The first time I ever went abroad, I went to France with my high school French class to test out just how well I knew the language. Up to this point, I had conjugated more verbs than I had hairs on my head, and I was a seasoned pro at ordering food from a menu in a rehearsed classroom setting. I was SET. A month before the trip, I received the well intentioned, but woefully overly cautious packing list from our travel agency. Of course I packed everything on the list. I mean, why wouldn’t I need 3 different wall chargers, and enough batteries to last me through 2050?
I have since matured greatly in my travel style and strategy, and I have learned so much from packing and reaching destinations, only to find I wished I had foregone the pair of high heels in my bag for my extra camera lens. So when I sat down to write this post, I decided to go about it a little differently. I don’t want to tell you what to bring. There are plenty of those lists online and in travel agency brochures. Below is a list of 10 items I never travel with, and why I find them to be pointless wastes of space in my luggage:
1. A neck pouch – These things are always pushed heavily at travel stores, because you just never know how dangerous the outside world can be! Don’t get me wrong, when traveling, I am always on high alert, know where my possessions are at all times, and make sure I carry bags with zippered pockets with not so easy access. But these things make you stick out like a sore thumb, and make you a target for any pickpocket. It’s like wearing a reflective vest that says, “Hey! Over here! I probably have no clue where I am and will get easily distracted if you talk to me, allowing easy access to my pants pockets and purse!” When I don’t wear one, I blend in with the crowd, and am less likely to be pick pocketed or taken advantage of. And trust me, we can see the “secret” waist zipper pouch under your shirt too.
2. More than one extra battery for my camera – Unless you are on a 30-day trek through Banff with no access to an electrical socket, there is no need for more than 2 battery packs. I suggest buying a wall charger, and rotating your battery daily. This saves space and keeps your bags lighter. It’s a win-win.
3. High heels – I’m not what one would call a high maintenance traveler. Maybe someday I will check out the casinos in Monaco, but for now, I like to beach hut hop, and budget travel my way through countries. I have been to glamorous places such as London at Christmas, and France in the summer, but I have never come across an occasion that has called for high heels. I have packed these more times than I would like to admit with the optimistic idea that I would strut down Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome to a fabulous candlelit dinner, but the reality is between the possibility of uneven streets, and the distance which I am walking, high heels are pretty useless to me when traveling.
4. Curling/straightening iron – As I said before, I’m not exactly high maintenance, and not to mention, I have been blessed with not the worst mop of hair on my head, so this may or may not apply to you. When I travel, I do so much in a day, that I like to get every last second of sleep I can, and waking up to dry, style, and perfect my hair is just not on my agenda. I usually find halfway through the day that the style I worked so hard to achieve has been ruined anyway, so I have learned that there is nothing wrong with washing my hair, and letting it air dry while I eat breakfast and watch the news in the morning. I like to let my gypsy flag fly when it comes to my hair and travel, and I channel 1970’s Stevie Nicks regularly.
5. Shampoo and conditioner – Same as above. Worst comes to worst, stop at a pharmacy, and I can guarantee you will find something you like for the next week or so.
6. Your own water bottle – Trust me, other parts of the world drink water too, and even have the fancy bottled kind for us westerners. Leave your bumper sticker emblazoned water bottle at home. This goes for travel mugs and koozies too.
7. Personal mementos – I have this stuffed pig I have slept with every night since the day I was born, and I have the pictures to prove it. I would never bring Piggy (yes, that’s his name) on a trip with me. I would never forgive myself if I lost him, and would have trouble sleeping once I got home. As I mentioned earlier, I am usually so tired after my long days, that I fall into my bed, and wake up to an alarm some odd hours later. Don’t bring anything that you would be distraught if you lost. That just spells disaster.
8. My laptop – This must come as a complete shocker to most of you. Even though I’m a travel blogger and photographer, I never bring my laptop. I have far too much information and content on my computer, that if I lost it or it was stolen, it would be hard for me to pick up the pieces after that. I tend to write down notes, grab brochures from everywhere I go, take pictures of informational placards, and even jot down notes in my cell phone throughout the day. This way, I still have all of the information I need or want when I get back home, and I didn’t have to worry about another piece of equipment while traveling. Additionally, doing all of that is much lighter than any computer, no matter what kind it is.
9. Multiple credit cards – I have my few I always travel with because I know they will work abroad and be compatible with any credit system. Just please don’t bring all of your credit and debit cards, unless you want to carry the entirety of your finances in your pocket in a foreign country.
10. Preconceived notions – Listen, Paris may not be everything you hoped it would be (but man, was it for me!), and you may be surprised by how much you love a country you know relatively little about (Cambodia changed my mind about travel forever…for the better!). You will learn so much on your trip if you go with an open mind. You may find that one restaurant your friend told you is a must for any “serious” traveler is an absolute tourist trap, or that the one part of a city your coworker told you is a major bust gives you just the cultural experience you were looking for. This still happens to me all the time, which is why I have learned to tell myself while getting off my plane to have an open mind, and to let life happen as it comes. Travel is meant to expand your horizons, and experience life as others live it. This is the most delicious and important part of travel. Let each trip be your own, and don’t try to emulate the experiences of others, as this will get you nowhere but broke and unfulfilled. So venture out, see how the locals do it, and find out just how oddly similar we all are! But please, leave the fanny pack at home…