So you want to take a long trip to some exotic location? Here’s a checklist:
I take only one week’s worth of clothing because laundry machines or laundromats are common everywhere in the world.
- 7 t-shirts
- 1 thermal — for those chilly nights
- 1-2 casual button-down shirt(s) — for the club
- 8 pairs boxers
- 9 pairs socks — socks always get lost
- 1 pair nice jeans — I don’t take hiking pants since I don’t hike
- 1 pair summer shorts
- Bathing suit — for beach climates
- Workout shirt for gym visits or jogs in the park — gotta stay fit
- Beach towel that also doubles as a bath towel
- Flip flops
- Decent shoes — for going out at night
- A small rag for cleaning things (like your shoes)
That’s it for clothes. If it turns out you need more, you can always buy things in the country you’re going to, but it will more challenging since they don’t have a Macy’s with your favorite brands. If you’re going to be doing more living than traveling, get proper wheeled luggage and pack nicer clothes (I’m chucking the backpack for wheels on my next trip). Keep in mind that when I board the airplane I’m wearing the jeans, sneakers, and t-shirt, lightening the load.
- Contact solution, extra contacts, glasses – don’t pack more than one bottle of solution because eye stores in foreign countries have common American brands. Also you should pack your glasses even for short trips. In Spain I got a nasty case of conjunctivitis and couldn’t wear contacts, so with no backup I was blind for several days.
- Toothbrush, floss, small bottle of mouth rinse
- Deodorant spray
- Isopropyl alcohol — an all-purpose cleaner and deodorizer
- Razors — use lathered soap as shaving cream.
- Shampoo and conditioner — get the 2-in-1 to save space
- Chapstick — for drier climates
- Lotion — if you have dry skin. My grease and sweat keeps me moisturized 24 hours a day.
- Sunscreen — for beach climates
- Beard trimmer — for bearded men
- Soap case — your life will be 10 times better with a soap case. Here’s the one I use.
- Foot powder — I wish more gringos would travel with this
- Nail clippers
The main idea here is not to take two of anything. All these things can be replenished abroad.
- Laptop and AC adapter with USB stick for backups — I back up my entire hard drive before any trip in case of a catastrophic failure
- Headphones — I use the Sennheiser CX300
- Headset — for Skype. I used this retractable earbud set for a while until I lost it. It’s not that great but I loved how compact it was.
- Portable speaker(s) — besides listening to music, these are very handy when a girl is over and you want to set the mood. I started off with the fine Altec Lansing Orbit but upgraded to the Logitech Notebook Speakers because I wanted more power. It’s surprisingly loud with good audio quality for not having a dedicated power source.
- Digital camera and charger
- MP3 player — load it with Pimsleur language courses so you can practice during down time on buses or trains. I bought a cheap Coby player but you probably already have an iPod.
- Travel alarm clock
- Medium-sized padlock — for hostel/gym lockers
- Swiss-army knife — get one with a cork to open bottles of wine for dates. I have the Climber II. Don’t put this in your carry-on!
- LED keychain — trust me on this. Pick up a cheap one at Target.
- Passport secret pocket — these days I use it more for extra storage than to thwart criminals. Just keep your passport and credit cards on you instead of in your bags and you should be straight, assuming you’re not a newbie.
- Photocopies of passport — take this out at night instead of the real thing
- Credit cards
- GSM cell phone — for calling the ladies
- Foam ear plugs for loud hostels — Mack’s is a good brand but after a few uses it gets a little grimy with wax. Target sells them as well.
- Sturdy ear plugs for clubs — I use these reusable Etymotics to give me club endurance. I can hear voices throughout the night and my ears don’t ring afterwards. Comes with a case that fits in your jeans change pocket.
- Liquid band-aid — another ‘trust me on this.’ You’ll get irritating scraps and cuts that take forever to heal because you don’t have bandages. Get it at any American pharmacy.
- Headache medicine
- Advil cold and flu — for when you’re really sick
- Condoms — local brands made from recycled bicycle tires may not cut it. Pack two to four condoms for every week you plan on being abroad.
Throw in a couple books and a journal and you’re set, and it will all fit into large bag relatively easily. If you’re interested in a backpack, the Eagle Creek model I’ve been pleased with has been upgraded to the Thrive 90L. I like reading so for my current trip I packed an additional duffel bag of about 35 books. My load has lightened considerably as I’ve finished the books, allowing me to accumulate more crap.
Finally, to help organize everything I use these eBags packing cubes instead of Ziploc bags like I used to.
What I like about extended travel is that it definitely gives you a reality check about how many things you actually need to be a happy and functioning human being. With the above items I can live abroad almost indefinitely without needing anything from the States.