10 things you can’t leave home without

imageLong term travel, budget backpacker lifestyles and limited luggage allowances have created a generation of savvy travellers who know how to make every kilo count. So what are the essentials you mustn’t leave without?

1. Ipad/ tablet
This amazing item will give you every thing you need from maps, email, messaging, skype, travel guides, books, music, currency converter and much much more. In fact I went 6 months without a phone because of how efficient my ipad was as a method of communication.

Optional: A travel charger will allow you to charge your appliances so that you’re not stuck on a 16 hour bus in Peru with no phone/email/music/Ereader etc

2. Enough clothes for all weathers
Shorts, flip flops, T-shirts, hoodie and a light raincoat. Most places you can pick up cute little dresses for nights out and also cheap tshirts. In fact in Asia you can choose your material and design and have a dress made specially for you. Might be something to consider if you have a special event or wedding to go to when you return home from your trip.

3. Take a photocopy of your passport with you for emergency purposes.
I wouldn’t recommend bringing it with you during your daily excursions in case it gets lost or stolen. If you are in a country and a dodgy police officer asks you to see your passport, ask to be brought to the local station where you will be happy to show your passport there. Do not show it to anyone on the street.

4. A book
Although I recommend the ipad as you can store so many books on it without the weight, the battery will inevitably die, perhaps on a 3 day rainforest walk. Whenever it is, it is handy to have one book with you, to enjoy on the beach or on your boat cruise on the Amazon River. Many hostels have a book exchange so when you have finished it you can swap it for another one. A girl, I shared a room with in Hawaii, gave me a book and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to give it to my mum so it came with me through a few more countries before I gave it to her in Malta. I believe it is in Berlin now… What travel stories it has I’m sure 😉

5. Travel sized liquids
No one wants massive bottles of hairspray, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion etc weighing down their bags to I’d recommend investing in the small bottles. They are relatively expensive but you can fill up last years empty bottles before you leave home.

6. Universal adapter
I have bought several expensive ones in the airport and for some reason they always break. I think it’s from the different voltages. But if you plan on travelling to a few countries rather than having to buy a few, a universal one is far more sensible.

7. Travel towel
These are lightweight tiny towels that do they same job as a bit fluffy towel and dry super quick so it can go back in your bag if you are leaving tomorrow.
Instead of bringing a big beach towel, you can buy one there and it doubles as your souvenir or, as I do, pack a lightweight sarong. Perfect for those beach days and weighs nothing. Winning!

8. A first aid kit
This should include antiseptic wipes, band aids, burn cream and maybe some painkillers and motilium, which you can’t get everywhere.
Don’t make the same mistake I did which was go into Boots in Ireland and spend a fortune buying some of everything, then arriving in Bangkok two days later and coming across a Boots there ( and it was cheaper grrr!)

9. A camera
Most of us have camera phones but if you don’t, you need to bring a camera with you. Travels are about making memories but I can assure you, when you return home, there’s nothing you’ll love more than reliving those moments looking at the photos you took of crazy nights out, beautiful sunsets and breathtaking landscapes.(leave the selfies to your phone)

10. Earplugs and eye mask ( usually get these free on long haul flights with socks as well). Also a blow up travel pillow is so handy for any method of travel. Yes they’ll give you one on the plane but I always use the one I brought as well. To save money, a lot of people use over night travel on buses and trains to save money on accommodation so these pillow will be your best friend in these situation.I always bring socks in my hand luggage and a hoodie because as flights get cold and a nice pair of fluffy socks makes the experience a lot more comfy 🙂

 

I have often succumbed to peoples advice and bought luggage locks. Once I even bought them at the airport on my way to South America (after checking in my bag) so they went into my hand luggage… and stayed there for the duration of my trip. I never use them. Some might criticise that but I have never had anything taken from my bags and I have stayed in countless hotels, hostels, floating houses, tree houses you name it. I think most people who travel all have the same values and respect one another.

Don’t bring your hair dryer. Nearly all hostels have them and if you’re like me you’ll be travelling to warm countries and can let your hair dry naturally. If you bring a travel hair dryer (I used to during my early travel days!) notice that they will generally have a way to change the voltage which you will need to do if you arrive in a new country and notice there is no strength in it anymore. Definitely, don’t bring your hair straighter. I brought mine to south East Asia where it was dropped on the first week and never worked again… My punishment for bringing it lol!

 

And here are some other tips

Roll your clothes you get a lot more to fit in.

