For most people, travel is about seeing new places, experiencing new things and meeting new people. Apart from the fact that travel can take time and cost money, there is also a small matter of what to take with you when you set out on your next expedition.

I believe that travellers can improve their overall experience by simply learning what to do without, and only taking those things which are essential for a safe and healthy trip.

Here’s a list of the top 10 things to take on the road:

1. Money belt – This is the single most useful travel accessory that I’ve ever come across in all my travels. A small, robust pouch is all you need to hide your passport, credit card and large money bills in an easily concealed format that fits snugly around your waist at all times. No more worries about not having enough money on you, being able to show your ID, or having your valuables nicked from your back pocket while you’re sloughed over a bar or in the back of a bumpy taxi to who knows where.

2. Day wallet – It’s already pretty obvious that the most important part of travel is to always have your most valuable possessions – ie. currency and identification – completely secure at all times. Item number two on this list is complementary to the money belt – a simple day wallet of the kind that holds a few notes and a bunch of loose change, preferably attachable to your person by some sort of chain or hiking clip.

3. Toiletries bag – This item could be a top ten list in its own right, since it should contain everything from your toothbrush to spare contraceptives, all in generous quantities. Bring a collection of pills, tablets, ointments, etc, to deal with a plethora of ailments such as diarrhoea, muscle cramps, menstruation, bites, allergies, or hangovers.

4. Combination lock and wire – This is an indispensable little gadget and especially useful when combined with an accompanying security wire or chain. This way, you can not only lock your belongings in a hostel locker, but you can also secure your stuff in a place where no lockers are to be found; for example, to a metal bed-frame or towel rack.

5. Laminated passport copy –  This item may seem like a surprise to some, but it can be astoundingly useful. A crisp, laminated copy of your main passport page is a great way to satisfy all those who might want to see your details during your travels. Ideally, the laminated passport copy includes a copy of the entry stamp for your current country on the back.

6. Compass – Yeah, I know, nobody wants to look like a complete geek, wandering around with a compass and map in their hands. Buy one anyway. Not all cities in the world come equipped with clear street maps with dots on them saying “You Are Here”.

7. Alarm clock – Some travellers may take a mobile phone or iPod with them which has an alarm included. For the rest, it’s probably a good idea to take one of these.

8. Zip-lock bags / Tupperware – This is one of the rare things that I organize before embarking on my travels. I keep my small laptop in a sturdy, water-proof Tupperware container and most of my other things in thick zip-lock freezer bags. That way it doesn’t matter what type of weather conditions I encounter (not to mention the ever-present problem of sweating); my stuff will always be dry. In fact, on any given day, I would be able to throw my entire pack into the next available swimming pool and not worry in the slightest that anything of value would get soaked. Try it yourself and see what happens.

9. Water bottle – This is an important weapon in the keep-your-stomach-happy arsenal. I always find that if you look after your stomach, then the rest of your body will look after you. When you’re on the road, don’t eat too much junk, always have plenty of fruit and vegetables, and a constant supply of clean water.

10. Flashlight – God knows, there are enough idiots on the road that feel that it’s perfectly appropriate to barge into a crowded hostel dorm at three in the morning, turn on all the lights and make a huge, drunken fuss as they try to find their stuff, but you don’t have to be one of them. Flashlights come in all shapes and sizes, and generally speaking, the smaller and lighter (no pun intended) the better.

Remember: when travelling long distances, “you are what you carry”.

Article written by Jerome Luepkes in the CS hints/story page.

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