There are a few different type of travel nomadics, those who have a home base and travel frequently from there (many vacations/work trips or taking 6 months on the road and then spend 6 months at home), the few who do long term frequent travel from city to city or country to country for a period of time like Ralf Potts from Vagabonding, or those in my group. I don’t really have a home base, I don’t have an apartment or a condo somewhere, at least not at this time, that I can come back to and reset. I don’t have a living room, bedroom or anything (Okay, technically I do, but I don't like to talk about it, I like to pretend I don't, okay? So just leave it like that and stop asking questions haha). I have a small storage unit, and a number of couches or guest rooms I can crash at when I spend time visiting my home city of Phoenix, Arizona.
I know what you’re thinking, no I’m not homeless (although the more I travel the more I seem to be getting comfortable with the nomadic lifestyle of the homeless…). I live in a nice condo, in San Francisco currently (though Los Angeles when I started this blog post), and I’ll be here for a total of 3 months. After that, I may stay in San Francisco another 3 months, or I may go somewhere else, like Seattle, or Austin. I don’t really know right now and I don’t really care.
I happen to know a number of people that live a similar lifestyle, surprisingly enough, and if you’re reading this, please share your tricks and essentials to traveling in the comments below. Many of my associates though do have a home base, they’ll travel off to work for a few months or weeks and then come home and work for a few months. I like that, but I also like whats going on with my life right now. It’s a bit chaotic at times, and takes a lot of adapting, but when you’re not really tied to a specific house or specific job institution and company you really learn to rely on yourself and it develops a confidence in traveling or surviving anywhere.
After doing this for a while, and running into the same problems or scenarios , you learn to pack relatively light. Everything I travel with fits in the back of a small car, or in my case, my Jeep. I’m gone far too long to want to just carry everything in one bag, but not long enough to move furniture or bring many books with me. Certain things I buy when I show up, and some things I take with me because I’m tired of purchasing it or finding it each time (like spices), and some things depend on how far and how long I’m traveling.
No matter how goofy or quirky, or seemingly small, I’m going to share some of my Intermediate Travel Tricks. Some I’ve learnt from being minimalist and taking other’s advice when traveling to other countries with only one bag and some are better for this who travel for a few months at a time to one location.
And in no particular order, here we go:
Will’s Favorite travel items
Towel - As they say in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
"Just about the most massively useful thing any interstellar Hitchhiker can carry. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course you can dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough."
Like it says above, a towel can be used as a blanket, a cover on the floor or beach, and to um, dry you off. A good travel towel dries super fast and takes up very little space as well as has antimicrobial properties so you can use it for a while without washing it and it still won't smell. If you're planning on using it as a blanket, make sure it's big enough to cover you up. I love my Discovery Trekking Outfitters Ultra Fast-Dry Towel, 34x58-Inch, Weighs 10.6oz, because it's full sized, and very light and it packs super small, less than a 1 liter bottle.
Tweezers - Uncle Bill's silver grip tweezers are the best for travelers. Small, light, packable, cheap, and they work super good. Made from a single piece of bent steel they even come with a clip for your keychain.
Sleeping pad - I bring my Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad everywhere. I've had enough airport layovers or nights where I randomly ended up on a hotel floor to sleep on that I've learned my lesson and always take this, or regret not taking it. It's warm enough to go camping in the snow with due to being developed with an R-value of 3.2, and if you want one even warmer they have the Thermarest Neo-Air Xtherm Sleeping Pad with an R-Value of 5.7. This pad is the best for 3 reasons; it's small, light, comfortable. This is smaller than a liter bottle, there is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON I can't pack this anywhere with me. It's ultra light, at 15.2 ounces it weighs less than a pound, and if you're not tall or don't mind your feet dangling you can get the Woman's size which saves you a couple more ounces.
Titanium Spork - this goes on every trip I make, and it comes in handy often, whether on a roadtrip or in another country. I’ll never forget walking around the streets of Amsterdam eating noodles with my fingers because they ran out of silver wear. This is the one I have currently: Snow Peak Titanium Spork, though I’ve heard some people love these ones for their different features, like the long handle spoon which can come in handy when camping and cooking in pots, the one that is ultra minimalist by folding in half when not in use TOAKS Titanium Folding Spork, and the one with a fork on one end and spoon on the other Light My Fire Titanium Spork.