Always pack another small bag inside your suitcase which you will use on your daily excursions while travelling. Or maybe you’ll just use it to bring all your new stuff that you bought home 😉

In some countries or undeveloped areas, laundrettes may not be at hand so it is sometimes beneficial to bring a clothes line, special packets of hand washing powder and a universal sink plug. I’m not hugely into budget travelling like cooking in the hostel kitchen and hand washing but many travellers I met swear by it.In Asia it is very cheap to give your clothes to local washing service however don’t expect all your clothes to return and your whites will more than likely be yellow! In most good hostels there will washing facilities though especially in Australia.$4 to wash and $4-6 to dry.

For stuff like bikinis and underwear, which take up a surprising amount of space, I pack these in a ziplock bag and then squish the air out!

For a few euro you can buy a luggage weighing scales which can save you arriving at the airport overweight which can be a costly mistake to make.

If you are going to a country where you don’t speak the language, a copy of the hotel name and address written down will help you if you get lost, either when you first arrive or even after you’ve been out for the day. I learned this the hard way after getting lost (with a map) for 7 hours in Beijing, as I only knew the name of the hostel in English and no one there could understand me!!! It’s different in a European country where you can try to phonetically sound out the place you are looking for but when it looked like this ¥%*# I had no hope! ( since then I have learned 20 words in mandarin… Just in case!!)

If you arrive via the airport you can usually pick up free city maps which is handy to have with you and will sometimes have vouchers for local attractions.

Sorry of my travel tips are a bit girlie… But I am a girl after all 🙂

Amjed. Giving homelessness a name and a face.

Please click on this link first to watch this short video of a beautiful act of generosity.

Homeless man receives home

Having watched the video of this generous act of kindness initiated by one that dramatically changed the life of another, I was overwhelmed by emotion and a feeling deep inside me, wanting to help some one like that. It was less than an hour later , while I was sitting in the park, happily reading my book, when I was approached by Amjed. In my peripheral vision I saw him approach but I kept my head down not wanting to be disturbed. He spoke to me. I pretended not to hear. ‘Hola,’ he said again, and this time I looked up. He sat down beside me, much to my dismay and struggled to find words to communicate, not surprisingly, as Amjed is from Pakistan.

My initial reaction was to politely nod and smile and return to my book but then I saw the emotions and sadness across this strange mans face as he rambled unintelligibly and pointed to his dust covered shoes. I could see he needed some one to talk to, some one to listen, some one to be his friend so I put the book away and gave him my full attention.
Amjed, came here to Barcelona 12 days ago. I met him on the 5th day. Having lost his nice office job in Pakistan due to the company closing, he received a phone call from a fellow countryman living in Barcelona, offering him a job. With all his savings, he booked a one way flight, said goodbye to his mother and two sisters and off he went in search of a new life, one that could support him and his family in Pakistan. Upon his arrival, the number of his friend was disconnected and he has no other contact information for him and so he is alone with no friends here in Barcelona.
This exchange of information was mostly conveyed through the use of body language and hand actions as his level of English is minimal and Spanish is non existent. He showed me a photo of his family and his home in Pakistan. He explained that he has no papers to work here and despite spending all day walking around Barcelona in search of work, he is unable to find a job as he has no legal rights to work here and cannot speak Spanish. I gave him the number and address of the Pakistan embassy here which were closed for the weekend so I told him to ring on Monday, hoping that they could speak to him in Urdu, his own language and assist him in finding work. He was so grateful he cried and I hugged him. It was obvious he hadn’t had the luxury of a shower in a while but I let him hug me as long as he wanted and tried to send him calming positive energy and strength to get him through this tough time. I wanted to help so much more but felt a bit helpless so I tried convincing myself that listening to him and talking to him had already helped him feel less alone in this unfamiliar city of strangers. I gave him hope.

Almost a week later, today, I met him again in the park. He had been unsuccessful in his attempt to receive help from the embassy. I asked him would he just go back to Pakistan but he explained that there are no jobs there and he doesn’t have the money to go home. He had rang his mother to tell her there are no jobs here and she cried. He said he has walked and walked in search of a job but I understand that it is near impossible to get a job here if he doesn’t have the language skills to even ask for a job. His money ran out quickly and he is now sleeping in the park beside my apartment and a local shop is letting him keep his bag there. My heart is struggling with the sadness of his situation,wanting to help, but not sure how. I decided I would start by teaching him English and today, in his little milka chocolate notebook, we started with some greetings and the questions. He was eager to learn and picked it up quickly, although it was a little funny explaining the words I and you, while pointing to myself and then him, making him think he should use the word you for himself and I for me! We spoke (tried to) for ages and he told me he is good at bowling and he showed me a little game you play with your hands, again, reinforcing his poor background where they entertain themselves with nothing but their hands.

