How much did I actually have to prepare for leaving my life for a year to go travel?
10.03.2016 - 17.04.2016 18 °C
I like to tell myself that I did not need to prepare anything before heading to West Africa for a year. That is, of course, a lie. However, besides spending two years saving approximately 12,000 Euros while finishing my education, I probably prepared less than many thinks – and less than many others would have done. The truth is that it actually does not require a lot to go travel, not even for extended periods of time. A passport, a sense of adventure and enough money for the duration of you trip… and preferably a good hat!
Specialised gear (including camping gear) can be rented in most capitals, so all you need are some good shoes and a decent backpack. The amount of money clearly depends on your level of comfort and travelling style. The hat is a personal preference, but this is honestly all you need. You have clothes in your closet, and the sense of adventure will take care of everything else – just keep telling yourself that.
This is the bare minimum and for comfortable travel, you need a bit more. I have been blessed by past trips. That is, I already had a good backpack, a travel towel, lightweight and fast-drying clothes and an idea about just how little ‘stuff’ I need in order to travel. Most people bring way, way too much stuff with them. Hence, the cliché travel advises: “Spread everything you want to bring with you out on the floor in front of you. Then leave half of it behind.”. Just to give you an idea of how little I am bringing with me have I added the complete list at the bottom of this post. It might seem like a lot in list-form, but those 12 kgs it combines is not a lot for a whole year.
Other than what I already had, there were a few things I needed to check off before I left. I was running out of blank paged in my passport, so I had to get a new empty and boring one. I had to order another credit card from my bank, so I would have a backup in case I lost my current card. I had to get two expired travel vaccinations refreshed. I also bought a guidebook, stash up on Euros and Dollars and got some new travel shoes. Lastly, I stacked up on medical supplies. I am going to be far from Western hospitals and a basic first-aid kit, and some antibiotics and penicillin are handy to have at hand – though I have never had any use for it myself. Instead, I have been able to help out fellow travellers in need and once acted as a doctor in a Madagascan village I passed through.
Once you got everything and if you are leaving for a long trip, like I am, you probably need to get rid of your apartment, find a place for your stuff, unsubscribe newspapers, newsletters, insurances and other things you do not want to pay for at home, while you are not there. Then again, most of this can be done once you are already on the road. Realising that you are still paying for that expensive data package for the phone you are not using usually helps such things along.
Then there is the mental preparation. Leaving the safety and comfort of your home. Leaving friends and family behind. That is often the hardest part of any trip. I have found from past experiences that the less mental preparation I do, the more enjoyable will my trip begin. You really cannot prepare yourself for the travel experience. It is better just to roll with the punches. If it gets too much, you can always take a break from everything by checking in at a five-star hotel and spend a couple of days in luxury. Spending too much time saying farewell is not advisable either. It will only make me sad that I am leaving. It is far better to treat the farewells like a bandage. Rip if off quickly. Only do the essential farewells in person. Maybe, have one big party where your guests do not realise that this will be the last time they see you for a long, long time. In that way, there will be fewer tears to shed. Sure, people will miss you, but long farewells will only add to that. By not saying goodbye you should buy everybody a month or so before people actually realise that they miss you. Alternatively, if you do not have any friends, consider that as one less thing to worry about.
Backpack (28 liters)
Light sleeping bag
Four pairs of socks
Two trousers (identical brown one’s – fuck anything stylish)
Toilet pack (doubles as day pack)
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Shampoo (better than soap for clothes washing)
Shaving machine, plus charger
Metal mirror (does not break)
Small travellers first-aid kit
Antibiotics and penicillin
Yellow vaccination card
Int. driver’s license
Danish driver’s license
Three maps over different parts of West Africa
Ten passport photos
Book: Just and Unjust Wars (pick something you enjoy, but won’t go through too quickly)
Point It booklet
Two credit cards
Student card (good for the rest of 2016)
Diver Maser certification card
Blood Donor card (with my blood type on it)
Camera plus charger and extra battery
Two SD memory cards
Old Nokia plus charger
MP3 player plus USB-cable
Notebook laptop plus charger (for blog-writing and picture editing, otherwise leave the computer at home)
Deck of cards
Lighter and matches
Compass (essential when arriving late at night at dark bus/train stations
Some rubber bands
Whistle (for attracting attention in case of emergencies)
And lastly: two toy animals because I have friends, who apparently thing I will forget them while I on the road
In addition to that have I bought a washcloth while down here and a fellow traveller left me some clothes soap as she was flying home.