- Keen sandals
- Tilley hat
- Toshiba Netbook NB200
- Northface tshirt and pants
- Klean Kanteen
- Grapfruit seed extract
- Captains of Crush Gripper
- Fisher Space Pen
- Tatonka backpack
- Tatonka flight case
- Eaglecreek packing cube
- Indian hilltribe bag
I have been traveling for some years now and a lot of people ask “How do you do it?” This is a very broad question that can be interpreted many ways. I find my life of travel is rewarding with almost endless opportunies to expand my horizons and yet at the same time easier than life with a car, house and a white picket fence. Here, I am going to reveal some essential items that help make my life traveling comfortable and breezy, as well as the reasons they are special to me. Even if you are not much of a traveler, I believe you could find most of these items interesting/useful.
It has been said that when looking for home, the two most important structural considerations are a good foundation and a good roof. That principle can be applied to be a good traveler as well. If you see someone with shoes that are ill-fitting, uncomfortable, too hot/cold etc. chances are they will not be a happy traveler. And if you don’t have a good hat close at hand for protection from the wind, sun, rain, etc this can cause grief as well. Enter my Keen sandals and Tilley hat. The Keen sandals I have had, and worn virtually daily, for an
amazing 5 years and still going strong. This has to be my most durable travel item, bar none. They are indeed very comfortable and they have the big toe protection that I am sure has saved me dozens of stubbed toes compared to a typical sandal. That protection comes at a cost, as it looks a little ugly (though not Crocs assault on the eyes ugly) but I am thankful each and every time I bang my toe up against something and it doesn’t hurt a bit. The only issue I have had with them is that a strap detached from the sole of sandal but I got the neighborhood shoe repair guy to fix it for about a dollar. I also just changed out the tired old bungee-cord laces myself. A tip for you all, if you write and ask nicely, the wonderful folks at Keen will send you a replacement lace kit for free 🙂
I call the Tilley hat my adventure hat and we have indeed had great adventures together. This hat travels well, provides a good amount of shade and if you use the strap wisely it stays on your head through gale force winds. Many years ago, I happened to be in Regina the one time the man himself Mr. Alex Tilley was there on a promo tour and I got him to autograph my hat. Though his signature has faded to illegible after much wearing and washing, it does make the hat a little more special to me.
What do I use for most of my computing? It is a Toshiba netbook NB200 which you may be surprised to hear has been banging around on the road with me for 6 years. This little computer has a certain will to survive. Oh there have been a few ups and down, like the time in Thailand it took a long timeout and refused to power back on. The only way I found to get it to come back on was to place it in a freezer for half an hour first. If you are at home in your comfy kitchen that is not such a big deal but I was not. Bless my good and understanding host who runs the excellent Banilah guesthouse in Chiang Mai, yes I could put computer in her freezer. Eventually I found a firmware upgrade to fix the issue. Recently the hard drive crashed and I learned the hard way I should backup my documents. I bought a replacement drive and installed it myself with Linux software . My little computer gives me a good chance to stretch my technical brain cells now and then.
It was a bit of serendipity that brought about my traveling with a blanket. I got this small blanket/wrap/scarf when staying in the Indian hill station, Shillong. For travel in India, I brought lightweight clothing with me because it’s always hot there , right? Wrong!! I was freezing my gonads off, so I bought this wrap like the local Khasi people wear and it helped a lot. Fast forward a few years and I was setting off from Canada to Asia for another big adventure and had just bought the computer above. I went to the store to buy a case to protect it while traveling but it turns out that because I had bought the bigger, long-life battery, the typical netbook case would not fit properly on mine. I was a little disappointed and leaving the next day, what to do? I dug out the trusty Indian blanket and swaddled my new baby computer up in it. I thought this would be a temporary arrangement but then I discovered how incredibly useful a blanket is when traveling. Freezing cold on a plane or a Thai air con bus ( where often you can almost see your breath), get out the blanket. Sheets in your room are looking rather sketchy, lay the blanket on top. Stuck at an airport for the night, that blanket is looking like a little piece of heaven.
Traveling is much easier with durable, quick-drying and wrinkle free clothing. My Northface pants definitely tick all these boxes and are excellent. I have several different brands of shirts with many of the usual suspects like Nike, Adidas and Northface. A new favourite of mine is a button up shirt from Columbia (thanks Bella), complete with some tricky pockets, perfect on flight days. The majority of my shirts are by Northface, though the newer ones are not as impressive as the older ones. I have one old, blue Northface t-shirt in particular that is a champion of mine, akin to Jerry Seinfeld’s golden boy.
I have drank thousands of gallons of water from my stainless steel Klean Kantene water bottle and have saved loads of plastic going into the trash along the way. With it almost always at my side I rarely use water glasses which saves someone washing up and also means less risk catching something from glasses that aren’t washed properly. I drink “Asian-style” from it, pouring the water into my mouth with my lips not touching the bottle. This means mouth bacteria stays out of the bottle and this way it rarely needs washing. When it does need a good clean, I seek out some white vinegar and perhpas baking soda and give it a good once over and it is good to go for many a gallon.
