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10 Things I Can’t Travel Without

My sample bag - hey, I'm French!
My sample bag - hey, I'm French after all!

In a week, we will be in Panamá. Phew.

I’m still working until Wednesday and my to-do lists don’t seen to get any smaller. I don’t have any big chore to do, it’s mostly a bunch of little tasks I have to complete before we leave. After all, we will be gone for a few months.

I can’t wait to get rid of my winter jacket and to walk bare feet again (on second thought, I might just as well wear sandals). To go out for a smoke without putting my gloves, my scarf and my hat on. Oh… seeing the sun…

I’m looking forward to packing my bag and go. I haven’t practice the art of packing in a while though, and trust me, when you go traveling for a few months… you need to pack right. For example, this is a list of small objects I always carry with me when traveling:

Tiger Balm: a small pot of Tiger Balm doesn’t take much room and it’s very useful for headaches, muscular pains, motion sickness, cold… and to stop scratching mosquitoes bites! Some hate the smell, I like it.

Plastic sandals aka Flip-flops: I never travel without a pair of cheap plastic sandals. First of all, they are always handy to go to the beach or to walk to the corner store. But mostly I use them in communal showers… I don’t mind hostels at all, but I’m not going bare feet. Ever.

A Sarong: a sarong is a large piece of fabric, originally from South Asia and South East Asia. I bought mine in Australia and it is a traveler’s best friend. First of all, sarongs are pretty, usually decorated with bright colors. They are light and easy to wash and to carry. I use mine as a towel or as a skirt on the beach, as a light blanket on the bus or in the plane, as a curtain (especially if I’m sleeping in a lower bunk bed)… heck, I could probably use it as a parachute as well if I wanted to!

A small sewing kit: it sounds useless, especially given the fact that I’m not exactly the best seamstress around, but I like to be able to sew a button back on a shirt if needed. Plus, sewing kits often comes with small scissors, needles and safety pins, all of them useful for quick fixes. I bought a new sewing kit in Beijing this summer, and the little wooden box (on which it is written in perfect chinglish  “friend is people“) that fits in the palm of my hand will be perfect.

A bag full of cosmetic samples: I love beauty samples. I’m French, remember? Whenever I buy beauty products, I always ask for sample from the brand. I keep them all in a big bag and use them when I travel. Because they are so small, I can carry them in the plane and discard them after use. I mostly collect cream, shampoo, soap and cleanser samples because these are the products I use the most. Samples are also great if you run out of a product, you can still use samples as a backup until the next supermarket shopping. It does take some discipline to not dig into the bag before going traveling though…!

A plastic fork & knife or chopsticks: Always travel with either. For these lazy days where we make tuna sandwiches or cup noodles in the hotel room… Cutlery is often available in hostels but rarely in basic hotels.

Tea Bags: you may think tea is available everywhere but I beg to differ. Tea is never available when you really need it, however, hot water almost always is. Tea bags don’t take room and can be a life savior…

A roll of toilet paper: once again, you may think it can be found anywhere. Once again, I beg to differ. I’m not even going to get into details here, but trust me: always carry some spare toilet papers if you are not staying in four stars hotels.

Alcohol: nope, don’t drink this kind. I’m talking about rubbing alcohol, a solvent containing a concentration of 70-91% isopropyl alcohol and water. It great to relieve itches, painful muscles, and above all, as an external first aid antiseptic.

Believing me, despite carrying all that, my backpack usually only weights between 10-12 kilos (20-24 pounds). You will see next week!

How about you? Anything special you carry with you when backpacking abroad?

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