Girl on the Run: The Kit

Check you out, free spirit! Wanderlusting all over the damn place. Taking the world by storm with nothing but the clothes on your back and the wind in your hair. I see you too, long-distance relationship girl. I see you there, at the plane terminal, weary of naked cell phone pictures and cuddling on Skype. You probably over- or under-packed, but that’s okay, because you’re in love.

Maybe neither of these is you at all. Maybe you’re following Tegan and Sara on the road. Maybe you just hate where you live. Perhaps you’re on the run from homophobic family members (seriously, still a tragically common occurrence). Maybe you just feel like your time and money are best spent being, well, somewhere else.

I think, probably, that I have been each of these people at least once, and am probably some combination of two or three of these people right now. And no matter who you may be in this grand scheme of runagays and wanderlust dreams, the world is your oyster, and everyone knows that oysters are symbols for vaginas, so let’s get to exploring, shall we?

You’ll need a backpack, of course, but we already went through how to find one of those over here. Below are some supplements and essentials to keep your time on the road light on your back and easy on your mind.


1. Bandanas

Now I ain’t fuckin’ around when I say that bandanas are the simplest, most diverse tool in your runaway homo arsenal. They’re kind of like handkerchiefs, but way trendier, and less yucky. There are plenty of things I recommend that you do with a bandana, but make no mistake, blowing your nose is not one of them.

However, are you that crying girl at the bus terminal? It’s cool, we’ve got a bandana for that. Are you a cowboy riding through the Wild West lassoing bank robbers and keeping the dust out of your eyes? We’ve got a bandana for that. Use a bandana to keep your hair out of your face so that you can get a good look at that open road ahead of you. Clean up spills. Mend a sore wrist. Make gay sex jokes about being a lesbian with a sore wrist repairing herself with a bandana. Wash yr face. Tie someone to the bed. Use two or three of them when you get out of the shower ’cause, duh, your hostel doesn’t provide towels, and you just do. not. have. room. for that kind of shit in your pack.

And maybe best of all, signal to people in a brand new city that you’re a big ol’ homo — and a practical one at that! I know that this is a strange diversity of uses, and that it seems like you couldn’t possibly (sanitarily) use just one bandana for all these purposes. And you’re right, you can’t. That would be gross. Lucky for you, bandanas are mad crazy hella cheap, and frequently come in variety packs, much like this:

bandanas of the world, spice up your life


2. Headphones

Headphones are an interesting thing for me because I haven’t had an iPod or any sort of portable music player for almost two years now. This is not because I don’t care about music or because I am particularly self-righteous about our dependence on technology and its overbearing presence in our everyday lives. No, this is because I am constantly buying plane/train/bus tickets and spending money having meals and getting drunk in cities other than my own and cannot afford an iPod, which makes for some REALLY FUCKING BORING bus rides.

So why headphones? So motherfuckers don’t try to be talking to you all the damn time. Of course part of the point of traveling – especially traveling alone – is to have new experiences and meet lots of people, but for the love of god, if I have to spend seven hours in a closed space sharing a seat with some man who keeps asking me what part of Japan I’m from or why I don’t have a boyfriend or if I can spare some change or a cigarette, then I’m never leaving the house without a nun costume again. And I don’t even really know where to get a nun costume, but I do know where to get headphones. I don’t really have a preference on headphones because I don’t actually plug them in to anything, but when I did, these Panasonic RP-HTX7s were my absolute favorite. What do all those letters stand for? I have no idea! But I do know that they’re comfortable, stylish, noise-blocking, and of great quality.

yes i am asian no this is not exactly what i look like wearing these headphones

And hey, maybe you’re even one of the lucky ones that has something to connect them to. Also, if anyone wants to sell me their walkman, I am in no position to say no.


