I have decided to try out a new series of posts called Travel Advice - A Photojournalists Tips. The idea is to pass on some advice about things I have learned while traveling full time for more than a decade straight. I have debated making this one huge list but since I have been thinking about that for the past three years and never had the time to do it, I decided that trying for one piece of advice per week would be a more reasonable goal.
I thought I should start this series off with probably the most important bit of advice out there. As a matter of fact, there is a quite that sums it up quite nicely:
"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and double the money." Susan Heller
I used to travel with a lot of gear. As a matter of fact I have tried out so many different gadgets that I probably cant even remember half of them. The more I travel though, the less I need.
With a little money in your pocket you can pick up an extra sweatshirt from a market for $10 if you happen to be cold, or a t-shirt or tank if happens to be warmer than you expected. I will share packing and clothing tips later on, my point here is that the bit of exrta money buys you a lot of freedom. The freedom to pack less and be more flexible once you are on the ground.
Plus bringing loads of gear can really slow you down and there is no guarantee you chose the right gear to bring (at the right time) in the first place. I carried a little REI tent with me for about two years. I loved the idea that I had a little home I could set up in an emergency, and it only weighed about five pounds. But after two years on the road with it, and only having used it once or twice, I decided to put in a luggage storage and come back for it in a few months.
Within two days of putting it in storage the Asian Tsunami occured and I found myself staying in a refugee camp with no shelter. For about five minutes I kicked myself for not having that tent, then I took out a little, silver pocket emergency blanket, some duct tape and gathered some trash bags. Twenty minutes later I was in my make-shift tent and I have not carried my real tent with me since that trip.
One of the most important things to learn as a full time traveler is how to make due with what you have or what is available. The third world is a great place to learn these skills because everyone around you will be doing this all the time. I will share a lot of my little tips and tricks with you in this series, and if you have your own to add, just put them in the comments section, I am sure people will appreciate them :)
Items From This Set of Travel Advice and Tips:
Emergency Blanket - Carry three of these on every trip. You can put them down on a mattress to prevent bed bug bites, make a shelter with them, collect water in an emergency situation and tape them up over windows in cheap hotels to keep mosquitos out. You can also buy them for about $2 from surplus stores and often K-Mart or Target.
Duct Tape - I will probably do an entire Travel Advice section on duct tape, but for now, just know you can solve nearly any problem you have with it. Carry a full roll. You can re-roll them yourself without the cardboard to save space and make a tighter packing job. Buy the mid to high grad stuff though, the cheap/dollar store kind is not as good.
One Person Plus Gear Tent - You will probably want to get a one person plus gear tent. You this way you can fit your backpack inside and be able to use your laptop etc. In a bind you can squeeze two people in and keep your gear in the semi-coverd part in front. I recommend having a good tent like this at home, so if you are going to a place and know you will need it, then you can throw it in your bag. Shoot for one that is around 5lbs/2.5kg. I have been using the REI Half Dome series for probably more than 20 years now and think they are fantastic.
Note: There are some situations in which you want to carry extra gear, for instance trips to Africa and other more remote places. I will cover this along with what backup/duplicate items I carry in future Travel Advice posts.