Over the course of our Selfish travels we’ve had several people ask what we pack for a year abroad. Most people assume we’re hauling backpacks around the world, which would probably have been a good idea, however Mrs. Selfish and I are too old for that type of travel.
Mrs. Selfish and I are in our 30’s. Not really ancient, but my days of sleeping on floors are probably over. I do appreciate the feel of a good mattress, and enjoy staying at fancy hotels, so it’s probably safe to say we fall more in the flashpacker category.
Here’s some of the things we ended up bringing for our year long trek around the globe.
1. A crappy looking backpack to store your valuables.
As per the DOs of traveling, Mrs. Selfish and I rock a 10+ year old, frayed backpack to house most of our important documents and devices. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve seen on the road keeping time on their rolex watches, bandying about their designer purses, or taking pictures with their iPad 4. They make traveling easier for the rest of us.
2. One or two all in one power converters.
I love the Insten Universal World Wide power converter. So far we’ve used this sucker in every continent but South America. The only downside is that you still risk frying some of your devices in Asia and other parts of the world since they don’t convert electrical output current and voltage.
3. Small laptop.
Useful for staying in touch with the rest of the world. Mrs. Selfish likes to rock the Lenovo X230 which starts at a mighty 2.99 lbs.
4. A compact power strip.
Given that you’ll likely have a few devices with you, I highly recommend a portable power strip like the Outlets to Go power strip. It’s extremely compact and has room for 3 power cords, as well as a USB device. My only gripe would be the bright blue light, that shines like a lighthouse.
5. A collapsible and expandable bag.
Or two! Mrs. Selfish and I ended up bringing 3 Briggs & Riley bags with us to Europe, and 1 Briggs and Riley bag and 1 Samsonite bag to Asia and Australia.
In hindsight, I wish we had brought 2 B&R bags since the Samsonite ended up dying midway through China. I like Briggs & Riley for two reason: 1) They have a lifetime warranty, 2) The zippers never die. You can also buy them for cheap on ebay.
6. An eReader.
Useful for carrying hundreds of books, including city guides and traveling books. Mrs. Selfish brought her 3rd generation Kindle, which also included free internet in some parts of the world.
7. Portable speakers.
Useful for playing movies, music, or TV Shows from your music player or laptop, since built in speakers just can’t cut it. We brought the iHome speakers, which I highly recommend. Not only do they produce decent sound on their own, but you can connect multiple iHome speakers together, plus you can charge them via a USB plug.
8. A good knife and spices.
If you plan on renting a place for longer than a week, a good knife and spices are a must. Many rentals are sparse, and rental property knives tend to be cheap and dull. You can buy pretty decent knives at discount stores like Marshall’s or TJ Maxx (TK Maxx if you’re in Europe).
For spices I recommend the Mobile Foodie Survival Kit portable set, which is a roll of 13 of stackable spices.
9. A smartphone.
Probably the most useful tool for traveling. We used our iPhone as a navigation tool, currency exchanger, calculator, music player, recipe holder, note taker, translator, white noise maker, and in rare instances as a phone.
10. Toiletries, toiletries, toiletries.
Toiletries one finds abroad are quite different than their North American brethren. If you’re planning on traveling to areas with malaria, I highly recommend scentless products.
Since we were traveling to South East Asia where mosquito-born diseases like malaria and Japanese Encephalitis are a concern we ended up packing copious amounts of bug spray as well as scentless shampoo, hair spray, soap, and deodorant. Apparently bug spray doesn’t help much if you smell like apple blossom shampoo.
11. Drugs for the ins and the outs.
Going somewhere 3rd Worldy? Make sure to pack something for the ins and the outs. Pepto bismol and Exlax may be giggle inducing in the first world, but they are utterly indispensible when you don’t speak the language and don’t know what the Asian character is for “pharmacy.”
Also consider visiting a trip doctor to pick up some antibiotics or perhaps malaria pills if you’re going anywhere particularly sketchy.
12. A Camelbak for all your hydration needs.
I drink a lot of water – probably somewhere close to 3 liters a day on my own. Being able to carry it all on your back is extremely useful – especially when you’re in countries with dubious sources of clean water. The Camelbak is also useful if you’re planning on taking a long walk – like 6 hours on the Great Wall of China.
13. Gorilla Pod and extra batteries.
For all you amateur photographers, having a miniature tripod and extra battery is a sure way to make sure you never miss a shot. Mrs. Selfish and I prefer the Gorilla Pod for taking our selfie pics since you can position it pretty much everywhere.
14. Back it up with a portable drive.
If you’re planning on bringing a lot of movies or taking a lot of pictures, I highly recommend packing a portable external hard drive. I like the WD My Passport 1.5 TB drive, which is pretty small. Just remember to pack it in your carry on as they can be somewhat fragile.
15. Better yet… back it up on the cloud!
If you have any truly valuable data, you should strongly consider backing it up in the cloud. Since Mrs. Selfish and I took over 150 GB worth of pictures on our Selfish trip, we decided the best way to keep them safe was on the internet.
Anything I’ve missed? Does anyone have any must-bring items when they’re traveling?