5 Essentials out of My Backpack

Ultimate packing lists are impossible to write. The best one I ever read basically stated that you should pack whatever the heck you want, and I agree with that. There isn’t one right way to pack (unless your India packing list consists solely of crop tops and microshorts – in that case, you are probably doing it wrong). However, there are always the obvious things to put in – clean underwear, passport, your phone, you know the deal. In addition, there are some little things that can save you on the road. These are the things that I will never not pack again, since they don’t take up much space, are light to carry and useful just in the moment when you need them.
Bandana scarf

You’ve heard about the sarong… Now get ready for bandanas! (Which, apparently, you should always spell as bandana scarves so that your readers won’t think you’re talking about bananas.)

Thar desert, India. Also Elina shoes vs. Ben shoes.

I didn’t even discover bandanas until last summer when I was working most days of the week. My baby hair likes to get on the way, and since taming them would require a futuristic amount of bobby pins (which would probably make me look like something out of Star Trek), bandanas were the obvious choice. But they have so many other uses as well! Wrap the scarf around your head to protect from the sun, tie it so that your unwashed hair doesn’t show (what a lifesaver) or, well, use it as a scarf. (I know I used to… when I was ten. I was the most fabulous cowgirl outside of the wild wild west for about a week until I realised I looked ridiculous.) In India, I tied a scarf on my leg so that my thighs would stop chafing against each other, which sounds silly unless you’ve never got rash from chafing thighs. (Literally the only reason to get a thigh gap.) I’ve used it as a compression when my hand was aching from too much typing.
Lame as it is, I will never stop on my crusade on promoting bandana scarves. Well, unless you’re a highway bandit.
Hemkund Sahib, India

As cool as bandanas are, they probably won’t protect you from bug bulls, though.

 Rishikesh, India

Head torch

Head torch is one of those things you never realise you need until you, in fact, need one. Sunrises are cool and all but what are you gonna do afterwards?

Lake Buchanan, Australia

And your phone can only make it so far until it runs out of battery or you drop it into the pasta you were desperately trying to boil on a fire. And don’t let me get started on wandering off into the night to take a pee with that phone in your hand… Ugh, grim. Head torch beats any hand-held light-providing device 6-0. In my opinion you don’t even need to invest in one of those fancy, expensive head gear lamps that they sell at the out door stores, any lamp will do as long as the light it casts is strong enough.
Dinner by the head torch light on the east coast of Australia

Semi-permanent eyeliner

I like having make-up on. It’s not for girly reasons, or societal pressure, or making an impression on anybody. I just like the way I look in lipstick and mascara (and looking good in photos – nobody likes to cringe when they look at their own face). Half of my time in Australia I just went without pretty much any make-up, partly because I was often too lazy to peel it off my face but more because it melted off my face and got stuck to my eyelids in horizontal lines. My eyeliner was everywhere else except for where it should have been.

I discovered the joys of semi-permanent eyeliners some time last year and I’m not looking back. It does not come off. It is annoying as a little brat screaming in a crowded bus to get completely off and you need to use eye make up remover to do so, but dang, doesn’t it look good even after a whole day of Indian heat or just one of those days at the uni when everything’s bad, you’re falling asleep and can’t help but rub your face all the time. You all know the Face Rub of Desperation gesture. Now if only I could find lipstick that stays on the same…

Hanging on in the cold in Iisalmi, Finland…
…and holding on in the heat in Rishikesh, India

Plasters (for blisters)

You were packing your plasters for your traveller’s first aid kit and reached for the ones for blisters. They weren’t there because on your last trip you just had to have that cute pair of sandals from the street vendor and you used all of them to patch up your feet afterwards. You make a mental check to drop by in a pharmacy to get some more. On the plane you hit your head because you forgot but you convince yourself that you’ll get them as soon as you go shopping tomorrow. You see a pharmacy but you’re in a hurry and decide to just pop in later. Or maybe just a bit later. Days go by. You’re in the middle of the mountains, on a five-day hike, and when you shove your foot into your almost-brand-new hiking boot, you wail of pain. You have made a mistake.

Sound familiar?

On my second day in India, my sandals fell apart as I was walking. I had to pay ten rupees to a guy selling unrelated items for a normal plaster (that peeled off in the heat after five minutes) and emergency-buy a new pair of shoes. You can never have too many plasters for blisters on you. You might love your shoes, but the feeling is not reciprocated. Your shoes will hurt you. They will rough you up.

Delhi, India

Don’t be That Person that ends up carrying their shoes all day.

Delhi, India

Notebook and a pen

Ahh, isn’t it nice to finish a good list on a cliché? Everybody seems to promote having writing gear on you. I grudgingly admit that I have not taken the full advantage of having a travel diary with me at all times, even though I should’ve. It’s sometimes difficult to remember to write down your day on it, or maybe you just can’t be bothered to and after a hard day of sightseeing you just want to disguise yourself as a blanket (so that no one will feel the need to talk to you) and browse through the newest AskReddit real-life horror stories thread.

I have so many entries from my Australia trip saying, ‘Umm, I’m actually writing this two weeks afterwards and I don’t remember what I did on this day, maybe watched a film idk?’ that it’s infuriating. I didn’t even write anything down on last year’s Spain trip, even though the notebook was there with me all the time.

But as terrible as I am with my travel notes, it shouldn’t suggest that pen and paper aren’t among the most important things you can carry with you. You can write down addresses and names of great restaurants (and the food you had). You can stop by in a park on a warm day, lounge on a bench and as you’re people-watching, note down the things you’ve been up to lately. If you haven’t kept a diary since you were a pre-teen drama queen (or king, whatever), it can be like a normal diary for you to handle all those feels – good or bad – that travel gives you.

That is what I try to do, even if I sometimes fail miserably.

Whatever you do though, don’t overpack.

What are your packing essentials?

3 thoughts on “5 Essentials out of My Backpack

  1. True that on the diary-one! If i have a keyboard i will write down every single detail of the week and god it is a blessing to read that stuff again after years, those memories are so precious! Too easy to get lazy with that, i often stop in the middle of my trips though and then the last part is missing O:P ….

    And for carry-on , i definitely want to start travelling like that, 40L max. , still looking for a nice small backpack. In your experience are most airlines really strict if the luggage is a bit longer while still thin and light for example? Cheeeers 😉

    1. Oh wow, congrats on till such an early post! Always nice to get comments on older posts, too 🙂

      I think the cheaper you go the stricter the airline is with the baggage. I flew with WizzAir in January and they checked most hand luggage in terms of size (they have two types of carry-on from which the smaller one is free, the bigger one costs to take on board). I’d recommend you get something that fits inside most airline regulations in case they do ask you to weigh/measure your bag – personally that has never happened to me, but I know that they do check it sometimes!

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