Natural health, beauty and fashion

The Secret to Packing for a Backpacking Adventure

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A few months back, my mother showed me a snapshot of her younger self in Asia: she was 22, tanned and gorgeous. Her head was tilted up and she looked intense and concentrated.
“They have this ritual of giving a penny for a bird in a cage. You make a wish as you release it. That’s when this picture was taken.”

 She looked at me. “I wished for my future children to be free.”

They do say to be careful what you wish for. I was her age when I crossed the ocean to indulge in a few thousand kilometres of hitchhiking adventures. After five years of life on and off the road, I will take the liberty of offering some advice here: go, even if it feels like jumping off a cliff. 
Go, if it feels like a stupid decision and you’re broke and you’re not ready. 
Go, if you’re going alone.

Go with my blessings. This is the best decision you’ll ever make.

And now: the bag!

 Before I first left, a blog post provided me with the finest gem of packing advice I ever encountered:
“You think it might come in handy – don’t take it.
You’re certain you’ll use it often – don’t take it.
You know you’ll need it day and night to survive – don’t take it.”

I actually met somebody who embodied that. A cool-cat middle-aged Columbian, doing hikes all the way down to Chile for a month. He was carrying a 30L rucksack, the kind people walk around with on any day, with a tiny tent wedged underneath. That, my friends, is the way to go. I get high from the stunned face of airport attendants who look at the size of my luggage and go: “Is that all??”

That being said – I know you will ignore this shining pearl of wisdom, and overpack. I still do too. But here’s how I pack when I pack smart:

  • Pack for four days of monsoon, ice storm and desert sun. Meaning, prepare for all three weathers – layers are your friends here. I will usually pack four very light t-shirts, one long-sleeved heat-tech shirt and a couple of jumpers that I can pull on one on top of the other. For top layers I use cashmere (£10 in a charity shop), and a lined, wind-proof light jacket – all the lightest, most compact options for warmth.
  • Pack comfortable, multi-purpose clothes. I carefully select a multi-purpose shawl that is also a skirt, a picnic blanket, a sunhat. My t-shirts are suitable for beach, farming, crazy dancing, sleeping. I pack light pants for martial arts, hot mosquito day, messy tattooing and tired-irritable-period-days…
  • Invest in your feet. This might mean, never wear shoes again (still on my long-term plan). Alternatively, get good hiking boots/trainers/flip flops. Your feet are your most precious thing in the world.
  • Put clothes and un-wettables systematically in plastic bags.
  • Leave free space for your food supplies. Always having food with you keeps you relaxed, with one less thing to think of.
  • Pack small gifts. I carry prints of my works and beautiful stickers – something that takes up no space, and will twinkle up somebody’s day.
  • Get a small (waterproof) hip pouch. Keep in it the bare essentials, id, purse, keys, phone, notebook, pen, headlamp.

Those were general tips for packing cleverly – now here’s an exact list of what I always, always pack when I travel (aside from the above clothes):

  • Pocket knife
  • 
Headlamp
  • Earplugs
  • ID photocopy (don’t take your real ID anywhere)
  • Flipflops
  • Thermos
  • Loo roll
  • Multi-purpose shawl
  • Small notebook (handspan size, for emails, tips, addresses)
  • 
Pen
  • 
Tiny pocket alarm clock (unlike a phone, will not run out of battery, get stolen or fry your brain)
  • 
Palo santo
 small musical instrument
  • USB key with favourite music
  • 
Kindle and/or Rumi
  • Sewing kit
  • Optional: 
fake wedding ring (10-buck ring of silver. An instant, diplomatic “fuck-off” I used many times while solo traveling. I also had a little back-story for my husband Sven, a Swedish martial arts teacher who was waiting for me in whatever town I was currently heading to.)

And a toilet bag containing:

  • Solid shampoo in soap case
  • 
Multi-purpose product acting as a moisturizer/antiseptic cream/after-sun care
  • 
Solid deodorant (make your own, takes about 20 min)
  • 
Hairbrush
  • 
Foldable toothbrush
  • 
Menstruation sponges and mooncup

Things you could take… or maybe not.

  • Heavy expensive camera
  • Phone
  • First-aid kits (never used them. Buy what you need when you need it.)

Pack some mantras!
“I will get there eventually ”
“Your health is your wealth ” – my cousin Khrystal
“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” – Rumi

Safe traveling!
 Need some inspiration? Feel free to browse through 5 years of traveling adventures on my personal blog.

All the photos in this post were taken by Chloe Lep

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