Eye mask and earplugs - everywhere, in my backpack, on short trips or long trips, even day trips. You can sleep almost everywhere and every time of day with these, which is especially useful now when I’m sleeping during the day and working at night. The two most important things when picking out a sleep mask are blocking out the most light and giving your eyes room to move and blink during REM sleep. The eyemask above is called Bucky Luggage 40 Blinks Ultralight Sleep Mask and it's awesome because it has space for your eyes to blink and move during REM sleep, which is super important for restful sleep and it does a pretty good job of blocking light. It also has a velcro closure on the back which isn't bulky and is comfortable for side or back sleepers. The only problem is both of the ones I've bought had durability issues and from what I've heard that's someone common with these. The earplugs are Howard Leight Laser Lite Foam Earplugs and I found these through my friend Kyle. They're amazingly comfortable. I would wear ear plugs before and hate them because they would be too hard or uncomfortable or difficult to put in and these fix all those problems.
Drier sheets - deodorizer - better for short term travel but a necessity because they literally take up no space and are multifunctional. You can actually use them in a drier, like a normal person, and although they're extremely cheep, if you’re traveling you have to go to the store and find them. I don’t actually use them in the drier, I keep about a dozen on hand for if I have no washer and drier and I’m on a road trip or short vacation to keep things fresh. I can put some in my shoes overnight to deodorize them, in a plastic bag of slightly worn clothes to freshen them up, or in a bag of dirty clothes to keep them from smelling up the rest of your luggage.
Chromecast or Apple TV - These are a couple of my new favorite items. I don’t have cable or watch a whole lot of television, but either of these allow you to stream Netflix with the added benefit of Chromecast being incredibly small and space saving costing only $35 while the Apple TV at nearly $100 allows you to mirror your computer display on the television or stream photos if you own an apple computer. You will need a wifi connection with either of these.
USB rechargeable batteries - These are great to have on standby and they take up hardly any space and they charge on anything that has a USB port.
To go containers - I cook for work all the time, and I never thought I would need to travel with to go containers for my trips, but I cook food and bring it to work often and it can get wasteful and expensive over time purchasing these over and over and over again. Bonus, you can store stuff in them on the road so they don’t really take up too much space.
Spices - I cook a lot and spices can be expensive, anything form pink himalayan salt to paprika to the cancer preventing tumeric. I try to take these with me. Unfortunately, when living in Maui, the humidity caused a few of them to cake together so I ended up parting ways with some pretty full containers.
Ziplock sandwich bags - and I don’t even eat sandwiches! These are so useful you don’t even know, and a lot of people I tend to travel with seem to agree, they always have them too. I put snacks in them, change, cords, loose papers, etc. Weird I know but extremely useful to have immediately onhand.
Collapsable hamper - another silly one but for 3 months of living somewhere I don’t want to pile my clothes in a bag or on the floor. It is collapsible and takes hardly any space.
Power splitter - this also goes everywhere, and I have a couple different kinds. The basic idea is this: if you’re at a coffee shop or an airport people want to plug in, and there’s usually a lack of outlets. There’s no real objection for you turning a power socket into 3 power sockets, people are usually happy because then multiple people can use the outlet with no hassle. At airports I use one that pretty much looks like this Belkin 3-Outlet Mini Travel Swivel Charger Surge Protector with Dual USB Ports, 5 Charging Outlets Total (1 AMP / 5 Watt) because I can plug two usb’s and 3 outlets, so if I’m with a friend, they’re charging, as well as any stranger. If I had to buy a new one it would probably be this awesome thing HooToo® TripMate Elite Versatile 6000mAh Battery Charger (Dual USB Wall Charger with Wireless N Travel Router, USB Storage Wi-Fi Media Sharing, Access Point, Wi-Fi Mini Router & Bridge) because it has a battery, multiple usb outlets, can change a wired internet connection into a wireless one and act as a cloud for your different devices. I also really like these: Monster MP OTG400 BK Outlets To Go Power Strip - 4 AC Outlets - Black, 360 Electrical 36053 Power Curve Mobile Surge Protector with Rotating Outlet and USB Ports, and this HooToo TripMate Nano Wireless N Pocket Travel Router.