I spoke to a Spanish employee lawyer today, that informed me legal work rights can only be given to people who prove that they have been here illegally for three years and have integrated well into the Catalan society. What options does that leave for my poor friend Amjed? I could just appease myself with thoughts that I’ve done what I can to help and there’s nothing else I can do, but I cannot. This is a lovely man with a gentle soul, who has fallen victim to unfortunate circumstances. I have always wanted to make the world a better place and I feel that the universe orchestrated it so that our paths would cross so I can help him. He is not begging or stealing, nor has he ever asked me for anything, but I wonder how long until homelessness results in those desperate measures and will he become one of the many people I see every day searching the rubbish bins on the streets of Barcelona?

I would really appreciate any advice in how I can help or what I should do to help this man get back on his feet. I know he would work harder than anyone I know and really deserves to be helped.

Today’s challenge: Me v.s. Maps

Map of Barcelona This is my new home… And my navigational aid to help me find my way around. Who am I kidding? What bother with maps when you have a phone with google maps?! I do have a map in my bag just in case, as my battery never lasts more than a few hours :/ Anyway, after three days here I figure I have the metro all figured out so I decided to take the train on my shopping expedition, as a challenge. Although both the metro and train only take a few minutes I had to wait more than five minutes for the train to leave so next time I’ll be taking the metro! Now where was the train bringing me to, only on my very first visit to Ikea. Wow is all I can say. Despite my previous post on the advantages of not having lots of ‘stuff’ and proving this by moving here with only 15kg of luggage, I must admit I was very tempted to go crazy and buy everything within reach, especially everything pink, orange, fluffy or shiny lol! And if I thought the city map was a challenge, I was give a rude awakening when I was given the map of the store. I spent well over an hour trawling my way though hundreds of people, exasperated at how they were all getting in my way… Only to realise at the end I was going the wrong way all along oppsy 🙂 And if you’re curious, I did escape relatively intact with just one (large) bag of ‘essentials’ for my new home. Now I must put it all together. Happy weekend everyone 🙂

Map of IKEA

Maybe ‘someday’ should be today… These are some great travel websites to get you on your way

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For general information to plan your trip
lonelyplanet.com
tripadvisor.com
rome2rio.com

For cheap flights
skyscanner.com
orbitz.com
ryanair.com
jetstar.com
bestflights.com
airfarewatchdog.com

For places to stay
couchsurfing.com
hostelbookers.com
hotels.com
airbnb.com
hostelworld.com

European buses/trains
seat61.com
http://www.raileurope.com/index.html
orangeways.com
megabus.com
busabout.com

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To go or not to go that is the question… How to make life changing decisions.

Impromptu road trips, last minute flights to exotic destinations, spontaneous ventures into the unknown… these are familiar experiences for many young people with a free spirit and a yearning for adventure and exploration. I, myself, have had many moments like that which have blessed me with the greatest of memories. But at what point do we have to slow down in life and look for more stability, perhaps contemplate settling in one place with one person? I have been asking myself these questions recently and I’ve found there isn’t a universal answer that can be applied to everyone, we must just listen to our hearts and find our way. We each have our own destinies to fulfil, some may travel forever, some may never travel and then some just slow down when it feels right.

Two weeks ago I booked a flight back to Sydney and marvelled at how I hadn’t even considered the option until a friend suggested it. It seemed like the perfect idea, back to my friends, my favourite place and a guaranteed great time. But after a few days I noticed something was amiss. Where was the excitement , the enthusiasm and elation that usually precedes my trips to Sydney? I began to analyse the situation from every possible perspective with the dreaded fear I’d made a mistake.

During this time I tried to convince myself that my spur of the moment booking was the correct decision (Ssshh brain, I’m never wrong!!) but I still couldn’t shake the negative feelings I had, so I did what any logical person would do. I spoke to my friends over there and they convinced me it was a great idea, as I knew they would. I frequently looked at videos and photos I had taken during my last visit there, boat parties, beach parties, pool parties and not surprisingly , I began to look forward to it.

Three days to go, I packed my suitcase, said some goodbyes and while I still wasn’t totally convinced, I wasn’t allowing myself to consider the alternative. That is until, the day before the flight, when I realised that although there may be many reasons to return to Sydney my heart simply wasn’t in it. It was a difficult decision to make because my heart and my mind were in a challenging duel for many days while I helplessly spectated and waited for the eventual victor to emerge. Thankfully it was my heart.
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If you’ve ever asked me for advice I’ll probably have told you not to stress or worry, the answers cannot come to a muddled mind, simply declutter your thoughts and allow your heart to tell you the way to go. But I must admit, this time I struggled with my own advice and even sought the advice of many others although this also conflicted with my firm belief that we have all the answers inside, if we quiet our minds to listen.
But here I am, still in Ireland, obviously not half way to Sydney and I know I made the right decision. I cannot say what specific reason there was to not return except that I must always follow my heart and this time it was not telling me to go to back to my beloved Sydney. Even though the bigger picture is still a mystery to me I have every faith that only good things are on my path and that if it’s meant to be I will return some day to Sydney. Until then XxX

Stay tuned to see where I end up!
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My five favourite… Islands

Gozo Island, Malta

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A gorgeous day trip by boat from Malta is the beautiful island of Gozo. The best way to explore this tiny island is to rent a car and head off to all the famous sights, like the Azure Window, while marvelling at the unique countryside along the way. My favourite place, that I revisited last year, is this tiny town, Xlendi Bay. It is the perfect place to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.

Yasawa Islands, Fiji

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It’s impossible to choose just one of these treat-sized islands as each one is pretty much the same but all equally stunning with crystal clear waters and all inclusive resorts, these islands are the perfect retreat if you want to do absolutely nothing but relax.

Oahu, USA

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It’s difficult to choose just one Hawaiian Island also but I think Oahu is the most diverse, with lush,green rainforests, white, sandy beaches as well as shopping and outdoor activities to suit everyone, not to mention its famous surf spots.

Fraser Island, Australia

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Fraser Island can be a 1 or 3 day excursion from Rainbow Beach. There are miles of uninterrupted beaches and beautiful lakes and forests. A unique attraction here is driving on the beaches while looking out at the dingos (wild dogs) chasing your vehicle and whales breaching out in the ocean. A visit to this island isn’t complete without stopping to see the lovely Lake McKenzie and also I really enjoyed the short flight over the whole island, which also gave us a great view of the islands famous shipwreck.

Ibiza, Spain

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Having lived in Ibiza for five months, I have very fond memories of this island and despite being renown for its club scene, Ibiza also has many scenic locations to escape from the craziness every once in awhile. It is said to have a very powerful electromagnetic force, like Hawaii, which keeps people returning every year, and while I don’t know if it’s that or the great djs, I would definitely recommend the ibiza experience to everyone who wants a little fun in their lives.
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My Five Favourite … Beaches

It’s no secret that I love to travel and while a new city is full of bustling life and excitement, nothing soothes my soul like the sound of waves crashing along a beautiful beach. I have feasted my eyes upon many dazzling beaches in Brazil, Thailand, Fiji, Indonesia and Costa Rica to mention a few but here are my favourites so far.

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Lanikai, Hawaii

This beach seriously was something out of a movie or a photoshopped travel brochure. Simply stunning! What a treat to escape the crowds of Waikiki and be graced with this divine beach all to ourselves. Several houses are built right along the beach’s edge and the lucky owners have their kayaks and other sporting paraphanaelia sitting on the sand ready for fun. Oh how I’d love to live here!!

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Whitehaven Beach, Australia

Famous for its white sand, which is due to its 98% silica content, it is also popular for its jewellery polishing abilities. NASA also used this powdery sand for the Hubble Telescope. We visited this beach while on a three day sailing trip around the Whitsundays. It was my first experience of no mobile phone coverage but I could definitely get used to living on a boat!

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Bondi Beach, Sydney

I could go on forever about how amazing Sydney is but I don’t think that there’s anyone who could dispute its reputation for boasting some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

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Broome Beach, Western Australia

After a five day drive from Perth, this indeed was a sight to behold. Long stretches of gloriously golden sands, virtually empty… Paradise. Also for the more active beach goers there are camel rides available!

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Doonbeg, Ireland

Ireland has miles of beautiful coastline with gorgeous beaches such as Doonbeg in Co. Clare. It’s just one of many that are an hours drive from my home town. All Ireland needs now is the weather!!!>