What to pack for a Round-the-World trip is a daunting task. You want to be prepared for absolutely everything, but you don’t necessarily want to carry it all. around the world. all the time. The last time I went on a long trip, it was six weeks through South East Asia. I fit everything into a shoulder luggage bag and a tote bag. Once in Vietnam, I bought a Jansport backpack and those three bags (and everything inside) were all I needed (for almost two months). For a year (15 months if we’re lucky) is a completely different story!
I Googled “What to pack for a trip around the world” and combed through different travel bloggers “What to pack” lists (I found Legal Nomads and Answering Oliver the most helpful) I cross-checked. I edited down. I even decided to go ahead and purchase a “backpacker” style backpack! I tried to think of everything that I would want in that year, this is what I came up with, and ended up with (if there’s not a line through it!):
Main backpack + backpack rain cover: Osprey Farpoint 55 (with daypack +daypack rain cover)
Small over the shoulder bag (purse)
2 Camera bag inserts (these seemed to take up more room than just packing lenses with clothes)
packing cubes (not for me)
13’’ Macbook Air + outlet
Mac outlet world converters
extra padded Macbook air neoprene case
WD Passport 2TB external hard drive
Memory card reader (even though my laptop has a reader, I wanted one just in case)
Kindle touch + USB cord charger
Iphone + USB cord and charger
Belkin’s mini surge protector w/extra outlets
Belkin’s USB portal
Apple Mag-safe Airline Adapter
Small Skooba Design Cable Stable
All in one travel adapter
2 batteries + charger
Double Bubble Level Spirit Mount
4 memory cards + memory card case (left behind as my D7000 can hold 2 memory cards at once)
50 mm lens
17-35 mm lens
28-300 mm lens
Sirui travel tri-pod (UNBELIEVABLY LIGHT!)
First Aid Kit:
Sterile Syringe (couldn’t find anywhere, but I want one!)
Individually wrapped iodine swabs
Individually wrapped alcohol rubbing pads
Individually wrapped Monistat tablets
Cranberry pills (helps prevent UTIs)
Feminine hygiene products (I figured out how much I needed for one month on average and then packed one month of products into small ziplock bags- taking only four months worth until getting my first package mailed to myself 4 months into the trip with more!)
Malaria meds (I haven’t used them in the past)
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Travel shampoo & conditioner
Travel bottle of Oil of Olay face lotion
2 thick headbands
3 thin headbands
pony-tail holders and bobby pins
travel wet wipes
tweezers and nail clippers
cover-up and powder
eye-liner and mascara
7-10 pairs of underwear
2 1 sports bra
1 strapless bra (too uncomfortable for travel for me!)
3 pairs of athletic socks
1 pair of black long black yoga pants
1 pair of black cropped running pants
1 pair of black leggings
1 pair of nice shorts
1 pair of sleep shorts
4 tank tops
1 long sleeve shirt
1 thin sweater
Trekking (water) shoes
Sports ballet flats
Sleeping bag insert
Eye-glasses and sunglasses
Sink sized detergent packets and Tide stick
Ziplock bags (misc. sizes)
Immunization certificate (Yellow Fever)
Copy of immunization record
Copy of all credit cards
International Drivers License
US Currency (at least $1000)
After six months on the road: I am a complete idiot. Ok, so maybe not a complete idiot. Maaaybe… a partial one? But let’s start with the positive, shall we?
Here are a few things I did right:
1. Sending boxes to myself (care of friends living around the world) while on the road was genius. My first package held new ballet flats and new flip-flops. Asprin, Monistat, Tampax, oh-my! A new pair of jeans (that I knew I wouldn’t wear in S.E. Asia, but needed in the Middle East) and new underpants so I could toss out any old pairs that were wearing too thin. I threw a few extra fun things in as well- samples of my favorite Skin Food face masks and Andrew’s favorite candy. I highly recommend doing this. If you don’t have friends in some of the places you’re going to be visiting- check out couchsurfing.org. Andrew even had a camera sent to me as a present through someone we didn’t know in the middle of Tanzania!
2. I packed not 1, but 2 jersey knit scarves I bought from Zara- not intending for them to be the best thing to pack in my bag. These dry faster (and are much less smellier) than Andrew’s “quick-drying” travel towel. They are light. They pack easily. In the past six months, they’ve been used as towels, blankets, scarves, a beach sun-dress, and even a much needed wrap at a very public shower in the middle of a village in Laos. I wish I would have bought and packed at least 4. Seriously, I do.
