5 Unusual Things Long-Term Travelers Should NOT Leave at Home
It is a right of passage for every long-term traveler: (a) packing about 10kgs of useless stuff and (b) leaving some pretty useful stuff at home. So after more than 6 months on the road, I feel like I can weigh in. Here is a list of 5 (somewhat unusual) things I think every long-term traveler should pack.
#1 | Forget First-Aid Kits BUT Not This
I cannot tell you how many travel packing lists include an extensive first-aid kit. These usually include things like gauze and tape, water purification tablets and even syringes (for when you just gotta shoot up?)!
Let me tell you this – unless you are heading to an uninhabited island is the middle of the Pacific somewhere, I seriously doubt you need any of that stuff. We have been in some pretty small towns on our trip and in most cases there was a local convenience store selling a decent selection of travelers essentials (you know beer, cigarettes, Strepsils, Durex condoms, etc).
If something goes wrong YOU WILL be able to find a shop selling the pill or plaster you need.
Traveling is tough on your body. You end up eating weird and wonderful food along the side of the road and change cities often – all of which takes its toll. Of all the pills we have been lugging along, the only ones we have taken are our probiotics.
So you might be thinking “don’t you only take probiotics after antibiotics?” Nope – they are actually a great way to ensure your gut stays healthy and help with travelers diarrhea. Trust me – you don’t want to spend more time on South East Asia’s toilets than you have to.
We use Entiro – a superior probiotic that looks after your entire gut (which no other probiotic does). Check out this video to see why:
I don’t want to get too technical here but basically the continuous production of powerful antimicrobial peptides kill intestinal pathogens. This is achieved through pore formation in the pathogen, causing cellular contents to leak out, effectively killing it. Sounds gross but trust me – pack probiotics.
#2 | Ice-Cold Water Every Time
Adam is a pro when it come to packing weird but super useful things. When he told me he would take an ice tray and two water bottles to Asia I thought he was crazy. But we have literally used them EVERY DAY.
Adam is obsessed with his Atlasware Water Bottles. No seriously obsessed. After spending a month getting some work done in the small heritage town of Hoi An, we spent our last day searching for one of the bottles Adam misplaced. When he was finally reunited with his bottle it was like something from a scene of that Christian The Lion – Reunited video – queue dramatic music:
These bottles are pretty impressive – they are so well insulated that cold drinks stay cold for 24 hours (like ice-cold) and hot drinks stay hot for 18 hours (like steaming hot). They are super durable and after 6 months on the road still look brand new.
Most importantly you can save money and save the environment. We fill up our bottles whenever we see free water dispensers – especially at airports where you usually see people downing water at security checks. We also do our best to buy big bottles of water (like the reusable 19l ones used for water dispensers) and refill our smaller bottles from there. Trust me Asia does not need more litter.
#3 | Adapt or Die
Traveling long-term inevitably means either (a) having to work remotely or (b) having to pretend you work remotely so you have an excuse to sit in the relative comfort of an air-conditioned coffee shop all day. Either way you will need some adapters.
Most packing lists suggest buying some fancy universal adapter (usually with an affiliate link directing you to Amazon – fair enough). But they never think to point out this obvious and useful tip: Pack an extension chord with a multi-plug.
Why pack an extension chord?
Let’s be honest – you are not some great explorer. Chances are other travelers have found the “small unique town of Ubud” (it is not so small and unique anymore). This means the best spots in coffee shops (close to power outlets) are usually taken. An extension chord means you can sit anywhere #winning.
Why pack a multi-plug?
Your travel adapter can take how many plugs? Exactly! At any time we need about 5 plug points: two for our laptops, one for Adam’s external hard drive, usually one or two for charging cell phones. We use multi-plug that has a 3m extension chord.
#4 | The World is your Gym
Staying fit when traveling long-term is harder than it seems. Before we left I imagined we would be eating super healthy Asian food, walking all day, drinking loads of water and living stress-free. But it turns out most Asian food is cooked in oil and has loads of sugar in it, scooters are really cheap to rent and the coffee here is pretty damn good.
Moral of the story – you have to make a point of exercising when traveling long-term. We have all seen those aspirational Instagram accounts with people doing yoga on the road. (See video below)
It turns out exercising on the road is not so simple. In some cities we have managed to find parks with outdoor gyms but other than that have relied on the following setup to make our own home gym anywhere:
- Pro-Gym resistance tubes supplemented with Adam’s 5kg tripod where needed
- Skipping rope
- Portable Bluetooth speaker
#5 | You’ve Made your Bed (Now Lie in It)
Probably the most controversial thing when it comes to packing: to sleeping bag/ pillow or not to sleeping bag/ pillow. This depends largely on how long you are traveling, where you are going and what your budget is.
If you are traveling for two weeks to a luxury resort in Bali – DO NOT pack your sleeping bag and pillow. BUT if like us, you are traveling long-term, moving around often and not planning on spending a lot on accommodation, these two things can make a world of difference.
Before photo: how not to pack for a 7 month trip through South East Asia. After a really chilled three weeks in #chiangmai we took the overnight train back to #bangkok. On Monday we head to #myanmar for 4 pretty intense weeks of traveling. I am beyond embarrassed to admit that we are already ready to part ways with about 50% of the things we packed. How did I convince myself that it was a good idea to pack a sleeping bag and warm clothes to a region where the night time temperature averages about 20degrees? Why do I have two pairs of running shoes? And so much “just in case” medicine? Traveling like this really makes me wonder why I am so attached to stuff. It is so liberating letting go of all the clutter that weighs me down. On to the next adventure – posting stuff back to SA.
We have used our sleeping bags more than we expected – from overnight trains in Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam to cold nights on Inle Lake or on Cat Ba Island. Whether it is a bit chilly or if the accommodation bedding looks a bit questionable, sleeping bags do the trick. Nowadays you can find lightweight sleeping bags that pack pretty small – so it is really not such a hassle.
Pillows are a bit more contentious. Budget accommodation in Asia is typically known two types of pillows: (a) pancake thin pillows and (b) hard as a rock pillows. I have survived it all – supplementing the pancake pillows with a small airplane pillow when needed. Adam insists on lugging his 3kg memory foam pillow around everywhere and claims it is worth it.
It is worth saying this – whatever you pack, you will end up leaving unnecessary things behind as you go and you can always buy extra things you might need. So don’t spend too much time stressing about what to pack and spend more time planning your adventure.