Ebook reader - I use a kindle (Kindle Paperwhite, 6" High-Resolution Display (212 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi - Includes Special Offers), its a light way to take literally hundreds of books on any trip with you, this goes everywhere, in addition to 1-2 paper books, I just love the feel and smell of a real book.
Cigarette lighter USB dual port charger - dual port is key with at least one of them being a 2.1 amp. Amp basically is the rate at which it charges and you can charge an iPad from a 2.1 amp, whereas you can’t with a 1 amp, theres not enough power. The standard iPhone charger is 1 amp but a lot of cigarette lighter plugs only charge at 750 miliamps, which takes a lot longer. Look at the fine print on the charger and see what the output is. I try to carry one in my backpack too because I often find myself in someone else's car with a close to dead phone.
Protein shaker cup - I workout, I drink protein shakes. They’re bulky, but expensive to buy on the road.
Wireless bluetooth speaker - its really nice to play music when traveling, especially in my jeep that only has a 7 cd changer in the back, I usually end up with headphones on or my speaker playing when I’m on roadtrips. But seriously, I think a speaker is a must have on trips. Whether you're at the beach and want some tunes, in your hotel room and want to chill or set the mood, or if you're watching a movie and want to hear what you're playing better than whats on your crappy quiet computer speakers. The link above is to an awesomely high quality speaker by Soundmatters, its about $160 and has a incredible range of sound, and although it may not be quite as loud as beats by dre it definitely sounds better and it does have a subwoofer. Not only that, it's incredibly tiny and packable. A cheaper option would be their old model which is still amazing Soundmatters for about $100 and my friend Mara would always use her SOL REPUBLIC DECK which always kept the party going. Its not quite as tiny as the Soundmatters speaker but the flat profile makes it pack pretty easy.
Medicine - a must for anyone is Benadryl, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, lomotil, tums, and Ciprofloxacin in cause you get, err, you know, travelers diarrhea…Also any vitamins or prescription pills. It seems like common sense to me, but thats just me. So back to above, benadryl is good to help sleep on the plane, fight jet lag by taking for sleep the first couple nights on a trip, to fight allergies or allergic reactions, yeah it's a must. Tylenol and Ibuprofen are good for pain, injuries, aches from being sick, and fevers. Imodium, well look it up. Tums can settle an upset stomach since it's an antacid.
Small first aid kid - bandaids, alcohol swabs, neosporin. Maybe even gauze and antiseptic in case you get bit in the face by a dog. I carry hibiclense too because its a great antiseptic soap and I think germs are out to get me. This seems to be a good all around First aid kit that has the first aid items and some of the medicine from above.
Checkbook and passport - Often landlords like checks, or your roommate, to split rent, etc. By the way, your bank now probably lets you take a picture of your check from the a cell phone application and deposit the check immediately without visiting a bank or an ATM. Awesome right, I don’t know what magic they use to prevent people from sending the same check by twice on accident so I always write “deposited on [date]” just to remind myself not to do it twice.
Bags and luggage - always bring an extra bag including a daypack or backpack. I love my Herschel Supply Co. Packable Daypack, it folds up super small, it has 2 pockets instead of only one like some packable daypacks and the straps are actual material, instead of thin uncomfortable nylon or whatever so it feels closer to wearing an actual backpack.
Blender - Blenders are more important than I would think. Whether I’m blending up bulletproof coffee, a protein shake, a a green smoothie, or homemade salad dressing (I prepare a lot of my own food), when you’re traveling a blender is not always available, and I don’t want to buy a new one in every place I travel to. The NutriBullet is great, smaller than a full sized blender but big enough to do the job.
Flip Flops - another easily overlooked item, really.
Shower caps - This is the cheapest, smallest, easiest way to pack shoes in your luggage while protecting them from getting everything else dirty. You just put it on the sole and it wraps around to the top, pretty simple.
Army can opener - The good ol P-51 can opener. I had one of these as a boyscout and now I carry it on any trip. It's small enough it takes no space but it can be used for opening cans on a trip wherever you live and it's super easy to use. I haven't ever had it taken at airport security and it can also open packages or help cut random stuff cords or string.
Check out stuff I like on Amazon: