Google travel essentials and you'll get snowed in by stuff endlessly parading down your screen. A durable bag. Travel insurance. A sewing kit. A vest packed with pockets. A hammock.
Wait a minute, a hammock? I click over.
Oh, for camping trips. Huh.
But then, the hammock got me thinking:
The stuff I put in my bag aren't always the stuff you want in your bag.
I have no reason to bring a hammock anywhere. I don't camp much and when I go to the beach, I prefer a linen towel myself.
In the same way, I could tell you to bring an eye mask until I'm blue in the face. But if you can't fall asleep wearing one, why would you bring it?
We like what we like, and we use what we use. Everyone has an opinion.
So, which things could I suggest instead that everyone needs?
I thought back to the more than 20 years I've traveled and realized they weren't exactly things. You can find them for yourself but you can't buy any of them.
They're simple and minimal --- definitely what this website is all about.
5 Travel Essentials For Every Trip
1. AN OPEN MIND
When we travel, something's usually different from how it's done back home. Maybe we enjoy it, like when I found my own private hot spring in my room in Japan (pictured above).
Or maybe it makes us uncomfortable, like how I learned to wear a long black gown and headdress in Saudi Arabia.
This is where an open mind comes in.
An open mind tells us not to instantly assume what we're used to is better than this new thing. If people have lived their whole lives enjoying it, it's probably not that bad.
Instead, an open mind says just try it. We might be surprised.
2. A SENSE OF ADVENTURE
When we travel, we usually get the chance to do something crazy. It scares and attracts us at the same time. It might be safe (read: not a safety hazard) but it's way out of our comfort zones.
Many times, the fear wins and we do less random things.
But fear doesn't make memories. Trying something new does.
Your sense of adventure gets you over that wall of fear.
It's why I swam with dolphins in the Caribbean.
It's why I hiked a mountain in thick fog.
It's why I rode a helicopter over the Grand Canyon last March even though I'm terrified of heights.
A sense of adventure will make every trip unforgettable.
3. SITUATIONAL AWARENESS
Heavy word, huh? Situational awareness means you know what's going on around you.
You pay attention to the voice announcing your plane is boarding at the airport.
You look at subway signs so you get off at the right station.
You make sure no one's following you on the way to where you're staying.
There are lots of other scenarios, but you get the idea.
Situational awareness means you can get around by yourself and you stay safe no matter where you are. It's listening to your instincts and watching the world around you.
It's an essential you'll be glad to have on your next trip.
4. ABILITY TO PLAN AHEAD
Planning ahead doesn't mean you have to map out every single minute of your trip. It does mean taking care of stuff you already know will come up. Buying tickets, checking opening hours, and downloading apps like Google Translate are just some things you could plan ahead on trips.
Some people like to play things by ear during trips, but even a little planning can be helpful.
- It gives you confidence. When you're somewhere new, it's sometimes hard to keep it together. You wonder if everyone can see you don't know what you're doing. Planning helps you move ahead without worrying you're doing something amazingly stupid.
- It saves time. Not planning ahead can pull your schedule out of whack. For example, get left behind by your ride, and you'll have to wait for the next one. Waiting takes time you sometimes can't afford to waste. Planning takes care of that.
- It saves your energy for better things. Ever noticed how exhausted you get when you have to make decisions on the fly? Is what you were doing finished? What should you do next? What should you do first? Why would you do it first? Where should you go? When you're done with all that, you just want to shout "NO MORE!" and hibernate in a dark corner. Plan some of those decisions ahead and have more energy during your trip.
But what happens when planning ahead doesn't help? When acts of God, war, natural disasters and whatnot turn your day inside-out?
Then we take out our last essential:
Ooh, another heavy word. This one's all about bouncing back when stuff doesn't go your way, and keeping your stress levels down when things go wrong. It helps you not freak out (for too long or in public, anyway), and react a better way instead.
When a rally suddenly starts on the street between you and the train station (true story when I was in Italy, btw).
When your airport shuts down and your flight is cancelled.
When your travel buddy gets food poisoning.
You can do two things: (a) have a tantrum about the unfairness of life and figure the rest of your trip isn't worth this trouble, or (b) take a deep breath, ask yourself what you can do next, and keep moving.
The second option isn't the easy reaction but it's the better one. Resilience helps you choose that path.
Want to read extra articles I don't post on the blog?
Sign up for my email updates every other Wednesday at 8 am PST and get extra content I don't post anywhere else, a front-seat view of my latest experiences, + first dibs on freebies I've made you.
Just click the button below and fill in your email to get in on the goodness.