How to travel lighter and smarter
I'm an IT contractor based in Wellington with a passion for travelling, photography and drawing.
My travels truly began in 2002 when I came to New Zealand backpacking from the UK. I was hooked. I soon returned to this part of the world, travelling and working around Australia for a year, where I met my partner.
We continue to travel as frequently as possible, trying to balance work and travel. My most recent trips include Alaska, New York, Fiji, Turkey and of course New Zealand.
For further travel experiences, drawings, photography and more, see travelinspired.co.nz
Here are my top tips for travelling lighter and smarter:
1. Do you need a sleeping bag? Or will a silk sleeping bag liner suffice? This obviously depends on your destination and time of the year. On a recent summer trip Turkey I was staying in hostels across the country and decided there was no need for a sleeping bag, simply taking my silk sack. It's small and light whilst still providing a little bit of personal space and protection.
2. String/washing line. Just a few metres of nylon string allows you to hang your clothes up in a hostel or hotel to dry overnight (after you've washed them in the basin of course!).
3. Learn (at least some of) the language. Hard right. Try taking a small piece of paper and writing out key words, phrases and numbers (you can write double-sided), then keep it in your pocket at all times. You'll use it much more frequently than a phrase book that you have to keep getting out of your bag and you'll be surprised how quickly you pick things up. Don't go overboard writing every phrase under the sun down, keep it simple. Hello, goodbye, thank you, numbers 1-10, what time does the bus leave?, etc.
4. Shoes take up a lot of space. My current go to travel shoes are a pair of New Balance Minimus (other brands of minimalistic shoes available!). On a recent 3 week trip to Turkey I took just the one pair of shoes, the pair I was wearing and used them for day to day use, tramping and dining. They are light, super comfy, dry quickly and very versatile (if you get a non-fluorescent pair - I've got all black ones). I also recently completed one of NZ's Great Walks, The Heaphy Track walking 80k over 4 days wearing a pair of these, rather than my tramping boots with no blisters!
5. Segment your gear into several grab bags. Don't go overboard and have a different bag for everything as you'll soon get frustrated. However, it's great to be able to reach into your rucksack and pull out a bag of clean clothes when you arrive at a hostel, dump them out onto the bed, change into fresh clothes and chuck the dirty clothes into a second bag, before putting it all back into your rucksack. Easy.
6. Put a little time into your packing and be brutal. Do you need 5 t-shirts? Whilst travelling, you've got licence to get more wear out of your clothes, it's expected, so embrace it. I don't know about you but I find I can wear the same t-shirt for 3+ days easily while travelling without it stinking! This obviously depends on where and what you're doing... Also, be honest, if you've got a shirt that you don't wear at home, will you wear it whilst away? Probably not; pick one you will!
7. Zip off pants. Nerdy I know! Mine go with me on every trip and get so much use. Whether I'm tramping through a jungle or in a restaurant having dinner, they work a treat. Embrace the zip off pants!
8. On a similar note - compression shorts. Sounds strange I know. I always take them. Mine are Skins, but many brands are available. I use them for a multitude of activities including walking, swimming, running and even every day wear if I need/want too (assuming you find them comfy of course). They are easy to clean, dry very quickly and more versatile than standard cotton underwear. (I do take some of these too!
9. Purchase a Kindle. I know, I know, everyone loves a physical book but a Kindle really comes into its element when travelling, allowing you to carry many books at once.
10. In-ear noise cancelling headphones. I don't travel without mine. They are a lifesaver on the plane when you want to block out an annoying background noise or person! Being in-ear they are small, light and reasonably priced. A bit of a luxury item maybe but worth it!
11. Setup a Dropbox account (or other cloud service) and save all your important docs you're your passport, tickets, etc. so that you've got convenient access to them from anywhere with internet. You can then also save off your photos to it as you go, from any internet café...and you can share the Dropbox folder with all your pics with one click with family and friends back home.
12. Shampoo, soap, sun cream etc. Purchase this when you arrive at your destination. One, it prevents any disasters of shampoo leaking all over your pack, and two, you usually can't get it through airport security anyway.
13. Electric shaver? Not for me. Travelling gives me an opportunity to experiment with facial hair and imagine how impressed your friends will be when you return with a beard!? If it gets annoying, just purchase a disposable razor.
14. Be that person that has playing cards with them and knows one or two card games.
15. Finally, don't fill up your rucksack! It seems obvious, but whilst you are packing I can guarantee that whilst there's free space, you'll be tempted to keep adding stuff until every compartment is bulging. Resist the temptation! You'll regret it when you have to lift the pack, carry the pack, lug into on and off transportation and also when it comes to find something, the less you have, the easier things are to find!