3. On day 1 of this trip, I had around $1500 cash in various pockets of my bags. This has come in handy when buying visas at borders and when my Mastercard ATM card is not accepted at Visa only machines. Note to future self: Make sure all bills are as new as possible – at least five years old or less. (We almost didn’t get into Kenya because we weren’t aware they did’t accept older bills!)
4. I bought an extra large Nepalese yak wool scarf when I was freezing in the middle of Kathmandu. It may be a little bit bulky, but it has been the best wrap/scarf/blanket on brisk nights and surfing couches that don’t come with blankets!
5. Iodine swabs. Individually wrapped. They were the most surprisingly useful item of my entire First Aid kit.
Now, for everything I did wrong:
1. I realized the hard way that I am not a back-pack-kinda girl. Not in the I need my blow-dryer and heels kinda way. But in the, I really hate (HATE) my backpack and being sandwiched in between it and my daypack when I go from one city (or country) to the next. I’ve missed great photo opportunities because it’s been too difficult digging my DSLR out of the daypack. I’ve thought the straps dangling against my legs were extra large bug crawling up my leg. I’ve probably peed on the same dangling straps more than once whilst balancing over a hole in the ground in Asia (and then Africa). And in my opinion, it simply screams “Ima tourist, please give me misdirections or charge me way too much for a taxi/tuk-tuk/bus ride.
I bought the Osprey Farpoint 55 specifically because it is supposed to be permitted as a carry-on. Even though it IS small enough to carry on, once it’s all packed up- it not only will be too heavy, but it will LOOK too heavy to skirt past the check-in desk without checking it in. And don’t even get me started on the ordeal that I go through every time I open the damn thing, its contents (not divided into separate packing cubes) explode and I have to unpack and repack the bag every. time. Maybe I’m too harsh, but when you’ve been through multiple countries unpacking and repacking and hauling it around all the time, you might understand.
When I traveled for two months around S.E. Asia solo style: I LOVED my shoulder (the equivalent of a weekend bag for the typical American) luggage bag and my Jansport backpack with a tote bag tucked inside. This combination worked for ME. I should have gone with what I knew worked (for me)! Now, six months in, I’m lusting after the type of bags (that I already have back at my parent’s house in Kentucky). One (or a combination of a few) that won’t drive me crazy every time I need to get something out of them on the road!
2. Shoes. I have three pairs of shoes in my backpack. Flip-flops, ballet flats, and a pair of barefoot water shoes. The ones with the most support? The flip-flops. Seriously. Trekking through Laos in barefoot water shoes was just as bad as spraining my foot sightseeing around cobblestoned Istanbul in my ballet flats. Next time, I shall never leave home without a pair of running shoes and walking shoes (at least a pair of Toms) with more support!
3. I wish I would have smacked my past self silly for thinking “These will be great for travel!” when packing a shapeless black cotton dress, unflattering grey capri pants, and a shirt I already knew I wouldn’t mind if I forgot it along the way. I have since either left these items of clothing behind, or I’m still dragging them around with me (not wearing them ever). I should have only packed clothes I LOVED wearing, because if I’m not wearing it over and over again, I’m carrying it around the world. on my back. And who wants to be doing that? If you’re packing and someone has something on a list that you really don’t think you would ever be ok wearing five days in a row, then don’t pack it.
4. I have way too much in my First Aid kit. You can always find what you need at a foreign pharmacy.
5. I haven’t used the any following: Earplugs (ok, I tried- but they didn’t work well at all), external flash, 50 mm lens, Memory card reader, Belkin’s USB portal, Apple Mag-safe Airline Adapter, and half of my first aid kit.
6. I still wish I would have gotten a point and shoot camera in addition to having my DSLR (for nights out, for sketchy cities, for a quick reach into my pocket for a snapshot from a moving bus or within a shared taxi…)
7. For insurance purposes, I should have scanned every receipt of items I’m traveling with that I might need to make a claim for later. (Basically all of my camera and electronic gear). Getting proof of purchase of an i-phone you purchased in Korea is a bit of a nightmare when you’re in the middle of Mozambique. Just sayin’.
8. While I stay warm in my North Face fleece, it again screams ‘foreigner’ to others. It’s a pretty “American” item of clothing, in my opinion. Sometimes I wish I had a zip-up sweatshirt instead. It’s nice blending in a bit in a country you know little about.
9. My ATM card is Mastercard. Andrew’s is Visa. We’ve had issues in some countries where only one kind of ATM card works. Thank the travel gods we are together and have one of each. If I was on my own- I would have been screwed. If possible, try to get one of each before you begin your journey.