My longest adventure lasted six months and brought a best friend and me through Costa Rica, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Thailand. Like Cheryl Strayed's backpack in Wild, mine was way too heavy when I left.
Fortunately, it had wheels and could be rolled when needed. Six months worth of clothes, toiletries, and books simply made it impossible to zip the thing closed most of the time.
I actually did bring five hardcover books figuring if it could fit, it should come. As I shed items over the following weeks, it occurred to me how little I needed on that trip.
If I get the chance to do it again, I will bring a lot less. So, here is my list of items I did not need on my journey around the world.
1. $650 Travel Insurance - This insurance plan included a plane flying me home in the event I fell off a cliff or gravely injured myself in some other way. We've all heard stories of people really hurting themselves on trips. I just feel the odds of me maiming myself that badly, were pretty low. In hindsight, I wish I had taken the risk, because I could have used that extra $650.
2. Those Five Books - I prefer real books to Kindle because I like to scribble them up and write notes in the margins. What I didn't realize is that there are actual bookstores around the world that carry books written in English. Most hotels and hostels also have shared book baskets. When you finish a book, you simply trade it in for another.
3. Six Months Worth of Tampons - Why did I think the world did not supply tampons? Six months worth of tampons take up too much space. Bring a months' supply and buy as you go. (Men, think deodorant here.)
4. Four Pairs of Jeans - I whittled this down to one pair that I loved. I wore the ass out of those jeans (and busted the top button when I made friends with Pad Thai in Bangkok), but they really were all I needed.
5. Dressy Platform Heels - I got dressed up maybe twice and my sandals worked fine. It's incredible how much space a pair of heels takes up. (Men, a sport coat?)
6. Traveler's Cheques - I thought it would be good to have a couple stashed away in case I got robbed or something. Unfortunately, many places don't even take them anymore.
7. Walkie Talkies - My travel mate, Shannon, and I thought we could use these to communicate but really only played with them sitting across from each other in the same room. "Michelle, can you hear me?" "Yes, I can hear and see you as well, Shannon."
8. My Regular Health Insurance Card - When I did go to the doctor to get help with self-diagnosed encephalitis (a bad cold) in New Zealand, they didn't take the card. I paid cash, because of course the $650 insurance didn't work either.
9. That Self-Defense Course - I paid $75 for a class that essentially taught me to yell loudly if a creeper started following me and to kick perpetrators in the groin should they grab me. Nothing new there.
10. Five Bathing Suits - I picked my favorite one and wore it 95% of the time.
11. DVDs - to be played in the laptop. By week 2, they were scratched, cracked, and thrown away. Don't bother.
12. BONUS - A Satellite Phone - Just kidding. I almost did bring one because I thought maybe I would need it to call the $650 helicopter to come pluck me off that cliff? Turns out phone calls are best made with prepaid phones cards you can buy all over the place.
If you do bring too much stuff, you can always mail things back home, donate to someone in need along the way, or just toss items as you wear them out.
Things I loved Having: Granola bars from home, Neutrogena sunblock for my face, comfortable bras, a sewing kit to continually reattach the top button on my busted jeans, a journal, small packs of Tide for underwear sink-washing sessions, little alcohol swabs to clean injuries, plastic shrink bags to smash clothes flatter than pancakes, and pictures of my loved ones.
Something to Think About: Bags getting sent to the wrong country. Bring a change of clothes and a toothbrush with you in your carry-on. It really can happen to you. Happy Travels!