I’m quite particular about what I pack when I travel, and what I don’t. Over the years, I’ve become good at slimming down my packing, although I still haven’t quite mastered the art.
My “essentials lists” can be broken down into the following categories:
- Stuff you must have
- Exercise stuff
Most of you are probably going “why on earth is she taking food and exercise stuff???”. Well, if you go on a couple of one-two week holidays in a year you probably only need to worry about “stuff you must have”. But if you, like me, spend up to 25 weeks of the year on the road you start getting a bit pickier about food (and if you suffer from fast onset of bad mood caused by not eating regularly, aka The Hangry, you certainly need a few essentials in your bag). Not exercising when travelling is not an option when you travel as much as I do. A least not if you want to keep up any kind of decent fitness level.
STUFF YOU MUST HAVE
This is the stuff I won’t be able to get by without. From important documents to chargers and toiletries.
PHRASE BOOK: Because being able to say a few things, albeit in terrible pronunciation – like my French, in the local lingo goes a long way to make new friends!
DRY SHAMPOO: A girl’s best friend, especially when hiking (and showers tend to be few, cold and far between)
SUN PROTECTION: I’m blessed (or cursed, depending on how you chose to look at it) with very fair skin. My great grandfather was so white that he was called the Porcelain Man. His genes are exceptionally strong, and despite having married people with darker complexion for generations, my family has not been able to escape the Porcelain Man skin tone… In fact, I bet you that if me and my (African-skinned) husband had kids, they would still come out white. So what I am trying to say is that high factor sun screen is a must.
HEAD BAND: This nifty little thing can be used as a scarf or head band when it is cold, as sun protection for sensitive scalps (you know, Porcelain genes), and as a sweat-wiper on a really hot day.
FLIP BELT: The best thing since sliced bread! In fact, much better as I generally don’t like sliced bread (at least not the horrible, pre-sliced type that you so often get here – refer to food section on how to remedy this). This belt fits snugly around the waist, and can easily hold my iPhone, keys, credit card and even a small bottle of water (the size of a hip flask – might work for whisky as well come to think of it!).
SOLID PERFUME: I’m not much of a glam girl even at the best of times, and when I travel I tend to ditch the fancies altogether. But I found a little jar of “solid perfume” in Namibia recently, that contains Namib Myrrh and smells wonderful. It’s great for all occasions (including hiking – see previous comment about showers).
PLUGS, CABLES & CHARGERS: These are such essentials today, when we all travel with our cameras and phones. Battery chargers and spare batteries, adaptors and lens cleaners are a must. Oh, and I love this cute little bag!
ZAM-BUK: This is a South Africa cure-all in a jar: a magic potion that contains camphor, eucalyptus and thyme oil and heals chapped lips, dry skin and small rashes.
EARPLUGS (not pictured as my current ones had travelled with me for 3 weeks through Namibia and Namaqualand…): This is probably the biggest favour you can do yourself. It’s a life saver in poorly sound-insulated hotel rooms (where you can hear everything from the elevator to your neighbour’s toilet habits) and even more so when sleeping in close proximity to snoring people (like when you are camping or, even worse, if you ever decide to do the Camino where dorms sometimes hold up to 100 people – you really don’t want to hear 100 people sleeping…).
If you, like me, like Good Food and/or suffer from occasional onsets of The Hangry you really want to pay attention now. Husbands and boyfriends can learn a few survival tricks too!
DRIED FRUIT: Excellent source of quick energy, and generally good for you. I love dried mangoes and pears. Another really good one is dried ginger, which also gives you a nice peppery kick for an instant pick-me-up. A word of caution though: too much of a good thing is not always great. In the case of dried fruit, you may want to ensure that your friends have earplugs if you’re gonna go wild, especially if camping (or doing the Camino)…
SALT & PEPPER AND CHILI SAUCE: I never leave home without this. A surprising amount of stuff can be solved with these two things, including terrible sandwiches made on white, pre-sliced bread (which I often get in my lunch-packs when I’m working as a guide) and bland restaurant meals. My current chili sauce favourite is the one in the pic: Dr Trouble from Zimbabwe (it has lemon, smoked chili and masala). Another great one is Black Mamba from Swaziland (with lemon and ginger).
NUTS & SEEDS: Packed with good fat and energy! I always carry chia seeds and a seed mix, which I mix with some hot water and use to fortify my morning yoghurt. Non-salted nuts are the best (read healthiest) ones, but keep a few salted peanuts handy too for sundowners (alcoholic drink imbibed at sunset) and other occasions (see below).
PROTEIN POWDER: Another great way to keep The Hangry at bay (and thus my hubby’s Best Friend). Just mix with some water and drink for instant energy (or better mood – or both). Note that if The Hangry hits in the afternoon my hubby strongly recommends salted peanuts (see above) and a glass of wine for bullet proof conflict avoidance (pun intended!).
DARK CHOCOLATE: A little goes a long way with these dark babies! Never leave without it, especially not if you’re going camping.
Because I spend so much time on the road, I need to be able to keep up with my fitness routine as best I can. Running is obviously an easy option, but not if you’re staying in a game reserve with wild animals or in an African city where you don’t know which areas are safe. So I’ve got a back-up plan.
RESISTANCE BAND: There is no end to the pain you can inflict to yourself with one of these, and then I’m not even talking about when you lose your grip and slap yourself in the face… This is definitely the most bangs you’re gonna get for your bucks; it s so small and light that you will never come up with an excuse not to bring it! As for excuses not to use it, well that’s a different discussion.
YOGA MAT: For, well you know, yoga. But also for crunches and other unpleasant exercises that require laying own on the floor. For obvious reasons, this is a luxury and only for when you travel with decent luggage that you don’t need to carry too far.
SKIPPING ROPE: For when running is not an option.
Those are my travel essentials! Now I’m off to stuff these, and a few more things, into my bag as we’re off to Reunion Island tomorrow morning!