By The Secret Traveller
Don’t be fooled. You’ve probably wandered into one of those travel or camping stores and gazed at all the gadgets and sparkly thingy's and handy little items and thought: I want them. I want all of them.
If you haven’t travelled much before, it’s easy to persuade yourself that everything in there will come in handy. But the thing is, that’s not strictly true. In fact, far from it. A huge amount of the stuff that’s for sale out there to travellers is completely unnecessary. Stuff like this.
You know who knows about money belts? Everyone. That includes pickpockets, opportunistic thieves, and the shifty looking guy you’re sharing a dorm room with. Money belts are uncomfortable to wear, they bulge around your waist and look ridiculous, you can’t access them without revealing their valuable contents, and everyone knows when you have one. Don’t even bother.
OK, maybe you’re going trekking through a mosquito-infested jungle. Maybe you’re climbing to Everest Base Camp. Maybe you’re camping in Africa. There’s a very good chance, however, that you’re not doing any of those things, which makes the purchase of specialised travel clothing like mozzie-proof shirts and zip-off pants absolutely pointless. Just wear your normal clothes. You’ll stick out less.
These leather jobs are a nice idea that tend to be given as presents by well-meaning relatives. Truth is though that every single customs officer in the world will make you take your passport out of the wallet, which means you’ll spend more time manoeuvring the thing in and out of its case that is really worth your time.
Controversial, I know. For backpackers, their choice of luggage defines who they are. But you know what? Unless you’re going on a serious off-the-beaten-track adventure, you don’t really need a backpack. I’ve had a hybrid pack that has both wheels and straps for about four years now, and you know how many times I’ve used the straps? Twice. That’s it. In four years. Wheels are the way to go.
You can forget, sometimes, that other countries have shops where you can buy things too. So there’s no need to pack two tubes of toothpaste, or a million bits of make-up, or spare deodorant. Just purchase as you go along. And really, do you actually need the hair-straighteners?
Probably the world’s ugliest garment. What’s wrong with a jacket? Sure, these things are cheap, but they’re also so hideous that you’ll be far too embarrassed about their hideousness to bother pulling them out of your bag, even in a downpour. Nothing says “tourist” like a plastic rain poncho.
For serious photography enthusiasts, a DSLR is the only way to go, and that’s fine. But you’re probably not a serious camera enthusiast. For most of us, a pocket-sized camera will very easily do the trick – there are plenty now that take amazing photos and even have full manual controls, allowing you all the freedom that a DSLR would. And given the quality of mobile phone cameras, some travellers might not need to buy a camera at all.
Torches are extremely handy to have when you’re travelling. But you’ve got a mobile phone, right? There’s a torch app on there. Problem solved.
It’s tempting to take everything, to chuck in the tablet, the phone, the laptop, the Kindle, the camera, and pretty much any other electronic device you can get your hands on. But it’s not necessary. You travel to get away from it all, right? So do that. Strip it back to a phone and a tablet and you’ll be more than OK.
Don’t forget: you’ve got a phone.
There’s just one fairly important duty that a tiny micro-fibre towel fails to perform: drying things. Have you ever jumped out of the shower and attempted rubbing yourself down with a tea towel? That’s essentially what it’s like with a small travel towel, only these ones are a nightmare to get dry afterwards, and good luck trying to walk around a hostel dorm while using one to cover yourself up. Take a normal towel. Or, if you’re staying in a hotel, don’t bother bringing one at all.
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