Perpetual travel tips: packing for the one-way trip
Basically, after our first year of perpetual travel I know that we could have packed a lot lighter than we did.
Globalization means that your known high street shops (or top end fashion boutiques) can be found all around the globe. In poorer countries you will find great markets with very cheap clothes. If you are a passionate shopper like me, pack light, then cut that pile in half and double the amount of money you prepare to bring.
Here is an overview of what we bring to comfortably conquer the world. Your list will totally depend on where you plan to go. We have packed for warmer countries – the benefits of perpetual travel for us is to get the best of the sun all year. Adjusting to cooler seasons (we spent two winter-weeks in Lithuania) was not a problem due to global shop convenience.
SHIRTS. I bring four under-shirts, one long shirt that can be worn as a pyjama and many tops (sticking to comfy cotton) that can be matched with my skirts. Tomek has many T-shirts. But they don’t need to take up much space as t-shirts seem to be the most common merchandise in all countries we have visited so far.
PANTS and SKIRTS. I have about four skirts (okay probably more) maybe as many as Tomek has pants (he has one pair of jeans, three shorts and two pairs of pants). We pack clothes that match, preparing for casual as well as smart outfits.
As you know I do have a sort of peculiar fashion style and am very sensitive to unique stuff I constantly see and somehow consequently desire. In most countries I could find original fashion footprints and if you like to wear those awesome garments, then be prepared for frequent clothing rotation. We exchange old for new, most of the time making hotel staff or apartment owners happy.
FLUFF ROLLER. I do not regret carrying one adhesive roller around, to give garments the occasional touch up, quickly getting rid of unwanted dust, hair, fluff.
SHOES. We always bring one super comfy pair of typical traveller sandals and each another pair of shoes and flippers to walk around the hotel or apartment, not to get any undesirable foot disease under showers. The shoe collection does naturally expand during the course of travel.
Walking up hill and down waterfalls on Koh Samui island – no probs with these comfy kicks.
SWEATERS. Important. Stay warm. Especially in tropical countries that have the bad habit of freezing people on buses or trains with their aircon systems. I love to cuddle up in my sweatshirt on the plane. For that reason I also have one scarf and one pair of emergency tights.
NECK SUPPORT. Useful if you are a frequent flyer to get more sleep during a flight. And a pink Hello Kitty eye-mask is a good thing to have on those bright plane flights.
Tomek picked his eye mask with a deeper fashion sense.
Clothes and cool fashion is not a problem at all. But:
ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT. Most Asian sockets are incompatible with European plugs so it does pay to invest into an ADAPTER. We even bought a second one on the road in Asia for our laptops. We carry a multi SOCKET EXTENSION CABLE which has been proven to be very useful to set up our ‘office’ anywhere we are.
You can buy the latest equipment in Asia. If you are planning on an electrical equipment shopping spree I recommend this venue for top variety and bargains in Bangkok – but more on our equipment in another post. We of course carry a camera (with no protective case = another bag) and enough memory cards.
COSMETICS. It does pay to stock up on soap and shampoo and other cosmetics. We found that Western cosmetics in many Asian countries are very expensive and the range is usually limited to costly brands.
Europe offers much more chemist stores (except Greece. We were especially surprised to find that Greece does not have any chemist stores and we regretted not stocking up on basic cosmetics in Hungary beforehand.)
Sanitary napkins or tampons can be bought anywhere and I never stock up on those.
Our cosmetics bag is the heaviest in our suitcase. We bring sunscreen, moisturiser, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, shavers, deodorants, toothpaste, brushes and an oral hygiene fluid. I am also addicted to my epilator which saves a lot of waxing-salon money.
All of our (mostly mine, I admit) cosmetics spread out nicely in our spacious hotel room in Bangkok. If you like to find out more about that St. Moriz dispenser, my epilator and the positive effects on my legs, please be welcome in the next post.
MEDICINE. We only take Aspirin and Ibuprofen for painkillers and fever tablets, Nifuroxazidum and coal tablets for stomach upsets, a thermometer (to check if we are not simulating in order to get more attention of each other) and a small disinfectant spray (very useful to give the hotel/apartment a quick hygiene boost).
Very important, the insect repellent, for Asia with at least 14%DEET. This is how we avoid bites in the tropics. 15 years ago we took Lariam as a Malaria prophylactic (in Thailand) but this is not recommended anymore. Malaria is not a problem in Asian city areas.
We have never been in a situation where we would have to drink (potentially bad) tap water, so no water purifying tablets in our bags. We always buy still water to drink and check if the seal is intact (watch out for refills!). We also do not bring band-aids as medical service is readily available for foreigners all over Asia.
I am really proud to say that since we started to tour the world, neither Tomek nor I have been sick once!
