I travel fairly light. If I can avoid checking luggage at the airport then I will. If I can fit everything into a backpack then I will. I’m not sure how GOOD I am at travelling, but I’ve developed my own list of essentials to take when I strike off into the unknown…
PASHMINA. My grandparents are of the generation where they still put on their best clothes to
travel up (via train) from Bridlington to visit us. I have a specific set of travel clothes too – but I always dress downwhen travelling. That’s because I’m usually travelling in the cheapest way possible – overnight flights, waiting around stations for regional rail connections. I want trousers and jeans with big pockets to keep my camera, money and tickets securely close. I want long sleeves to stop me getting cold. I want thick hoodies & fleeces. However, the most vital
accessory is undoubtably the humble pashmina. It’s fine – no one will mistake me for a yah when I wear it. It’s amazing how much warmth such a thin piece of fabric retains. It’s a lightweight accessory that functions as a scarf or shawl depending on the climate. It then morphs into a blanket or eye mask for dozing on the overnight legs. Truly wonderful.
COFFEE. Inevitably I’ll rock up at my destination at some ungodly hour with an inadequate volume of sleep. I’m a morning person, I can handle being up at 6 am on a Sunday morning. But there’s only so long I can go on an empty stomach. In the absence of a large bowl of museli…I have to ingest coffee. Ferocious black coffee….mmmm. (I never eat enough when I’m travelling, usually because I’m so damn stingy. That’s why I plump for the hostels which provide free breakfasts.)
COMFORTABLE TRAINERS AND ADEQUATE-LENGTH SOCKS. The way I get a feel for a new city is to walk about it. It helps me to orientate and take in the atmosphere and feel of the place. I’ll even set out to conquer massive metropoli (NYC’s Manhattan) on foot in this manner. As you can imagine, sensible cushioned trainers and long socks that protect the skin-shoe interface from blistering are a must. Blister plasters are a sensible inclusion too. Day 1 I’ll trample the city. Day 2 I’ll be knackered and take the tram. It’s OK, I’ve earned it.
DIARY. “One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” Quoth Oscar Wilde. Word.
CAMERA. I can’t claim to have any particular talent at taking pictures. But a pretty picture serves as a wonderful memento: it captures the mood of a place and documents the light and colours better than the eye ever could. I sometimes think of it as capturing little pieces of beauty as I go about the place. I’m not a camera snob – I tend to break or lose digital cameras quite easily. Most of my travels through America were recorded with disposable cameras. A quick crop smartened most shots.
TOOTHBRUSH/PASTE. You might think from the above anecdotes about dossing on overnight trains and shuffling around cities dressed like a pashmina-ed vagrant that I have no hygiene standards whilst travelling. Well, you’d be wrong: I have to have clean teeth. You can’t be caught wandering around strange cities with unbrushed teeth – that would be slutty…
CONTINENTAL GUIDEBOOK. Because usually when I’m off on an adventure, my imagination is suddenly fired about other locations I could be visiting next. A suitable European/North America, etc guidebook makes stirring reading back at the hostel that night.