15 Apr 2018

Reflections en Route: My Packing List Revisited

We are two-thirds of the way through our round-the-world adventure and I’ve been doing some thinking about how my decisions of what I originally decided to pack and not pack have served me so far.

What I Wish I Left Behind

  • 1 Water bottle– collapsible is really wonderful. We used Nate’s collapsible water bottle all the time and my collapsible water bottle almost not at all. It developed a funny smell after the first time we had to use the iodine treatment on water in it. That faded over time but it just wasn’t as nice.
  • 1 Collapsible cup– a nice Sea to Summit cup. We have never used these.
  • 1 Phone photo tripod- This is our alternative to the selfie stick and having a stranger take photos of us. This was great while we were in South Africa but it broke shortly after that and by the time we got to Chile, I just had to throw it away.
  • Attachable camera lenses- These were my compromise once I decided I was not going to get a DSLR to take on the trip but I almost always forget that I had them and would pass on them if I could go back in time.
  • Chaco sandals – I loved them all the way up to the point that we got to Myanmar and one of them cracked down the middle. They have a warranty that I could potentially use to replace them but getting them to the US to see if they qualified and then getting them back at some point along the way was not a real option for me. I kept them together a few more weeks with duct tape but after that wore through they ended up in the trash. I think I would still take them again but I am also really disappointed that they didn’t make it the full year.

  • 1 Parachute picnic blanket - We ended up losing this while we were in Brazil and we never replaced it or really missed it.
  • Door stop - We brought this to feel a little more secure in hotels or in Airbnbs but we used it twice and probably didn’t even need it then. Plus, sometimes the airport security thinks it could be a weapon and would go digging through our bag trying to find it and then would have to try to figure out what it was.

What Has Gone Above and Beyond Expectations

  • 1 Sarong – I purchased this one in advance with every intention of replacing it with a more interesting one along the way but I ended up loving it so much that I never did. I was perfect as a scarf, as a blanket on cold buses, as a towel, or as a picnic blanket once I lost our other picnic blanket.
  • Washing Bag - This is a luxury but we don’t plan to send our laundry out and washing our clothes in small sinks seemed onerous. Many of the AirBnBs we’ve looked at have a washing machine and so in those places I’ll be able to leave this packed up. I can’t say enough how handy this ended up being. I still hate doing laundry by hand, especially after months of doing it every 3-4 days, but this make it so much less painful than it would have otherwise been.
  • 1 SPF 50 swim shirt - This saved me so much money on sunscreen while we were in Australia and Thailand. Sunscreen is crazy expensive in a lot of places (think $15-20 for a small bottle) so not having to cover so much really helped.
  • 1 Kindle paper white- Dealing with my need to have books (I aim to read 15,000 pages each year) was always going to be tough. I am almost never without my kindle and have gone through over about 15,000 pages since we started the trip last September.
  • Bug Spray Stick- We got two of these and our second on is still going strong. We use them constantly, literally every day we were in SE Asia, and they are wonderful.
  • 1 Travel vest– I thought I might end up regretting my travel vest but I loved it. I wore it on every bus and every flight in South America before it got too hot for it. Once back in cooler weather, the vest came back out, sometimes for planes and sometimes just to act as another layer.

What I Picked-Up Along the Way

  • Toilet paper - Everywhere we went I kept stocking up on toilet paper. I just took whatever partial roll was left at our hotel or Airbnb whenever I ran out. You will need toilet paper almost everywhere. I never when out without it. I kept mine in a Ziploc bag so it didn’t get destroyed in the backpack as well and that worked perfectly.
  • Wet wipes - I originally picked up a big pack in Bangkok to take to my silent meditation retreat but they ended up being most useful on all our overnight trains in India as a quick and easy shower alternative.
  • Another sundress and a pair of cotton pants from Target in Australia
  • Super lightweight cotton pants with elephants on them in Myanmar. They were only $5 and even though they are a super touristy thing to wear, they saved me when it was just too hot but shorts wouldn’t be appropriate. I left these behind in India though.

The dress I picked up in Australia and the pants I got in Cambodia.

  • Sandals in Vietnam to replace my destroyed Chacos. I wasn’t able to find sporty sandals in my size so ended up having a pair of leather sandals made for $14.
  • Wrap-around pants in Cambodia. They are everywhere and very cute despite being pretty impractical. They were great for all our beach time in Thailand though. If I could, I would go back and talk myself out of these.
  • A fanny pack in Loas because it was just too hot to use my travel vest to keep things hidden away.
  • A skirt, dress, and romper and Uniqlo in Japan. As soon as we got to Japan I really felt like a grungy backpacker with all my very worn clothes that were more appropriate in SE Asia and India. So, I splurged a little on refreshing my wardrobe.
  • Cheap H&M tennis shoes in Japan because it was too cold for sandals and I couldn’t bring myself to wear hiking shoes everywhere.

We also picked up plenty of toiletries along the way. We found that we could get Dove soap absolutely everywhere. My shampoo bar went a long way but since I finished it we’ve been just using whatever we can find at the grocery store. My hair doesn’t love it but it’s cheap and easy.

The Backpack

I chose the Osprey Farpoint 55 with a zip off day pack. Before we left, Nate and I used the day pack regularly and it was the perfect size for taking to baseball games, picnics, or day trips. The backpack itself is a good size for a carry-on and there is a cover for the straps that make it easy to store. It is bigger than is absolutely necessary but I am also taking more things than is absolutely necessary, so it all works out. When fully packed with the daypack attached my bag weighed between 20-25 lbs. With the hip belt on, it was comfortable and not tough on my shoulders.

I have occasionally been jealous of Nate’s backpack but I am still happy with my choice and the daypack has been just as useful as we thought it would be. We haven’t been able to carry-on the backpacks on a bunch of smaller planes or with airlines with limited weight requirements but we expected that going in.

Everything else I packed has worked out nicely. I’ve loved my solid toiletries, even though I kept the toothpaste tabs for trains, airplanes, or when we ran our of other toothpaste mostly and my shampoo and conditioner didn’t last the whole trip (I knew they wouldn’t), they were wonderful for when we were actually carrying on our bags all the time before we got to SE Asia.