Bring EARPLUGS if you are a light sleeper. Asia is currently one big noisy building construction. We try to rule noise out by inspecting hotels before we book if we have time. Our tips on finding apartments and searching hotels and an overview of our hotel strategy in Asia.
SCISSORS. My must have. To cut my bangs, to cut off sticking out threads from clothes, to open plastic wrapping… and more.
SUNGLASSES. Don’t forget to protect your eyes but no need to bring expensive models. The sunglasses market is extensive in Asia and this is the item I tend to lose easily.
SWIMWEAR. Tomek has one pair of swim-shorts. I brought my bikini to Thailand only to exchange it for a new cool bathing suit – fashion malls are simply super in Asia.
SNORKELLING EQUIPMENT can be rented or borrowed from hotels or alternatively bought cheaply. Definitely no need to bring. Same applies if you plan to go diving. You will get all you need on the spot.
SLEEPING BAGS. No seriously, unless you are planning to go for a survival camping trip there is no need for those. It will be too hot in most of Asia and hygiene standards have improved greatly. That said, we did bring super thin sleeping bags (sort of like bedsheets) but quickly found them too uncomfortable being separated as a couple.
But if you are looking for thin sleeping bags, these (by Let’s Move, 100% cotton, 230x98cm) served us well. I put our mobile phone next to them for scale.
In the end, we did exchange those sleeping bags those for REAL BEDDING. I know, sounds crazy and like an enormous package with our own pillows and a huge duvet cover. But it only weighs 2,2 kg and keeps us comfy. Having our own bedding does make us feel at home when renting an apartment.
To resize our bedding to super-small we have a special vacuum bag. A pump can suck this sucker flat.
BOOKS. Bring one, not more. Usually you can exchange your book for a ‘new’ one at the hotel, hostel or café that do free book trades (a very common thing in Asia). English book stores are also common.
TORCH. If you have your mobile phone with an integrated light you do not need a torch. In all our travels we only used torches in Panama where we lived in a beach hut with no electricity at all. We have never used a torch and if you are not planning for a jungle night trip there is no need for extra light. Countries that have power shortages (like Cuba for example) are equipped with generators and candles.
ALARM CLOCK. We brought one but mainly used our mobile phone to do the job. Some places don’t offer wake up service or may be unreliable. It sure is good to have one.
GUIDEBOOKS. We used to carry a lot of heavy pieces of knowledge around but usually no one wants to carry a brick of book so we decided not to bring any guidebooks with us anymore. We looked for alternatives and found that everything we need to know could be found through the net. We use mobile internet when walking around cities. You can do some very cool interactive walking tours with a smartphone.
DOCUMENTS. We just have the usual papers such as our passports, IDs, credit/ATM cards (we do not carry much cash around nor travellers cheques – we only did that once as students and it was a big bother to exchange them in banks back in 1998 in Thailand).
We do not have a health insurance card. The countries we travel provide for superbly developed medical service. Panama offers free medical for the time of your stay for example. We have saved up and have decided to pay for treatments ourselves – not relying on health insurance – well aware of the risks.
One pretty useful thing is the international driver’s license that Tomek got additionally to the driver’s licence we both have.
An INTERNATIONAL DRIVER’S LICENSE is required in most countries. Very useful to have in Japan, so Tomek got one in his home country. It was rather funny to find out that we had forgotten it at our parents’ home.
It was all colourful and dandy in Okinawa/Japan but we did not get to rent a car to cruise the island.
Oh, and MR GAMMA SCOUT is our steady and much appreciated travel companion that has been checking on radioactive environments surrounding us. Our very personal freak started out with the intention to find the truth about radiation levels in Japan.
All in all, we have two SUITCASES on rolls, deciding against backpacks, although this was our way to travel for along time. But for perpetual travel we are carrying our home with us, so comfort is crucial. Pulling a suitcase of 15-20 kg each (which is more like 25 at the end of each year) is a lot easier than carrying the same weight on your back. Additionally, we each have a handbag to fit our laptops. We try not to pay overweight and mostly make the 20-25 kg airline limit.
This is what Tomek’s suitcase looks like after one year of travel. I like our suitcases for they can adapt and simply zip up additional space. I would not buy hard case suitcases as they are not as flexible.
This is my suitcase. I have packed my ballet shoes (and never used them – this year they are my new year’s resolution). I also carry some wooden panels (to the left of the suitcase), paints and brushes to do wonderful things (I love to show you another time).
The black bag on the left is Tomek’s laptop bag. He splashed out on a solid piece carrying his office around all the time.
We are wondering how long before mankind will directly connect to the net, through his mind. Can’t wait. Will post when Tomek will behave suspiciously without his laptop.
See you in the future!
PS. If you need a personalized tick off list for packing, I found this very cool site at http://upl.codeq.info/index.jsp