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The Essential Backpacking Checklist: What You Really Need To Bring
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The Essential Backpacking Checklist: What You Really Need to Bring

Backpacking in a foreign and exotic part of the world is a dream not many get the chance to materialize in their life. For the few lucky, brave, and determined people that are able to go on their own adventure, their checklist and what they are bringing become a significant choice. I plan to offer some personal advice that lifts some weight of this heavy choice and help to show you what you really need to bring.

First, I want to get rid of the fear you have about what to bring as well as the doubts you may have about packing "light." No matter what you think you need, and how much you think you need it, half the things you plan on packing are not necessary. If you are traveling as a true-natured backpacking, you will only need the essentials. I decided from the beginning to travel light and once I had my stuff packed, I could not help but feel a bit scared I did not pack enough "stuff." I soon realized into my trip that all this "stuff" you expect to need are part of the old lifestyle you were living back home, not the adventurous one.

Now that we have outlined the reason why to pack light, I would like to provide you with a concrete list of what to bring with you. Some of these items and quantities will be elaborated on after the list.

-4 pairs of underwear

-3 pairs of socks

-1 or 2 shirts to wear out at night: I chose a flannel because it doesn't show the wrinkles when stuck in your bag.

-1 long sleeve shirt: Anything long-sleeved that keeps you warm.

-3 T-shirts: Keep them light and mesh material.

-1 windbreaker/rain-jacket: Preferably something that can also retain heat. Adidas has some nice options in this department.

-3 pairs of shorts: Make sure they are mesh material. That makes them incredibly light, easy to clean, and quick to dry. I choose this material also because it was easy for me to do a quick was of them in the sink at the hostel I was staying. Same goes for the shirts.

-1 pair of jeans: I recommend a dark wash because they may get stained and you won't be able to wash your jeans every time you wear them

-1 belt: I only recommend this because you might lose weight on your trip because of the constant walking...or because of your budget.

-1 pair of hiking shoes: Make sure they are comfortable, sturdy, and broken in for at least a couple days before you leave.

-1 pair of shoes to wear out for nightlife: This choice is completely up to you and your swag

-1 pair of flip flops: Do not buy an expensive pair, only get cheap ones and replace when they break. Many people recommend Moccasins but I felt a combination of durable hiking shoes and cheap flip flops for the beach days much more favorable.

-1 outlet converter: Yes, they really do have different types of plugs throughout the world! Wal-Mart sells a handy converter that covers all types around the globe for a cheap price.

-1 pocket knife: Everybody strongly recommended I bring one but I forgot to pack it and did fine without it. However, if you plan on camping then I would definitely bring one.

-1 can of mace: I recommend this for females as this is an unfortunate reality of traveling as a girl, especially solo. Although you do not have to worry much in western Europe, I have met people who have had quite uncomfortable experiences in the eastern bloc. Not saying all of the people in the east are bad but just to bring as a precautionary measure.

-Hygiene: Deodorant, small bottle of cologne/perfume, 3 in 1 hair and body wash (this stuff is ideal and saves space!), nail clippers, Q-tips, toothbrush and toothpaste, and the very important female "necessities"

-1 Money Belt: This is really an essential when traveling. First off, you will be have to be carrying more cash than you're probably use to carrying around back in the states since credit cards are not accepted like they are in Amuurica. That means you will have to withdraw money which also means international exchange, conversion, and ATM fees. You can escape with less damage by withdrawing larger amounts and avoiding frequent trips to the ATM. With this bundle of cash, it will be safe in the money belt and you will not have to spend any time worrying.

-1 Compact Guidebook: If your travel is short and focused, then you can just purchase the latest Lonely Planet or Rick Steeve's for that city/country. However, if you are traveling across many countries or more than one continent then I recommend a broad guidebook that covers the major sights. When you get to the major sights, ask the people from the are where they would travel in the surrounding area if they had the time. I found that this strategy gets you to the places that the tourists aren't frequenting as much and have a much stronger reflection of the real ethnic traditions of the country. Ideally, you can purchase guidebooks on your smartphone, Lonely Planet offers many, and not have to worry about the bulk.

-A Novel: This part is completely up to what you think you would enjoy but I would like to offer a bit of advice here. I recommend bring a book that is a bit abstract in the sense that each sentence, or even word, can be meditated on. I realized how beneficial this could be from personal experience. A Brazilian I met in Germany ended up becoming a very good friend of mine. One day when we were talking, he gave me a book he said he would like me to have. It was Richard Alpert's novel Be Here Now. Although some people think this type of novel is a crock of s**t, I really enjoyed the ambiguity of it because I could spend all of my train ride going over just a couple pages, seeing how it related to my life, as well as the present moment. I am not some New Age freak but these type of novels are perfect for traveling. Another example would be Confucius' Analects. In the end you are going to bring whatever book you want but I recommend something that will let your mind wander a bit.

-A Journal: This one to me is more obvious than socks. When you travel, the constraints on your mind get broken as the routine of daily life back home turns to spontaneity and the ideal moments where free will can be exercised. You're brain will be "turned on" in the most natural way possible and new observations will come flying at you. With all this new exposure to the wonders of the world, you will want to record some of the things you see, think, and feel. You can use a note application on your smartphone. I did this and unfortunately had it mugged off me one night in Prague. I lost all the observations, information, and music I had encountered on my trip. You have been warned!

With this list, you will be ready for any adventure that comes your way. I'll admit, there were a couple times where I was not completely prepared but I improvised and am here to tell the story. This should serve as a reminder to never underestimate your resourcefulness when the situation arises. In the end, I hope you remain brave and travel light! I am incredibly happy I did :)


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