I’ve been travelling around Southeast Asia for 10 weeks now and I already feel like I’ve learned a lot. Aside from personal findings and general life lessons, I’ve picked up on some useful things that every backpacker should consider – no matter if you’re away for two weeks, two months or two years!
1. Keep an air freshener in your backpack
This is my favourite travel hack so far: small air fresheners placed in between your clothes to make them smell nice and fresh! Obviously, it’s not an excuse to not wash your clothes – it just means the smell of your damp towel or dirty clothes don’t takeover and it feels like you’re putting on freshly cleaned clothes every time!
2. Carry baby wipes every where you go
Sometimes you need more than antibacterial gel to clean things up. Enter baby wipes. I don’t travel without a pack in my day backpack, as they can come in handy at any time. I’ve scrubbed my sea salt covered skin when stuck on a four day boat trip without fresh water, cleaned up friends’ backpacks that have been tossed around in the back of a dusty bus, wiped tables down in care free cafes, freshened up after a sweaty train journey…
3. Keep things dry, clean, odour free and organised with sandwich bags
Keep your dirty shoe soles away from your clothes, contain the smell of your dirty laundry, make sure your phone doesn’t get wet on that spontaneous rafting trip, stock up on fruit & nut snacks… Get some sandwich bags in your life.
4. Clothes washing gel > laundry service
Using laundry services in Southeast Asia is a bit like playing clothes roulette. I’ve met people who’s clothes have been returned different shapes, sizes, colours and textures. Therefore, I’ve been sticking to using Life Venture’s All Purpose Soap. One drop of the antibacterial soap and a water supply is enough to lather, wash and rinse any item clean. Sure, it’s not a fun or glamorous process but it does mean my clothes get clean and remain as the should.
5. Apps are a man’s best friend
Travelling to unknown destinations can be a little daunting, confusing and stressful. Apps are a great way to overcome this and are available for anything, from booking accommodation to booking cheap transportation to finding that hidden path to get to that must see spot.
6. Instant porridge breaks the monotony
Hostel life isn’t all single beds and shared showers. It can also be bland breakfast, like toast & jam, a paper thin omlette or a greasy pancake. Bearable every now and then but not every day, which is why I now stock up on instant porridge and fresh fruit. Every hostel or homestay has hot water you can use, so whack a sachet or two of oats into a bowl, chop up some banana and break free from the blandness.
7. Sleep well in a sleeping bag liner
My friend Sam (TotallySamsWorld.com) told me to get one of these and it’s proved to be a great investment. See a bed sheet that’s had better days? Feel bugs nipping away at your ankles? Slip into a sleeping bag liner and all will be okay.
8. Keep things orderly with packing cubes
I like to think I’m pretty organised for most things and my backpack is no exception. Packing cubes are so useful for finding things in your backpack, as you can assign items to each cube. I have one for tops, bottoms, underwear, electronics, toiletries and miscellanous items. They all different sizes so I know which one to grab. It also means your backpack is clutter free.
9. Clip things on and off with carabiner
Sometimes you just can’t fit everything into your bag, whether you’ve treated yourself to a souvenir or simply can’t win the game of packing Tetris. Carabiners are a great little accessory that enable you to clip items – like shoes, small bags, hats – onto the outside of your backpack and utilise the endless space around.
10. Blogs are best
Travel websites such as Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and TripAdvisor are very helpful in finding the popular must sees and dos, but if you want to dig a little deeper into your destination then blogs are the one. More often than not, they offer honest insight into places, reveal hidden gems, share local favourites and can steer you away from the path well travelled. I make it a habit for every place I visit to spend time running a quick Google search as blunt as “[location] travel blog”.