Monday, March 27, 2017

never without you - what i like to take on my travels

Seriously, what is it that you really need to take with you on your trip? Actually it's your passport, your vaccination record, a credit card and your phone with your ticket, boarding pass, and all that matters on it. Everything else such as clothes, toiletries, sunshades, can buy almost everything in almost every country of the world.

I'm packing for Colombia. Leaving in four days. "You're packing now?", I hear you say. Yes, and mind you that's pretty late, usually I'm packing approximately two weeks before leaving. Ok, I'll be honest with you - I put my stuff together about three weeks ago. Since then it's all piled up in my bed room and every morning, before I go to work, I look at it - and forward to going on a trip again.

Of course you can follow Yin Xiuzhen's example and pack your entire hometown. But mind you, usually you get everything you need on the spot. (Yin Xiuzhen: "Portable City - Hangzhou" (2011))

While I'm packing, I was thinking to share with you what I'm taking on every trip to make it even more comfortable; maybe that will give you a couple of ideas what to include to your list of must haves.

peace and quiet

Vital: ear plugs! Not only sleep saving at hotels with paper thin walls and noisy neighbors, but also the perfect cure against notorious talkers on bus and train rides and even on the beach. Plug them in your ears and leave the world behind.
With ear plugs come for many people sleeping goggles. I do not really need them agains light, but I sometimes like to wear them to give me the feel of escaping. Thus, I'm getting this feeling even better by pulling a hood over my head and into my face. My hoodie is my castle.
Evidently an inflatable pillow completes your peace and quiet set. If you choose one with a removable and washable cover you can also use it e. g. on the beach.
Still cannot sleep? Jet lag is raging? For me Melatonin is key. Normally I avoid taking medication, but a week without a good night sleep cannot be less harmful to me than a couple of Melatonin pills. The times when Europeans had to stock up in the US are over - you get Melatonin at many pharmacies and drug stores, and I have to take them for three, four nights max and my body is on the local time. However, before you pop it like candy, get some info first.

dry and warm

Recommending the next three items I think of trips to regions with at least 65° F resp. 18° C, not a trip to Alaska in wintertime. Because especially we northerners tend to feel like, yeyiii, I'm going to the tropics, I'm going to South America - must be very hot there 'cause it isn't called 'South' for nothing. Yeah well, it's not that easy. Because while in the coastal regions and valleys it actually is warm, as soon as you get higher you will see that South is just a five letter word. Never in my life did I freeze more than going to the Colca Canyon in Peru (just to make sure: South America). But since you do not need warm clothing all the time, it's sensible to choose a foldable version. There are jackets that look really cool and are the exact opposite: super-snug. You should have them on you also in tropical cities. My Spanish teacher used to say that in German winter you do not suffer from the cold but from the heat because people go crazy with the calefaction. You can turn this around: In tropical countries people turn busses, supermarkets, shopping malls, cinemas etc. into freezers with their stupid air condition (here's a little story about me handling air cons). Therefore it's always advisable to have a warm jacket on you - yes, in the tropics.
By the way, I need it in addition for the journey - when leaving in wintertime for a warm destination, I wear it to the airport; and on the flight, too.
I'm also taking a foldable rain coat. There's nothing more annoying than spending the day at your guest house because you cannot go outside without getting soaked. Pick a preferably quite long and wide kind - it will look ridiculous, anyway, so let it at least be useful.
A last foldable thing you should have in the deep of your daypack is a pair of foldable flats. Even if it's hot and you're wearing comfy sandals or flip flops - their straps can become very painful especially when your feet swell due to the heat. What a heavenly relief when you can slip into soft, flat shoes with no straps.

beach and boat 

I have two Ocean Packs - a large one that I use as a beach bag mainly against the sand and a smaller one to store my stuff when going e. g. snorkeling. In addition to that I have a waterproof smartphone bag that is transparent so you do not have to open it every time you need to use it.
A thing that I do not like to rent or buy on the spot is a mask and a snorkel. They are either disgusting or half broken or when you buy them close to the beach, even the crappy ones are much more expensive. So I like to have my own.

utensils and rugs

Unlike Yin Xiuzhen (get some information on this outstanding artist), I'm not packing my hometown and I also leave the kitchen sink at home. But I have a set of useful utensils that can be cleverly put together in one handy piece. It unfolds into a bottle opener, a corkscrew, scissors, spoon, knife and fork all made of stainless steel - so make sure you don't put it in your hand luggage - it makes a powerful weapon, too. I think I don't need to explain what it's good for: for basically everything.
Another little helper is a spare lock. It will certainly not save you from armed robbery, but it might prevent the quick and dirty pickpocketing.
Besides a thin spare towel I always take a large pareo, sarong, wrap ... whatever you name it - a large piece of fabric; to cover my head in muslim countries, to cover my shoulders in catholic churches, to cover my legs in hindu sites, to wrap it around my shoulders when there's a nip in the air, to spread it on a lawn or on the beach, to tie it into a sack when I need one. How can people travel without a ... whatever you name it?!

So these are the things that I'm taking with me to be even more comfortable. Even if you can get certain things on the spot, sometimes it feels nice and homy to have your own, already a little worn stuff.

packs and bags

I'm not doing backpacks. Never got the hang of it since I don't find them practical unless you follow Indiana Jones through the jungle or cross the desert walking. Everywhere else you can pull your luggage instead of carrying it. I'm old. I'm lazy. I don't like to schlep. I want a cart and a donkey. Or at least luggage with wheels. And I prefer travel bags over suitcases - because in a situation where you cannot pull them you still can slide the handles resp. straps over you shoulders and carry it like a backpack; not very comfortable, but a compromise.
Another reason for my dislike of backpacks and daypacks and knapsacks and all the other ...acks is that everything disappears into their deep and then I'm digging in the dark and I'm getting all worked up about having lost something. Plus while I don't care about wrinkles in my face, I hate my clothes getting them from being stuffed in a backpack.

So we are reaching the last - for me by now crucial - recommendation: Don't underestimate hand luggage. After various airlines managed to get me to my final destination long before my luggage arrived, I always pack everything I might need during the first 48 hours in my hand luggage. I'm packing like for a weekend trip - pajamas, underwear, a light dress, two t-shirts, an extra pair of sandals, toiletries (You do not have to buy extra travel sizes, though. You'll probably get shampoo and shower gel at the hotel, anyway, and facial creams, tooth paste etc. are usually in containers unter 3.4 oz / 100 ml, so there shouldn't be a problem). This way while waiting all jittery for my luggage, wondering whether this time they've lost it for good, at least I don't stink.

And now it's your turn: What are your personal travel treasures? Come on, I'd love to learn a thing or two!

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