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How to: Pack for Long-Term Travel

So you’ve decided to try some long-term travel; be proud, making this happen is the hardest step. Bound by no limits or time-restrictions, this is travel on your own terms. Now, the toughest decision will be picking between what you need to take with you and what to leave behind. Chances are, you will pick things up along your travels, so don’t start out with too much, or be ready to ditch things along the way. The pick-up/throw-away method is a good one to get in the habit of. For every new item you purchase, one from your bag will have to go. Donating or swapping your items to people you meet along your adventures is ideal. Also, packing not-so-nice clothing is a good idea, and should you happen to have your bag lost or stolen, you’ll be happy you had your ugly clothes. Next to your travel wardrobe, here is a list of some absolute essentials every traveller should consider packing for long-term travel:

A Mummy – Not to be confused with the Mommy requesting weekly emails, this is travel bedding.  A mummy is a sleeping liner ideal for anywhere you may call a bed. The sacs are closed in at the feet, keeping in the heat. They also have an extended flap great for covering your face to block out light and insects.

Super Glue – Helping to put back together your broken bits, this super substance acts as an adhesive, temporarily suturing up large gashes and cuts that need stitching.  (Make sure to use the safety bottle the glue comes with or a zip lock baggie; this stuff will eat anything it touches should it break in your pack.)

Passport Photos – For long-term travel, you can never have too many of these.   My husband had one stapled to a receipt that served as his PASSPORT while waiting for a visa extension in China.

Dental Floss – This magic string is great for helping ward off tooth decay and gingivitis, yes, but it also doubles as a might string helping sew together bag straps and other things that may need immediate sewing together.

A Sarong – Probably the most multifunctional item you’ll have in your rucksack. Here are a few ways your sarong can be used: tie a knot in it and it turns into a bag; a pillow case; a blanket; a head scarf; shoulder scarf and beach towel.

Sunscreen – Other than protecting your skin from damaging rays, it also acts as a general moisturizer. Believe it or not, sunscreen is more expensive in places like Asia, India and places where people generally don’t wear it.  Prices go right through the roof on tropical islands.

Travel Towel – On the road, it is hard to keep clean so wherever a shower, ocean, body of water should arise, we take full advantage, even if you’re set to move on in no time at all. Special travel towels are specifically made to dry fast, keeping your things from smelling moldy and you, smelling cleaner too.

Head Lamp or Re-chargeable Flashlight – These will come in handy everywhere. From making your way through dark alleys in Southeast Asia, to searching for things when the power goes out (which is often on the road), one of these is forever useful. Head lamps are ultra handy in their hands-free sense, but they do require batteries, and who knows when you may come across batteries next, right? Re-chargeable lights require hand use, but when the batteries fail you, simply wind them up for power. A re-chargeable head lamp would be perfect.

Diarrhea Pills – Let’s be serious, who wants to be the one to ask the bus driver to pull over because you’ve got the runs. I have heard some pretty funny-after-the-fact stories about people having to do this (particularly in places like India and South East Asia). I understand apprehensions against western medication and some of list-long side effects that may occur with medication use, but what would you rather do? Pack diapers? And hey, chances are you will run into someone who will need those pills more than you. A friend in need is a friend indeed.

General Antibiotic – Similar to diarrhea pills, these are good to have accessible. When you’re travelling you have to be on all the time and when you’re not, you risk your health and your safety. You are number one on the road so take care of yourself; and remember, you may not even need to use these, which is generally the case when you come prepared, compared to when you don’t – you know, how when it rains the one day you didn’t bring your umbrella.

A Phone – As much as it is serene, the feeling you get knowing you can’t be reached. But however good it feels initially, the novelty wears off when you realize that things get done by use of a telephone in many countries. From booking transportation to reserving accommodations, a phone is helpful in its basic form – making calls. Many people nowadays travel with the trusty i-Phone, although they are a target for theft. They are also known for having an inconveniently short battery life and have been known to become damaged due to voltage overload and electrical sockets overseas.

A Lock – Locks are the key to keeping your things safe. Many accommodations offer locks, but they will also carry a spare key. Having your own will give you that extra sense of security. Just don’t lose your combination, or key, because then we will have to add bolt cutters to the list.

