A few of my favourite things, in order of how useful they were:
Havaiana Flash Urbans. Everywhere I went in Africa, people were begging to know where I got my jandals (aka flip flops or thongs). Unlike normal jandals, they have a strap around the back of them, meaning they don’t slip off in water, mud or when running. Possibly the most useful think on my entire trip, they also look a lot cooler than traditional jandals and can pass with a dress or going out at night.
Backup phone charger. A godsend when travelling in countries without regular access to electricity or on long place rides. One battery pack can sometimes give you 3-4 full chargers of an iPhone, and mean you phone will never die when you are taking 1000 photos a day. The one time I forgot mine, I was at the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town (one of the seven new wonders of the world) and my phone died, and I was cursing myself the whole way down. Also, if you are staying in dorms it’s a lot safer to leave your battery pack charging unattended in your room instead of your phone. If possible, solar powered ones are even better, as they don’t require any electricity to charge them
Dry shampoo. When you are travelling for days, or go to places where showers and hairdryers are a luxury, dry shampoo saves your ass and takes you from looking like a greasy chip to freshly washed. Talcum powder (for blondes) is an inexpensive and readily available product that saves your time, money and sanity.
Ethique shampoo bar. After 6 days of dry shampooing, something’s gotta give. Ethique shampoo bars are lightweight, small, are good for the environment. Big shampoo bottles don’t take up space in your bag, and don’t contribute more plastic to landfills. These babies also last a lot longer than traditional shampoo does. In 4 months in Africa, I only needed 1 bar.
Workout leggings. Anyone that knows me will tell you I live in these, regardless of if I’m travelling or not. But while travelling, they were 100% my most useful item of clothing. They are breathable, lightweight, dry in a flash, are multipurpose, and are stretchy and comfortable. From climbing the second highest waterfall in the world to attempting a workout in a national park in Malawi, to travelling on planes and spending long nights tracking hyenas, no other item of clothing ticked as many boxes. Mine were lululemon (typical).
Find My iPhone and DropBox Apps. In many countries, pick-pocketing and mugging is a huge industry. Tourists make easy targets, and so many of the people I met along my travels had fallen victim, losing not only expensive equipment but also priceless video and photo memories. Find My iPhone lets you track where your phone is, almost to the centimeter, and has found countless stolen phones. Whenever I got to reliable internet and wifi, I uploaded every photo and video to DropBox just in case my phone got stolen or damaged.
A toothbrush protector/zip lock bags. Being OCD about oral hygiene has its perks, and like many of us I carry my toothbrush on me at all times. My anxiety was kept in check by keeping my toothbrush in a zip case, perfect for when you are going off the grid. While you’re buying zip lock bags, grab a few to house your phone in. They are waterproof, so are excellent and inexpensive for hiking or going on boats or to the beach. Same goes for protecting your passport and other important documents.
Nuts and dried fruit. You never know where the next restaurant or supermarket may be on the road (especially if you have dietary requirements), so I always kept a stock of nuts and dried fruit in my bag to snack on. Way better than buying a greasy burger or loaf of white bread and chocolate bar at a service station.
General antibiotics are definitely one of the best things to take on your trip with you. They can be used to treat a wide range of things, and will save you a lot of time, effort and money when you don’t have to go to an overseas doctor. Obviously they never take the place of proper medical advice or serious illness, but for minor infections they are excellent.
No matter where you go, make sure you have a pair of small scissors with you. Their uses are endless, and you don’t realize how useful they are until you don’t have any.
Photocopies of your passport, drivers license and travel insurance contract (which you 100% should invest in). If anything bad happens, and all your identification is stolen, these are some of the only ways you’ll be able to prove its you. They are also great when you don’t want to hand over your passport in some situations.
Microfibre travel towel. Lightweight towels that can double as pillows or blankets are amazing, and microfibre towels dry so quickly! They take up minimal space in your bag too. Mine was from lululemon athletica, and they come in a variety of sizes.
A small, portable head torch. Again, you won’t realize how useful this is until you need it and don’t have it – find toilets in the dark, dodge snakes, get dressed in the dark and read in your tent.
Google translate and XE currency converter apps. It is so easy to justify spending more money when in countries with weak economies, but using the XE converted keeps things in perspective and helps you check yourself. When using public transport, the Google translator app is a must.
Moleskin notebook. Because I was on placements, I used it to write down everything I learned and chronicle the things that happened to me, but also it’s super helpful to write down place names, recommended hotels, the addresses of people you meet, budgets, and backup flight information. Yes, we all have smartphones that can do that, but my intention is that in 50 years I’ll have a moleskin from every trip I go on to look back at, and a special place on my (many) bookshelves to house them all.
No doubt you other intrepid travellers have your own travel essentials, and I’d love to hear them!! Leave me a comment of the first things that go into your suitcase and what you can’t travel without