Seflie stick in hand, and you’ve decided to tackle your own “Don’t Follow Me Project”. The first little tip to your new life as a backpacking nomad: it’s a whole lot better when you remember to bring your passport and trusty pimple cream.
One benefit of traveling with someone else is the second suitcase. If you’ve forgotten something, then there’s a high chance that your partner has remembered for you! But with a little bit of organisation and a lot of Lonely Planet readings, you’ll be ready to conquer the world. I’ve come up with a few tips for the modern day solo backpacker:
1. Smart Packing
Usually, the first tip for a new backpacker is to roll your clothes. It is obvious that you don’t need to bring your whole wardrobe on your travels; a handful of clothes will suffice. However, these can be bulking and take up valuable room in your trusty new Kathmandu backpack valued at a mere $700.
Basic warm clothing may be bulky, but necessary and should be packed for whatever climate — Yes, the humidity of Vietnam doesn’t stop the cool breezes of Halong bay. A Space Bag to store your rain jacket, scarf and cargo pants (or Lorna Jane Flashdance pants) can save you ample souvenir room. Another option is to purchase Packing Cubes. These segregate your packing, making it easier to find items without having to pour your entire backpack on the hostel floor. Large zip lock bags can also be used to save on your Chang and Singha funds.
2. Birth Control
If you’re like me and need about 20 alarms on your phone to remember anything then you have an alarm set for taking your pill. There’s nothing worse than waking up from a nap in Abu Dhabi airport to find you “Take Your Pill!” alarm going off, then realising you’ve left your pill on the bedside table. Pack your pill. While you’re at it pack pills for the next 3 months. Better yet, pack your pill in your carry on. On the topic of toiletries: sunscreen, insect repellent, an abundance of gastro-stops, and condoms (wine not?).
A life saver for the backpacker world! Unfortunately, your iPhone may not always be charged, and the god given iPhone torch isn’t available. First, attach a little clip-on torch to your backpack. Second, attach one again inside your stylish new shoulder sling bag you bought from Kuta Square.
Sixteen years old, broken Bali bag on arm, and a Bob Marley necklace. Stylish.
You will use your torch more than you originally thought: walking home after an impromptu (daily) pub crawl or searching around your backpack in a room of five snoring strangers (a must have: earplugs). Anna from Newcastle is gannin’ be proper pissed at you turning on the dorm light coming home from an international Netflix and Chill. Nee way you’re waking up with a friendly roomie.
4. Pack for the culture
I will never forget stepping out in New Delhi Airport wearing a t-shirt and 3/4 shorts. As an 18 year old Australian I considered this to be “covered up”. I might as well have been naked in front of a few hundred Indian transport guides.
It is mandatory to know the clothing etiquette of your new home
For warmer climates, you should pack a light cardigan and scarf. Combine these with your new Alibaba pants from Bangla Road and you’re ready to take on historical temples and villages. It is very rare a temple is going to let you pray to their god, or rub the lucky Buddha’s belly whilst wearing a Bintang singlet. Luckily (and sadly) for us Westerns, the Asian tour guides know how much we like to get off our gear and will sometimes have options of robes for hire.
I once met a man on my travels who brought a suitcase on a month backpacking tour. When questioned about his idiotic decision, he said “I don’t want to do laundry so I brought enough clothes for the entire trip”. He ended up having to do laundry, and we laughed at his New York stereotypical tendencies. You can avoid sitting in a laundromat for 3 hours, or wearing your undies inside out (for the second time).
Pack a two-meter piece of string, 10 pegs, and a “pop top” of laundry detergent. Make this a liquid laundry detergent, especially if you prefer to not be tested by bomb squads. You can wash your clothes in your sink and then hang to dry in your shower! If you are in a backpackers accommodation this can be a little tricky. If you are worried about theft then do your washing before bed, try to get them as dry as possible and hang on your bed frame. Attach a trusty little bell if you are staying with Vincenzo Peruggia.
Or, just pay the 100THB and get your Calvins dry cleaned… fresh for your international date because who can resist a foreign accent?
Ah, technology — we hate to love it. I would love to say leave your electronics at home, but let’s be honest: your Instagram followers NEED to see your travels #jealous #blessed. The selfie stick is an essential for a solo traveler and can often be found for much cheaper in tourist destinations. The local Parisians of the Eiffel Tower know how much we need a good selfie for the gram.
A worldly adapter is obvious, as are rechargeable battery packs and chargers for said items. You should also bring a USB with you and store all your travel documents on there, including copies of your flights, passport, travel insurance. If you are scared about losing your GoPro or Phone, you can also backup your photos to USB at a cyber cafe. Win, win.
No Selfie Stick? No business from me.
Grab your diary and new souvenir pen from London Eye, write about your travels and inspire yourself to tackle the world holding your own hand.
In truth: You really don’t need anything except the clothes on your back, and a couple blank pages in your passport. With a positive outlook and ambition for adventure, you will have a great journey. But writing that alone wouldn’t make a good blog, would it?