It is a fact of life in the tropics that there are plenty of parasites and other intestinal critters around that you don’t really want taking up residence. There are a few remedies available for this, the natural ones are usually an extremely bitter extract. I have traveled with oil of oregano for this in the past, however I found it was so strong that it would actually melt through the rubber dropper top of the bottle…. not cool. I have grapefruit seed extract this time and it is working fine. You can take a few drops with water everyday but I usually just take some if I feel something coming on or after a meal I felt could be a little dodgy.
For a bit of an unorthodox workout I can do anywhere, I have the Captain of Crush Gripper to keep my grip strong. This isn’t a cheap hand gripper with plastic handles we have all seen, those are all but useless. This gripper has serious knurled handles and can be ordered on up to 385 pounds of pressure to close, which only a handful of people on the planet have accomplished. When traveling, you never know when you might have to crush walnuts with you bare hands right? Be prepared!
If you can do even a little laundry while traveling, it can save you time, money and more importantly you can pack lighter because you won’t need as many clothes. The Flexo-line clothesline is a handy little clothesline made from braided surgical tubing. The beauty of it is that you can “clip’” clothes between the braided tubing so you don’t need clothes pins (though hangers are still helpful). Thanks for this Danelle.
With it’s pliers, cutters, screwdrivers and mulitude of doodads, my Swisstool has been to the solution to countless fix-it situations. I am especially pleased when I am traveling and can solve a problem for someone at their own home., makes me feel like a resourceful and useful traveler. Many thanks to my friend Kim for picking this up for me at the source in Switzerland.
The Fisher Space Pen is certainly one of my coolest travel items. With it’s sleek profile,smoothness and reliability, it gives me a bit of James Bond feel. It really does write smoothly all the time and I have confirmed that with its pressurized ink cartridge, it can write upside down and under water. I have not confirmed the claim it can write in space……yet.
Now what to carry all this stuff around in? The majority of travelers these days choose the wheelie luggage option but I have chosen the backpack path. Believe me I sometimes look on in envy when I see people wheeling their weighty suitcases effortlessly while my back pack straps are digging in a little deeper. There are a couple of reasons I persevere with it. One is that though I feel like I am 50% over packed most of the time, I am sure I would be much worse if I could rely on wheels to bear the burden instead of my back. You might just find a small kitchen sink among other things in a wheelie case of mine. The second thing is, though 90% of the time the wheels have a nice flat surface to roll on, that other 10% on gravel, up stairs, on a beach, etc can be a real pain in the backside. I choose the German-made Tatonka backpack and it has stood up really well. I get a kick out of how the Germans co-opted the Native American word for bison as their name and even have a bison in the logo. I remember all to well an incident that scarred my beautiful backpack forever. On that fateful morning , around 4 AM, was bleary eyed and catching a taxi for the long ride to Kuala Lumpur airport from the far side of the city for an early morning flight. I placed the backpack in.the trunk of the taxi and noticed at the side a car battery sitting there. With so few neurons firing at this point I noted it but never gave it the thought I should have. After a Formula 1 type ride, we arrived at the airport, shaken and stirred. Before we got inside the terminal, I noticed some black greasy gunk on my backpack. It looked ugly and I didn’t want it getting on other luggage or luggage handlers so I went to the toilet to try wash it off. I wet some paper towels and went to work on this spot. I imagine it must have been a look of disbelief and horror as, the instant the wetness touched the greasy spot, a hole dissolved right through my bag. Luckily it was not in a strategic location. With the bag mostly cleaned up, I checked in and away we went. Thankfully when I got to Chiang Mai, my wonderful tailor girl was able to patch it nicely for a couple of dollars. Lessons learned were to use the backpack cover whenever possible and always respect the battery.
|Eaglecreek Packing Cube|
Next up is the Tatonka flight case (carry on size) and the Eaglecreek packing cube. If it wasn’t for the recently acquired packing cube, I likely would have left the flight case off the list because I was never crazy about my stuff flopping around in its one big compartment with no dividers or straps The packing cube changed all that and the two of them work wonderfully well together. I can get a pair of pants, 4-6 shirts and a few underwear rolled up neatly in the cube. The flight case has backpack straps if needed but I usually keep them tucked away and just use the side shoulder strap.
I purchased my Indian hilltribe bag direct from the brown hands that made it in
NE India. My Khasi friend Zorba from Shillong thinks it is Naga tribe style by the colours and as it has spears embroidered on it. The Naga have a fierce warrior history and were headhunters until about 50 years ago. Happy to say the Nagas I met, like most of the hill tribe people I met in NE India, were warm, friendly people. I like the bag for it’s simple but effective design and the beautiful, unique pattern.
You may have noticed my list is a few shy of 20, do you have any great travel accessories I should know about?