you can just borrow one off other travelers when you need to and let them carry all 2 or 3 kilos of it around. Guidebooks prejudice your view of what you haven’t experienced yet.
2. Too many clothes. You’ll buy most of what you need on the way.
3. Malaria pills. Almost always a waste of money and dangerous to your health.
4. A stand-up portrait of Barbara Streisand and a small cactus plant.
Also check out the Travel Health Essentials