Fully-stocked backpack waiting for the bus in Patagonia, Argentina (photo by Simone Cannon)
At times, as exciting and life-changing as travel is, it can also be a bit of a challenge, especially in the developing world. Having things close at hand on a long trip can make your traveling life a little easier and even possibly help to avoid a disaster. Here are a few things that I keep stocked in my daypack or carry-on at all times:
1) Toilet paper: few countries outside North America or Western Europe regularly stock public bathrooms with toilet paper and when camping and hiking in remote areas it is almost never available. Keep two rolls of toilet paper in a Ziploc or other waterproof bag with you always; you’ll be glad you did. This is one item you don’t want to get caught without in emergencies (see below).
2) Diarrhea medicine: this malady always seems to strike in the second hour of an 18 hour cross-country trip on a bus with no working bathrooms. It’s comforting to know that diarrhea medicine is close at hand and not stuck in a pocket of your full-size backpack on the roof of the bus. At the very least, a tablet or two can get you to your next stop and a visit to the doctor or pharmacy.
3) Wet wipes: towelettes in a resealable plastic packet are useful for so many things: cleaning face and hands, sanitizing phones or remote controls in hotel rooms, wiping up messes, cleaning cuts and blisters or removing stains from clothing. They can also be very refreshing during long, hot trips when a shower is hours away.
Early morning on the bus from Junin de los Andes, Argentina (photo by Luis Bastardo)
4) Something entertaining: a book, a crossword puzzle and pen, Sudoku, an Ipod or an Iphone; anything that will help pass the time between flights or buses or on long trips. Much of travel involves long, often unexpected, periods of waiting and it’s nice to have something to pass the time.
5) Toothbrush and toothpaste: if your luggage goes astray or you are at the end of a long trip, you will at least be able to have clean teeth and fresh breath.
6) A flashlight: indispensable for convenience, reading and personal safety on airplanes, overnight bus and train trips, campsites, dark trails, unlit city streets and hotels with unreliable electricity.
7) Band-Aids: nothing is worse than being stuck on a hike with a blister or two and nothing to help alleviate the discomfort. These are great to have on hand for blisters and cuts, but can also be used to repair small holes in your daypack or Ziploc bags or to help secure small items.
On the way to the campsite, Junin de Los Andes, Argentina (photo by Luis Bastardo)
8) Socks and a sweater: long distance buses, especially in tropical countries like Venezuela, tend to crank up the air-conditioning to below-freezing temperatures. Having an extra sweater, socks, a cozy scarf or hat can be the difference between an enjoyable and an intolerable trip.
9) Snacks and a bottle of water: take something like a bag of pretzels, dried fruit, peanuts, trail mix or crackers for those times when restaurants are closed or food is scarce. Having a little something to eat can carry you to the next real meal.
10) Notepad and pen: to record travel impressions, write down hotel recommendations or email addresses of fellow travelers, bus schedules or directions.