Inspiration – The get-up-and-go travel item that fired up your hunger to start exploring the world. Whether it was a picture, book, song, poem, note or quote, pack it in your bag and keep it close. When things get rough out there, as they will, reach for that inspiration and read it, listen to it, eat it up and remind yourself why you are doing what it is you are doing.

A First-Aid Kit – Have this on you at all times and in it, keep: polysporin, band-aids, alcohol wipes and safety pins.

Earplugs – From loud street noise to blaring bus tunes when you’re trying to catch some shut-eye these, will ensure some much needed sleep on the road; but we wary when you have an alarm set.

Especially for the Ladies

The Fenis – Literally a female penis, the fenis is a hand-held device specifically designed so that women no longer have sit on a dirty toilet. Even for those who abstain from sitting, who really wants to be hovering anyway? Whether you use it or not, I think it’s just funny to carry around; it’s a great conversation piece. Find out more about the fenis here.

A Wedding Band – Married, divorced, separated, single, whatever your status at the time of travel, wear a wedding band. This will help dissuade unwanted male attention, in certain parts of the world.

Sunglasses – Some people like to stare more than others. Annoying as it may be, starring back is generally not the best idea as it can be considered flirtatious or a come-on. A dark pair of shades (preferably ones that are mirrored) can help deter persistent stares.

Sport Bra – Unfortunately there are many parts of the world where people don’t understand that groping and grabbing is a big no, no. Wearing a sports bra will help keep your girls more secure and safe behind the padding, which acts as a sort of barricade. Sports bras are also good for a lot of the bumpy rides you’re sure to experience. From buses and rickshaws to elephants and camels, wearing one will help keep ‘the girls’ from falling out and potentially slapping you in the face.

Detergent – On-hand detergent is good for many things. One, you can avoid having to pay for your laundry to get done, which in most countries, save for parts of Asia, is costly. Washing your own underwear is a good idea anyway since who knows who’s looking through your items, but if you tend to be prone to sensitivity down in the nether regions, your own detergent will aid in preventing such potential discomfort.

Safety Pins – These little metal pieces are wonderful for mending straps, pining together revealing necklines and removing splinter shards.

The Diva Cup – Forget having to search out tampons in foreign land, wearing a diaper-like pad, or worse, using a wad of toilet paper as a temporary measure. The Diva Cup is a non-absorbent cup worn internally that collects menstrual flow. It can be worn for up to 12 hours before removal, washing and re-insertion. It is latex, plastic and BPA-free, easy to use and comfortable. Ladies on the road swear by it. For more information about the Diva Cup click here.

What travel items do you highly recommend?

7 comments on “How to: Pack for Long-Term Travel

  1. megalagom
    March 30, 2012

    Awesome list! Very helpful to any traveler!

  2. JD
    April 3, 2012

    ive always wanted to travel, and your blog is so inspirational!! i need the push to start travelling but furthermore, i’m scared because of funding..! how long do you think i should prepare myself before i decide i want to travel? 🙂

    • Lindsay Anne Williams
      April 4, 2012

      Hey JD – Thank you for your comment and questions. It means a lot to me that you find inspiration here. A really good way to keep yourself inspired and save was making a “trip jar”. I took a grape juice jar (something hard to get your hand into) and covered it in a collage of pictures of places I wanted to travel to. We’d put part of our pay cheques in the trip jar every pay day; working a couple of jobs to save up as much as possible. Working on the road is also very easy to do. I found lots of inspiration from a book called Vagabonding by Rolf Potts.

      The book talks about how to quit your job and travel for a while, and things you can do for work on the road (travel writing and teaching English are good options). Volunteering also lets you travel/stay for free.

      We spent a year and a half saving for approximately two years of travel (knowing that we would probably have to stop and work somewhere a long our travels).

      You miss 100% of the opportunities you don’t take. I hope you take the chance. Only you can make that happen. You won’t regret it.

  3. Emme Rogers @ Roamancing
    April 10, 2012

    Great tips. Especially of the ‘especially for the ladies’.

  4. olivegreencrayon
    June 2, 2012

    The DivaCup can be worn for up to 12 hours, not 12 days! That’s one bad typo, hun!

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