A few people have asked me what the most useful things were that we took away with us on our Awfully Big Adventure. So, in addition to the obvious things – a decent camera, a comfy pair of trainers (mine were Teva walking trainers which I cannot recommend highly enough), a rucksack that fits your needs – this is my list of stuff that I think deserves room in your bag.
1. A universal electrical plug with USB charger
This was unbelievably useful. It charged Kindles, iPods and phones and could be used in any country. Definitely a great travel accessory and pretty cheap; Go Outdoors – S’ favourite shop – sells them for £25.
2. A white long sleeved top
I bought a white, thin, cotton top with sleeves that can be rolled up and buttoned a few years ago that has been my constant travelling companion since.
It’s perfect for every kind of situation – to keep you warm when layered, to keep you cool, to protect your shoulders and arms in the hot sun, to offer modesty when required. I’ve worn mine when hiking and climbing, on planes to keep warm in fierce air con, when sightseeing in cities – it goes with every occasion. I know white + travel isn’t necessarily a good mix but I never had too many issues with keeping it clean (and I am a messy eater). Sadly this trip finished it off – there are numerous holes that can’t be fixed so I’m now on the search for its replacement.
3. A thermal top and a pair of black leggings
Our packs were small but our climates were varied, so layers, layers, layers were key. Having a thermal top was perfect: it didn’t take up too much space but I was very grateful to have something toasty to wear when sleeping in -10 in the Andes. My leggings were also useful, both as a layer under trousers to keep warm but also under dresses in places like India for modesty.
4. Baby wipes
When you want to get the travel grit off you and feel a tad more human, but there is no running water accessible, the awesomeness of a farmer’s bath with a few baby wipes cannot be beaten. One bumper pack lasted pretty much the entire three months.
5. Hand sanitiser
Pretty self explanatory, vital when you’re eating food on the go or when (as frequently in South America) there was no water to wash your hands in toilets.
6. A pen
Never underestimate the usefulness of a pen and when you will need one. Filling in customs’ forms on planes, writing out Indian rail ticket reservations, sending postcards home – it’s always good to have one or two on you as there always seems to a need for a pen.
7. A roll up hat
If you’re the kind of person who burns easily and is liable to sunstroke, as I am, a hat will always be part of any holiday luggage. I usually wear a straw trilby but this wasn’t practical with so much moving around. The roll up cotton hat I bought wasn’t as stylish, but the fact it could be easily stashed in bags when not needed was invaluable.
I also brought a fleece hat with me to keep toasty in cooler climes – once the sun goes down in Peru in August/September, it gets very, very cold.
8. Knife, fork and spoon plus plastic plates
We ate a lot of meals assembled from market food, and having plates to serve them on and proper cutlery to eat them with made a lot more combinations possible. Our sets were camping ones which clipped together, which is good for space constraints. We also had a sharp knife which was very useful for slicing fruit and bread. Just remember to put it in your hold baggage when flying!
9. A travel journal
Taking the time to write diary entries and note down the small details of our trip was one of the best things I did. Before we left, three friends kindly gave me travel journals; I only took one but ended up having to buy another notebook in India due to filling up the first!
I would recommend the ones with pockets so you can add small mementos such as ticket stubs, leaflets, etc.
10. A semi-smart dress/nice shirt
Sometimes, after days of trekking around and wearing manky t-shirts, all you want to do is look smart, so having a dress (for the ladies) or a button through shirt (for the gents) to hand for this purpose is really useful. I bought a black Volcom dress in Bali which I loved as it was cotton and therefore cool, but when I wore it I immediately felt a lot less of s scruffy backpacker.
11. A travel towel
Although I hate the feel of microfibre on my skin, having a decent sized bath towel that could be rolled up into a bag no larger than a postcard was really handy, especially when hostels either didn’t provide towels or we didn’t like the look of them. It also dried super fast.
And stuff we took but didn’t need/use? A universal sink plug – we never had any issues with keeping water in any sink. We lugged a small plastic bag of washing powder around with us for washing clothes (v suspicious at Customs!) but we ended up getting our clothes washed using hostel’s laundry services – much easier and very cheap in India and South America, with any hand laundry just taking place in the shower. My brother swore by gaffer tape from his round the world trip so we dutifully took a roll with us, never to actually use it. (Although that’s probably more to do with the type of hostels he stayed in versus our slightly higher budget!)
So that’s my list. Anything you think I’ve missed off?