You get ONE backpack. ONE! That's it!!! No roller bags, suitcases, giant duffle bags...just one carry-on sized backpack. How large is carry-on? I recommend a backpack no larger than 50 liters in capacity. I have one traveler's backpack that I take everywhere. It's 50 liters and has compartments that can easily fit 10 days worth of clothing. Perfect for hiking and excessive walking. I strongly recommend the Osprey Stratos 50 backpack. It runs quite pricey at 150-180 USD but I promise it is a worthy invenstment when it comes to compact travel. It breathes with you and reduces sweat during walks and hikes. It has back supports and fits into almost all overhead compartments. There was only ONE instance I when I was asked to check it. It was at New Haven's Tweed airport. A tiny airport for pocket sized aircrafts. In this situation I used my 30 USD Osprey Airporter to protect my Stratos 50 while in transit. If you're going to purchase a backpack I recommend getting the Airporter to go with it. Airlines insure what's in your bag - not the bag itself. Though I could check my backpack by itself, if it were to get lost or damaged, I could not be compensated by the airline. But if my backpack is inside another bag, it's considered insurable property. The Airporter provides a convenient work around for this. The airporter is small enough to roll up inside my Stratos 50.
But flights like these are rare. On common commercial flights you'll be safe and no one will ask you to check it.
2) Only 1!
1 pants. 1 shorts. 1 shoes. 1 jacket. There is no need to pack more than one of these things. You can wear these items more than once. This way you can pack the rest of your bag with undies, t-shirts, and socks according to the number of travel days (usually no more than 10 shirts socks and undies). Laundry is global! Don't forget that if you need to wash your clothes, hotels, hostels and most towns have laundry services. I haven't ever been in a situation where laundry was inaccessible. Simplifying can difficult but it takes practice. There comes a cathartic feeling when you add able to travel minimalistically - only bringing what you need. It really amplifies the sense of freedom, mobility, and flexibility. I want you to experience this. True freedom of wanderlust and adventure. Do not lug yourself down with
My last trip to Asia was fun. But there is a ton that was hidden from the camera. This last trip really put me through the ringer. I just wish my luck worked this well on lottery tickets.
My first mistake on this journey was not taking my own damn advice - give yourself time! Everyday something was on the itinerary. There was no breathing room whatsoever. Since one of my many rules when traveling is to never visit the same place more than once, I wanted to make sure I could do as much as possible. I consider myself to be very disciplined to handle this back to back scheduling but it hurt me in the end. Museums, DMZ tour, temples, markets, fly out early in the morning to Manila, take a 10 hour bus to Banaue...bam bam bam. I mean it just kept going. I even had to cut short my amazing dinner with my friend Che whom I hadn't seen in years because I failed to give myself considerable time to catch the next flight out to Manila. But one must remember
Give yourself time
You haven't seen the world, yet you're still alive. You're not going to die if you don't see everything. Enjoy the moment. Traveling like a contestant on the Amazing Race can really suck out what you're supposed to take in.
The other part that made this trip the hardest journey in my life is that I caught a vile stomach bug from the underworld. And this is not the first time. I first caught one in Mexico. I was on a row boat in city called Xochimilco, México just 30 mins outside of Mexico City. On the banks there were farmers selling a drink made from a Maguey plant that is native to Mexico called Pulque. I had it a few days before and knew that I wanted more before catching my flight back to Nashville. Heartburn, sulphuric burbs, paralyzing cramps and violent hacking in the toilet the next morning before my flight almost made me miss the plane. I'll never forget it because Lauryn Hill was playing at the Ryman Auditorium downtown the night I returned. I was with my mom and started feeling better because I refused to eat anything. As I grew hungry I decided to risk it with a hotdog. Then that dreadful curse reminded me that it wasn't just a dream. It must have been the pulque that I got off the banks in Xochimilco. The farmer must have used local water to make that batch. That was the only unprocessed fluid I ingested. I ended up having to see a doctor to get it taken care of. Most Americans and Europeans are not used to non processed water. So water from naturally occurring sources can really harm us if we are not careful.
Similar story in the Philippines except it was rice wine from a local village that did the damage. Local water is used in the fermentation process. You'd think I'd have learned from the first experience but as one who's trying all kinds of different foods and fruits and exotic flavors, it's easy to forget. I say all this to say that
If you don't know where it came from, don't drink it.
Sometimes other countries don't have strict rules about prescription antibiotics and you can find them at a local pharmacy. In my case the pharmacist in Banaue, Philippines gave me what I needed right away. But I wouldn't ever risk that again. I imagine it's possible for certain places to not be as willing to give them out or to not have exactly what it is you need. Since my doctor knows that I travel, he gives me emergency antibiotics to have available in case situations like these ever occur. Stomach bugs are no joke. So it's a good idea to be medically prepared. And that's the next travel tip...
be medically prepared before you leave.
Another hurdle that I encountered during my return flight from Seoul to Nashville was a sinus infection. I know right!!!! I told you this trip was rough. I was so congested that my ears wouldn't equalize to the cabin pressure. One ear in particular felt like it was going to explode. I thought I needed to go to the hospital. When I landed in Seoul from Manila I told the nearest taxi driver to take me to the hospital. I didn't care what it cost cause I was in so much pain. I got to the hospital and I couldn't get fixed cause it was unbelievably expensive. 500 USD to be seen. 500 USD to get treatment. 1000 USD total to fix my ear before my outbound flight to Nashville. I wasn't prepared for that so I was on the verge of tears. But there was good news. Turned out that there was an emergency clinic on the bottom level of the Seoul airport. I wish I had known before paying the taxi driver 200 USD to take me to the hospital. I'm still sour as hell about that. I got to the clinic in the airport and the doctor checked out my ear and was like whoaaaa!! My eardrum was severely bulged like a balloon and full of fluid. She gave me antibiotics and a steroid to reduce swelling. She said in 24 hours I should be ok to fly. My flight was in 12. Oye! Total clinic cost 36 USD. Better than 1000 the hospital was asking for.
Because I also experienced this, my doctor prescribes me nasil steroids and antibiotics to alleviate any symptoms of sinus infection. This as well as Aphrin, an over the counter nasil antihistamine, solves the problem. I can say for certain that this works because on my last flight to Haiti in December I had a sinus infection and the steroids and Aphrin helped to allow my ears adjust to the cabin pressure.
Talk to your doctor to see if they can help you get antidiarrheal tablets, antibiotics, and inflammatory steroids. These are a good first aid. Aphrin is available over the counter at most pharmacies.