I have never been satisfied with staying in one place or with one thing for too long. Honestly, I get bored - there’s so much out there and so many opportunities and I’ve somehow convinced myself that I can do it all if only I set my mind to it. This in itself has issues, mainly in the fact that I cram my schedule full with everything humanely possible and then continue to answer “yes” when people ask if I can help with something. I absolutely love living like this, stress and all! But I realize not everybody does.
This mind set of I-can-do-it-all-stand-back-and-watch-the-power-roar has led me on unique adventures and new trails all around the world. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that my passport is one of my favorite items and traveling one of my favorite uses of time. But, again, I realize not everybody lives like this.
For all of you reading this going “By golly, she sounds insane! I would HATE constant change and long airplane rides and not knowing the language and forgetting my toothbrush in the bathroom of some foreign airport and having to bundle six layers deep just to trudge through the snow to the bathroom and the stress of packing for trips and everything in between!” I’ve kindly broken the experience down for you so that you can travel the world from the comfort of your warm house while eating a bowl of ice cream. I’m going to have to pause for a second and reminisce about the days when I too lived in a warm house and had access to ice cream.
To begin with, I’ve compiled a list (in no specific order) of the top five things NEVER to forget while traveling overseas. You’re welcome.
1) Your passport. This should be a given. Honestly, if you try to leave the country without a passport you’ve set yourself up for failure on step one. It’s also important not to leave your passport sitting somewhere in the airport. Again, this may seem common knowledge, but I once had the scare of traveling with someone who set her passport down on her suitcase, forgot about it, and began wheeling away with nothing to strap that all-important document down. Your passport is important. Period.
2) Individual drink mix packets. Are those a God-send, or what? For one thing, airport food is insanely expensive, because they know you’re trapped, and the free water fountain water gets very old, very fast. I dare you to fill up your water bottle from the fountain (or purchase one at any of the overpriced vendors), sit down at your gate, whip out one of those bad boys and turn your plain water into something from the color spectrum of delicious. See if every other passenger’s eyes don’t light up. Secondly, in most countries we Americans can only drink filtered water. My point stands - plain water (no matter how impressive your filter is) gets boring. The drink mixes are like parties waiting to happen. And when you’re serving in Africa with only a large bottle or two of water every day, you’re going to want a party to make your taste buds sing.
3) This is the place where I would normally write “camera,” but since nobody ever leaves home without their smartphone, I’m not going to include that particular item. Instead, number three will be book. This can be anything from your favorite paperback to your well-worn holy book, the world’s corniest joke book to a book of puzzles, a cookbook of 10,000 Recipes To Try Before You Die Because Your Taste Buds Will Mutiny if You Don’t to a notebook for composing love letters. It can even be an e-reader. Whatever your personal preference may be, bring it. Plane rides are long. Layovers are long. The list of interesting articles in your in-flight magazines is short. Do yourself a favor and bring a book or two. But don’t feel the need to overcompensate! I used to think that reading was my superpower and I never left home without a book. On trips I would fill entire bags with my future novelistic conquests only to return home with the bag full and untouched. Once, to abide by the weight-of-baggage rules, I even brought an extra coat with TONS of pockets and stuffed that thing with at least ten thick books. I read one. Just one. Dear people, it’s important to bring one or two books, hence it made this list, but don’t feel the need to bring a library. Not only do the security guards look at you funny, but it’s no fun wearing a coat that weighs more than you do.
4) Pantomiming skills. True, this isn’t necessarily something that you pack into your carry-on with care, but you might want to brush up on your skills before heading out into the great unknown! As someone currently living overseas in a non-English speaking country, I can tell you with absolute certainty that as long as you can act out a scene of “the huge mouse shaking hands in the castle’s shadow amidst a bunch of fair rides” you don’t need to have the vocabulary for “Yes, I’ve been to Disneyland.”
5) Toilet Paper. Again, this works for almost any situation anywhere. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been in an airport bathroom and realized that there’s no toilet paper in the stall. This actually happened to me just last week. And it was a bummer. The stranger next to me was kind enough to offer me some of hers, but there wasn’t a hole underneath the door, so I was up the creek without a boat (yes, that is officially the saying). So it’s handy in the airport. Outside of the airport, depending on what part of the world you’re traveling to, you sometimes get bonding time with nature as opposed to toilets. I think you can connect the dots yourself and figure out why toilet paper is great in that scenario. Where I’m currently living, the squatty potty is all the way across the courtyard and when I realize there’s no toilet paper in there it just ruins my moment. I don’t really want to venture through the snow again just to get some stinking toilet paper. I know someone who actually carries toilet paper around in her pocket. Genius! Toilet paper can be used for more than you-know-what. In places where you can’t buy tissues, toilet paper is the perfect replacement. Same goes for not being able to find cotton balls. Or paper towels. Toilet paper - the master of all paper products. I bet you could even write a letter on it if need be.
Of course, you’ll probably want to bring along clothing and contact solution and such. But the above list of 5 convenient and easy-to-find-in-the-USA are things that I recommend ALWAYS bringing with you when you travel. Even if that means leaving your toothbrush behind to fit your gallons of powdered drink mix. You can always buy a new tooth brush in the airport!