It’ll likely be much heavier than you think. When I first went for a walk with mine, I went straight home and took out a third of the things I had in it. This will really help you narrow down what are essentials and what you don’t need. I even have a rule when I travel that I try to throw out three things from my backpack every time I travel to a new destination. It sounds like a lot, but I include things like the paracetamol tablets I haven’t taken in nine months or my spare pair of tweezers or the pile of receipts I’ve been lugging around.
Money belts are dumb. They’re uncomfortable to wear under your clothes, every time you need to pay for something, it looks like you’re rummaging around in your underwear, and thieves are well aware of their existence. When someone robbed a friend of mine in Brazil, the first thing they did was lift up their top to check for a money belt. Just do whatever you normally do with money at home: put it in your pocket or your purse/wallet.
I love travel towels so much that I even use mine when I have actual bath towels as an option! Travel towels are quick-drying, incredibly lightweight, and fold up so small! I never travel without mine.
I cite leaving my comfort zone as the number one way in which travel has helped me. It was leaving my comfort zone that gave me confidence in my abilities as a traveller. It helped me to overcome my anxiety disorder by showing me the things I was panicking about rarely happened — and if they did, they were never as bad as they thought they would be. And it introduced me to new experiences — most of which I unexpectedly loved!
Especially if you want to travel carry-on only. I use a bar of soap instead of shower gel, solid shampoo and conditioner instead of the liquid equivalents, and have even used solid sunscreen and solid insect repellent! LUSH is the best for solid shampoo and conditioner, so make sure you pay them a visit before you leave! My solid shampoo and conditioner bars are small, lightweight and last me around three months at a time, so they’re great for travellers! Oh, and grab a tin for them as well, so they don’t slime up your toiletries bag.
With an unlocked phone, you’ll be able to buy local SIM cards and access cheap data as you travel. Cheap data means getting to use Google Maps when you’re lost, being able to Snapchat your way around a city, and being easily contactable by your new friends.
You need a VPN for a number of reasons when travelling, whether it’s using it to access your favourite TV shows from back home or bypassing social media blocks in countries like China. One of the benefits to having a boyfriend who works in travel technology is always knowing I’ve opted for the best service when it comes to keeping my data safe. VyperVPN is the VPN we’ve been using for the last couple of years and they’re easily the best option for travellers — they’re super-fast, so won’t slow down your internet speeds, are one of the few companies to be actively and consistently working around internet blocks by other countries. After using and discarding a dozen VPN services over the past six years, VyperVPN is the only one that’s stuck around. Buy direct from VyperVPN.
I believe that everyone should try solo travel at least once. It builds your confidence, shows you what you’re capable of, improves your social skills, gives you time and space to think, and helps you learn more about what you like and need in life.
I’m often emailed by people who are taking a year off to follow the typical backpacking trail: A bit of Western Europe, a lot of Southeast Asia, and a stint in Australia and New Zealand. And yet, they don’t know anything about the places and are asking me what you can even do in Laos. Don’t follow the beaten path that every traveller takes, just because you feel like you should. What interests you? What do you want to see and learn about? One of the first stops on my trip was Chernobyl — not exactly a popular tourist destination. I didn’t know anybody who had been there, but it sounded fascinating to me. This is your trip: go where excites you, not where you feel you should go.
You won’t be able to travel if you have less than six months’ validity on your passport! Friends of mine have been turned around at the airport because they didn’t realise their passport was expiring soon.