I promise, the next post will be a proper blog post going “YAAAAAY I’m in Africa and it is HOOOOOOT. Here’s a picture of our pet snake”. But today I thought it would be fun to discuss the packing process.
After that, the “fun” of packing begins. Here, I’ve called it a process of packing because this time around, it’s definitely a process.
In addition, calling it a process seems much nicer than telling what really goes on when I pack. See, this morning I was collecting all my camera stuff. I have two boxes full of GoPro attachments, batteries, cables & digital camera stuff. However, I couldn’t find my actual GoPro or my extra batteries anywhere. Don’t mind me, I just misplace the most important stuff. Doh.
Then, after a frantic search party I found them. Only to realise 10 minutes later that my headlight was also missing. That’s when I decided to take a break and walk the dog instead. Now I’m procrastinating by writing this post.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who pack a few hours before going to the airport and do just fine. As you can see, I’m not one of those people. When it comes to going on longer trips, visiting multiple destinations or trying to predict the unexpected. In the past I have showed up to sleepovers without semi-essential stuff, like pjs, hairbrush or toothbrush. Although it is easily fixable, I don’t recommend traveling without a toothbrush for over 24 hours. You probably won’t make many friends on the road.
Anyhow, I will try to describe and give some advice from my own experiences on what to bring with you. And what to leave at home.
When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money. – Susan Heller
In general this is great advice. Although I have to admit, I have brought too little clothes with me on occasion. This leads me to the most important and straightforward advice.
Know the conditions.
It wasn’t just that freezing, confused guy outside of the Johannesburg airport that didn’t bring appropriate clothes with him. I didn’t bring them either, not enough of it anyway. This led to turning into an icicle while camping in Kruger park and wearing the same two pairs of pants over and over again.
The unexpected benefit was a very light backpack, I was simply wearing most of the contents all the time. But it wasn’t very comfortable. This leads me to the following advice:
Don’t bring too much or too little.
Sounds easy enough, but can be hard to estimate in advance. I usually do leave half the clothing I wanted to bring with me initially at home. However, I have the tendency to get bored of the clothes I brought with me and pick up some more tops. Or an additional sweater if I brought too little.
This usually occurs after the half-way mark and is a great way to spend an extra hour in larger cities. For South Africa I’m not sure if there will be many shopping opportunities around, so I plan to pack a little more than usual. In warm climates a few extra changes of clothes can be nice. Since it’s all t-shirts and shorts it doesn’t weigh too much anyway.
Just remember, you’re the one carrying it on your back for the duration of the trip. In the market for a new backpack to haul all your stuff around in? Read my tips on choosing a backpack.
Be mindful of electronics.
On my first solo trip, I brought an old-skool phone (no internet), an e-reader, and a compact camera. My reasoning was that I shouldn’t bring anything expensive that I didn’t need and could only end up getting stolen/lost/broken/drowned.
Nowadays the list of electronics I bring is way loooooonger. When I was doing research in India, I brought my smartphone, laptop, iPod & GoPro (plus all those pesky attachments that I rarely use). Unless you have a good reason (like, you have a ton of surveys that need to be digitalised), I wouldn’t advise you to bring your laptop. Camera stuff is up to you. Just, please, for the love of travel, learn how your camera works before you leave.
Everything else is up to you. Just remember that it is more stuff that you need to keep track of and some places might have an incredible lack of power outlets.
Don’t bring your valuables.
For solo female travellers it can be useful to wear a “wedding ring” in certain countries. (I still haven’t met up with my fiancé, James, if you’re out there, come find me!). So bringing a cheap ring to wear as a pretend wedding or engagement ring can be smart.
It allows you to spin a story when you feel people (men, in particular) are asking you improper questions about your personal life and your gut tells you to run. I only lie like this when I feel uncomfortable or threatened. In every other situation I try to be honest, genuinely interested & friendly.
(Did I tell you, James does something cool and scary so he’s definitely able to protect me from creepy, tiny Asian dudes asking weird questions in dark alleys.)
Obviously you can wear your everyday jewellery but I wouldn’t bring your irreplaceable or wildly expensive family heirlooms.
Besides, you’ll have an arm and an ankle full of those gross travel bracelets soon enough.
Alright, then I have a secret tip that will make you the most popular person in any dorm with only one or two outlets… Bring a power adapter with multiple USB ports. Not only can you charge your stuff at the same time, you can offer the last USB port to that cute Australian guy that is desperate to charge his phone.
Last piece of wise advice some travel-savvy family members always remind me of:
Bring your passport and your credit card, you can buy anything else you need.
Alright, I’m off to tackle the tornado of mess that is my bedroom. I told you, packing is a process.
P.S. James, if you’re out there doing cool and scary things, get in touch! We can do cool and scary things together.