Yesterday, I started to wonder what I should take with me this time since I have one way ticket to Spain in one week. Every time I face the same eternal questions, what to bring and what not to. When you are heading to any level of unknown, there is a scary feeling inside you called confusion. What am I going to go through? How can I prepare? Maybe I need one more extra pair of jeans, just in case. What if this, what if that? It can even ruin your motivation to travel all together. It shouldn’t be this way. I thought to open up my tick-list a little, here’s how I figure out what necessities I will be needing on my travels.
1. Know where you are going
Most of the times when you depart for your journey, you have a pretty good idea where you are heading to, at least you ought to have. Geographical features of the journey, physical demand of the trip, season and weather patterns, amount of infrastructure around and so on. For this, you should keep your eyes and ears open for any kind of hints you might get of the places you are going to visit. Internet provides a lot of information about anything around the Globe and there is no reason you shouldn’t use this as advantage. Of course you can skip this, if you are looking for an extreme surprise factor, but this is a whole another deal.
2. Choose appropriate gear
This might be even harder than finding the cheapest flights. Regardless of the nature of your travel, this is always one of the core questions, what to bring. For this you need to analyse what you might be going through and not always you can do that. For this reason I have few guide lines I like to use choosing my gear. Firstly I like to turn it around from “What do I need?” to “What can I live without?” Nothing is as frustrating as noticing on the way home you’ve carried the heavy jacket all the way from home, through your trip and you haven’t used it once. A lot of times if there is something that a human cannot live without, you normally find them at the spot since others need them too.
Second key point I try to apply is to have as many multifunctional items as possible. Its pointless to bring a beach towel, blanket and a scarf if you can replace this with one single, quality shawl. Use wool apparel if you are bound to face varying temperatures, since it is super good in both warm and cold weather. If there is still something that you’d really like to bring with you, which is not a necessity, consider the possibility that you have to leave it behind as a gift or sell it forward during the trip in case you are running out of space/money. With long trips its better to have things you can afford to lose. One time I had my hiking boots stolen, luckily my friend from New Zealand taught me the pristine mode of bare footedness and I wasn’t too keen on using my shoes anyway. So I felt more relieved than troubled getting them off my back. Less is more when you live out of your bags.
3. Prepare to fix things
Traveling is not a synonym for a holiday. Normally when you are traveling, you have a low budget, when you are on a holiday you buy souvenirs. It can alter the whole trip if you have to buy a whole new backpack, just because an essential strap got cut in half. To be prepared means being able to adapt, carrying a fix kit with you can save you a whole lot of trouble. Half an hour with a needle can save you hundreds of euros. Glue and duct tape can save your life.
4. Straighten up your priorities
Are you going for a trip to Maledives to dive with the fish? Bring your snorkel. Planning to do a 2 week trek in the Himalayas? Prepare to sleep in a tent. Maybe you prefer (I hope not) golfing 7 days in a row on a same course. Better take your whole kit of bats. Anyhow to be clear with what you want to achieve is as important as doing it. A lot of times, specially when I go to Europe, I have urge to take snow, skate and surf gear with me, but this tends to be a bit of a pain in the rectum as soon as you actually try to get off your front yard. If you are about to spend a lot of time out of the range of food distribution, I suggest you bring your travel cooker. If you tend to hike a lot, bring good shoes. But if you are planning a few days of surf in the while you’re at it I don’t recon you want to carry the surfboard bag with you the remaining of the month. As stated above, if something is an absolute necessity, most likely locals have acknowledged it too and its relatively easy to borrow or buy it from the destination.
5. Food is important
How are you going to get yourself fed is a major subject where ever you are. To make sure you can have a decent meal every day is something to highly consider. I always pack some extra high energy/weight ratio food into my backpack, relatively easy anger management. Your brain takes 20% of your energy intake to function, keep your head clear and carry the freaking snack. Hydration and minerals are fatal things to forget as well. A handful of magnesium additives and enough water to meet your dehydration can guarantee that you can execute a glorious finish for your hitch hiking trip and not have cramps all over your body.
6. What you don’t have, you don’t need
There’s no point in what-ifs nor I-should-haves if you left to have good time in general. At its best, traveling can teach you to learn. Learn how to adapt, to innovate and to apply common sense in tough situations. A shoelace can hold up your pants while you are applying your belt as a temporary sling. If you feel like a heat stroke in the middle of Las Ramblas, a flannel shirt dipped in icy water and wrapped around your head can save your day. Once again, the less you have single function or irreplaceable items with you the better you are. Not only this works while traveling, its sad to see people complaining about cold weather and snow wearing miniskirts or sneakers. Don’t make yourself dumb, survival skills – even in urban areas – are not bad skills to have.
Now that I think of it, I actually have two packing operations to do. One for a month in Spain and another for next week since our good old Antton and a dear friend Luigi have been hitch hiking from Hungary and are arriving to Äkäslompolo tomorrow. We thought to have a nice little hiking trip to the wilderness before heading down south. Maybe you’ll soon read from that too. So folks whatever you stuff in your backpack next time, remember, running escalators to catch a train with 30kg backpack on you is a helluva good workout too!
If you are not so much into this minimalistic traveling, below George Carlin cunningly explains the deeper purpose off mater, items or as he puts it: stuff.
Have a meaningful existence! Adios!
Thanks to my brother Tuomas, Jani, Jenni, Elina, Janne, Josh, Thomas, Marc, Nicholas, Antton and all the others for helping me realise these things!