1. A kindle
I was introduced to the wonders of the kindle by my friend Rosie when we were backpacking together in Bulgaria, having previously thought they were a waste of space. I’ve always been a keen reader, but university life is so busy that I rarely (read: never) get the chance to pick up a non-course-related book. This means that one if the things that I most look forward to on a trip is the knowledge that I’ll be able to enjoy a few decent books – and a kindle makes it that much easier to have a selection on hand without lugging round a heavy pile of tomes.
2. Scrapbook materials
A brown-paper scrapbook from Paperchase, one of the ones with metal rings up the side so that when you stick things in there’s space for it to expand; scissors, Sellotape and a Pritt stick (no foreign glue ever sticks half as well as a Pritt stick!). These are all part of my essential travel kit – really just because I’m a big hoarder and hate throwing things like exciting colourful tickets away. My rule is normally that there’s not time when you’re traveling to write a full diary – anytime I’ve tried this has always ended up with me finishing the trip with a week or two to ‘catch up on’, and there’s little more demoralising than trying to remember exactly what you did or ate two weeks previously when you’re back in grey England. A scrapbook beats a diary because it hardly takes a moment at the end of each day to stick a couple of tickets in – you don’t need to write much if anything, and they are a much more interesting thing to look at when you get home again than pages of illegible handwriting.
3. Emergency biscuits
It’s always useful to have a small supply of food with you, especially at the start of a trip. When you’ve had a long day of travel, and have been struggling to get to grips with a new language and local transport, there’s nothing worse than finally locating your hostel and finding that everywhere has shut for the night and you won’t be able to find any food until morning. However, I always mark aside one pack of biscuits (preferably chocolate hobnobs) to be my ’emergency chocolate biscuits’. Anyone who knows me will know that I get incredibly ratty when I’m hungry, but this is certainly made worse when I am both hungry AND I know we’re not going to be reaching food anytime soon. Therefore the point of emergency biscuits is not (almost paradoxically) that they get eaten, but that I know they are there, safe in my backpack for that moment in the trip when it all goes wrong. It’s almost a sign of a successful trip if it’s only in the flight home that they get opened!
4. A film camera
I’m a big fan of photography, but only really take photos when I’m travelling. Somehow it’s never really slotted into my everyday life! However this does mean that there’s a danger that when I go on a trip I’ll spend my whole day snapping away and a) won’t actually see what I’ve come to see and b) will end up with thousands and thousands of photos to sort through laboriously when I get back. A film camera (mine is an Olympus OM10) is not only easy to use and takes better pictures than a digital camera in my opinion, but it also limits the number of photos you can take. If you’re working on one roll a week then you’re really going to think about what to take and whether you’ll come across something better later in the day. Then there’s the posting off films when you get back and waiting for the prints to arrive – and when they do, it’s usually at exactly the worst moment of post-travel blues when a set of photos you’ve taken on a trip is just what you need to cheer you up.
5. A maxi dress and walking boots.
I know perfectly well they look pretty ridiculous together, but to be honest when I’m travelling, that’s not something I’m particularly fussed about. Walking boots are perfect for making sure you can go anywhere you want to and for keeping your feet pain-free, and as for the maxi dress, well, I don’t think there’s much that can beat the feel of the swish on your legs whilst the sun’s on your back. They’re not even nearly as impracticable as they look!
What are your top five things not to forget?