My Practical Travel Essentials

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This article was an advertorial. All views are my own.

Originally published on travellingsherpa.wordpress.org, February 2015.

Having been on the road for nine months now, I’ve been asked several times what I’ve got packed in my backpack. Especially, with a trip like ours, long-term travel around the world, we have to carry everything we’ll need on our backs, so we have to be sparing in what we pack, but also make sure we don’t miss out on something important.

Luckily, a lot of what makes travelling easier these days come in app form which don’t weigh you down at all! And I’m thinking especially of apps that help you be better informed about where you’re headed and also make connections and share stories.

In fact, whilst I’ve been thinking about putting together this post for a while, I was given an extra push by RelayRides. It’s a US company based on peer-to-peer car rentals, kind of like AirBnB but with cars, which taps into the sharing community that a lot of travellers rely on now. If you’re intrigued, here’s a link to their Airport Rentals page.

They asked me what I consider my travel essentials and it turns out, a few of my go-tos also involve people reaching out to others, sometimes for advice and even accommodation.

Grant and I have a couple more years to go, so who knows, what I consider essential may well change, but for now, this top ten list sums up what we use on a very regular basis.

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1. Triposo. Before you travel, all you need to do is download offline versions of country guides, through your phone’s app store, to be able to access details like the opening hours and costs of sights, suggestions on what to do, and also maps, even highlighting where local grocery stores, hotels and restaurants are without the need for wifi, or lugging around a traditional paper guide.
2. Couchsurfing. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Couchsurfing is an app where people who are travelling can contact someone in the town or city they’re headed to and ask if they could stay with them. Everyone has a profile where other hosts and surfers can leave positive or negative references, so when you contact someone, you have more of a sense of what they’re like and how they’ve treated others. It’s worldwide and we’ve used it in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. It’s absolutely brilliant. You get to experience more of a local culture and hospitality than you ever could staying in a hotel or hostel. So not only is it good for keeping costs down, even in expensive holiday destinations, like Barbados for example, but it’s also fantastic for creating great memories. We’ve met some truly wonderful people whose kindness and generosity have really added such an amazing element to our travels, like the family we stayed with in Grenada pictured above with Grant. And they lived on a Catamaran anchored near a beautiful Caribbean beach, where they could snorkel everyday! How much do you think you’d have to fork out for an experience like that without Couchsurfing? I hope more people get to experience sharing stories, hospitality and time the way we have through Couchsurfing.
3. Offline Maps. Especially as we hitchhike, having access to maps offline is important for us. We can plan ahead to see what routes we want to try and take, and when we get dropped off somewhere unfamiliar, using GPS and offline maps, we can work out which way to go next. We use Navfree and Sygic, which also give you an idea of topography, which was handy in Europe in particular, when we were looking for places to camp. You can even download offline sections of a map on Google Maps.
4. Google Translate. This one is obvious. Language barriers can be frustrating, and can also keep you from making the most of getting to know new people in new places. My French is pretty mediocre and my Spanish, even more bare, so I can’t tell you how many times I’ve quickly typed in a word into Google Translate to help fill in the gaps. Again, you can use it offline.
5. Xe currency. Remembering one currency conversion is easy, but when it’s multiple as you’re travelling across borders, just jotting down some figures on a piece of paper won’t do. With Xe you can add up to ten currencies at a time onto the main homepage of the app, plus you can track how each currency has been changing over time.

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6. My Osprey Ariel Backpack. We’re backpackers so of course an essential is our backpack! And if the thought of lugging around a backpack for three years doesn’t appeal to you, I don’t blame you, some of them are rubbish. But thank God comfortable ones exist that aren’t taking-the-mick expensive. I have an Osprey Ariel 65L bag, in bright red, my favourite colour no less, and it’s fantastic. You can check out my in-depth review here.
7. Decent waterproof boots/walking shoes. This isn’t for everyone. I know lots of other travel bloggers who insist that a good pair of trainers will do, and look better too. Well, they’re right about looks at least. As a woman who’s used to wearing heels, even on my London commute to and from work, I appreciate a pair of gorgeous shoes. However, I also appreciate not being in pain, and considering our personal tastes in travel, enjoying nature and hiking, proper walking boots or shoes makes life so much more comfortable! From climbing for days in the Pyrenees in Andorra to wading through a rocky river bed in Martinique, to reach a remote set of waterfalls, there have been plenty of times I’ve been relieved to have them. Mine are from Blacks in the UK and cost less than £40.

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8. My Sony Xperia Z2 tablet. Lighter and more compact than a computer, but not so small that it makes typing infuriating, my ten inch tablet is definitely an essential for me. I have been and will be away from my family and friends for a long time and I need to stay connected. Plus, I use it for travel logistics like planning ahead and checking prices, as well as blogging and feeding my addiction to Instagram of course!
9. A Universal Travel Adapter. For a journey like ours involving many countries, it’s not convenient to have to carry more than one adaptor. Ours is a cheap Chinese one you can by online that works in the UK, Europe, the US and Australia. And it’s not heavy.

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10. Mosquito bite relief cream. And finally, one scourge that has found us in so so many countries we’ve been travelling in, is mosquitoes. I think they must like the taste of our blood because we seem to get bitten a lot more than what I’d consider reasonable! And that’s even with spraying mosquito spray. So as preventive measures seem to fail us, I have to rely on bite cream or spray. The most effective I’ve ever found is Stingose, which I discovered when I used to live in Australia, but it’s not available in the UK. Stingose, how I miss you! At the moment I’m relying on a Boots brand cream, which still helps, which when you wake up in the morning and realise you have fourty bites, like we unhappily did in the Gambia last year, you need some relief! I’ve never tried those mosquito repellant wrist bands, so if any one has and rates them, please let me know!

What about you, what can’t you travel without?

-Nima Sherpa Green

This article was an advertorial. All views are my own.

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