While some dream of a weekend getaway, I dream about months or even years on the road. Long term travel is challenging, stressful, and exhilarating, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune or weigh you down in gear. It’s not only possible but extremely rewarding to travel long term and live out of a backpack.
Minimizing your gear and traveling lighter doesn’t mean throwing away all of your comforts, for me, I need my computer to watch movies at night. When building a long term travel bag, it’s important to balance your needs with practicality. It helps to do your research on your destination to prepare your travel kit better. Regardless off your destination, here are eight items I would recommend for long term travel.
A good bag
What better place to start than the good old backpack? While you don’t strictly have to take a backpack, I find them better for your body than a duffle bag or similar. Yes, you can get a suitcase with wheels, but trust me, they are not fun for long term travel and can limit your options for day trips, etc.
What to look for in a backpack? You will want something sturdy with lots of internal space and weather resistant. I love the MEI Voyager, but it’s getting hard to find. There are some backpacks big enough to fit your travel essentials that will fit on most airplane carryon’s, avoiding the unpleasant wait for your baggage after a 17-hour flight.
When I hear “comfortable travel shoe,” I immediately think of those ghastly hiking shoes that camping stores try to spruik as ‘designed by a podiatrist’ Forget that, you want a comfy pair of shoes that you have already broken in. Inserts can be bought that will increase the cushioning effect if needed.
I am not brushing aside the importance of proper footwear, quite the opposite; it’s the second most important item on this list. What I am saying is that you don’t need to rush out and buy a new pair of ‘specialized’ shoes. I have been wearing a pair of leather Nike Airforce 1’s for the better part of two years now, they cost $100 and are sturdy, supportive and they don’t look funny.
For work or for play I need a computer. When traveling long term, a computer becomes even more of a must. Not only can I watch movies, catch up with people back home and do my work, but I can keep important documents on there, and plan my travels from my hostel/hotel/yurt.
For a travel computer, I can’t recommend the MacBook Air highly enough. This thing is zippy, weighs nothing, and its super thin. Its body is one piece of aluminum and has taken a beating over the last year; Apples MacBook Air is a superior travel computer in every measure.
Depending on your destination, you will, at minimum, need your passport, some countries require Visas and other supporting documents too. Keeping your documents safe at all times is a must as the consequences of losing them in a foreign land could be very unpleasant.
While some travel journalists recommend a money wallet or secret pouch for keeping your documents in, it might not be a wise idea to telegraph the fact you are a cautious tourist with a secret pouch full of valuables. Just be vigilant and keep your documents close to you. I keep a copy of my documents in paper form AND on a password-protected file on my computer and a thumb drive.
Even if you are staying at five-star hotels your whole journey, a travel towel is a very versatile piece of gear. The best travel towels weigh virtually nothing, can be folded into the size of a baseball, and can be used for anything for a makeshift pillow to a dust mask… oh yeah, you could use it as a towel as well.
Canteen, water bottle whatever you want to call it, a container for water is a vital item for traveling anywhere. It’s important to keep hydrated, especially in the excitement of a holiday where you are on your feet in the elements for long periods.
Many people buy bottled water when they get to their destination, this is fine, and in some cases, it may be the only safe drinking water. A canteen Is still very useful, it can be filled at your hotel and is reusable. I love the old surplus army canteens, but a stainless-steel unit in the future could tempt me.
I carry a flashlight around with me, even at home! Small, powerful LED flashlights can be had for less than $30, and you can even find units that clip onto a keychain. A flashlight is invaluable for a traveler, especially in areas where the power grid is prone to problems.
When traveling long term, I usually take a small, waterproof flashlight that’s powered by a rechargeable lithium battery. Maybe it’s smart to use a flashlight that is powered by common batteries such as AAA, but I don’t want to run the risk of being somewhere where these batteries are scarce or expensive.
While this list reads more like a survival bag than a holiday kit, the most important part of your journey is to be safe and HAPPY. Are you 36 and sleep with your teddy bear? Bring him along! Travel is all about expanding the mind, but it’s better with a taste of home.
Long term travel can be arduous, and living out of a backpack is not to everyone’s taste. It might take a few attempts to build an efficient and liveable travel bag, but it’s worth it. Sustainable traveling can help soothe the soul and clear the mind, helping you shed your dependence on material objects and live truer to yourself.
While its important to bring the right amount of gear, the most important thing you can bring is an open mind. Travel is a chance to connect with different cultures and to reflect on yourself and your part in this dance we call life. All you need is the items on this list, some courage, and a plane ticket. What are you waiting for? Get out there and hit the road.