3. Hoodie

The hoodie is a beautiful thing. Never – I say never – in the history of anything has one item been both so useful and so fashion casual as the hoodie. It’s always smart to travel in layers, as buses/trains/planes always tend to be a little on the cold side, so as to keep you as rigidly uncomfortable as possible for as long as possible (just my speculation). However! A hoodie is more than just another jacket. Because you’re so clever over here, Miss MacGyver, your hoodie is also your pillow and your blanket (this also applies if the place you’re crashing has neither pillow nor blanket for you as well). Not only is the hoodie a travel triple threat, but because you wear it, it also cuts down on shit you have to pack. Also, in the absence of headphones, you can put your hood up and pretend to be asleep. I prefer the classic American Apparel hoodie, but since the CEO of AA is a total fucking creep, and the hoodies are kind of expensive, both H&M and Old Navy provide cheaper alternatives that are still totally cute and shit.

intern laura and i enjoy a good hoodie circa 2009


4. Moleskine notebook

In our Little Girl, Big City kit, Riese recommended purchasing a notebook, which I will recommend too, because you’re going to need somewhere to store all your little big feelings and new experiences while you’re on the road. I strongly support you owning a Moleskine graph paper notebook, which is like, basically the most useful notebook ever because on top of feelings-recording, the graph paper is great for drawing maps and directions, and the handy inside cover pocket is seriously the safest and most convenient place to stash boarding passes and your emergency $10. And, of course, when you’re done with your tickets, you can glue them all into your notebook to keep tabs on all the places you’ve been.

this is something you can do with a moleskine via


5. Kick-ass boots

Because you are a Gay for All Seasons, you’re not afraid of the cold! Or the ice! Or the rain. Or the heat, I suppose, as long as you drink a lot of water (which I’m about to get to as well). What you’re going to need is a pair of totally kick-ass boots to help you trek through all sorts of weather conditions. My current pair are these Doc Martens, which are actually the most perfect lesbian shoe in the world. They’re durable, comfortable, waterproof, provide a TON of traction, and are totally silent (which is unnecessary but cool). And on top of that, they’re totally fly.

this could be you


6. Re-usable water bottle

Once, my friend dropped her Nalgene bottle off of an 80-foot cliff, and – I kid you not – the thing survived the fall with little more than a scratch. What more endorsement do you need? If you’re traveling around a lot, you’re bound to fuck your belongings up at least a little, and water is obviously something you’re always going to need, so why not keep it on you at all times in a nearly indestructible, vibrantly colored piece of plastic? Also a very cool thing is the Vapur flexible water bottle, which holds 0.5L of water and ROLLS UP neatly when you’re done. Whatever your choice, make sure to keep it clean regularly, because there’s nothing quite so bad as being thirsty and drinking stank water out of a dirty container.

it fucking rolls up


7. Carabiner

It’s small, it’s simple, and no one knows what the fuck it’s called. A carabiner is something you’re probably already wearing on your beltloop to hold your keys, ya big homo. A carabiner may also hold the key to your hostel or the key to your friend’s place where you’re crashing. Loop it onto your backpack, and you have the ability to clip something extra on to your bag, like a water bottle, a pair of boots tied together by the laces, or even another bag. Like the bandana, the carabiner is cheap, small, and totally replaceable, which are three good reasons to invest.

how could you not want to own this


8. A Good Fucking Book

Something to keep you company on the long, lonely road. Even if you’ve got friends when you get to where you’re going to, it’s always nice to have a few extra people in your life, even if those people are fictional characters. Here are a few good road companions:

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides (2002)
This book isn’t actually entirely about running away. It’s about a million things, like being intersex, being a third-generation midwesterner in the 1960s and 70s, exploring your confused sexuality, and Greek mythology. But a lot of the time it is about the inexplicable feeling of isolation, and there is a runaway scene at some point. Also, the last time I traveled somewhere with this book, almost everyone I met was all like “Omgggg Middlesex that book is amazing!” So maybe you’ve already read it. Maybe you should re-read it or carry it around as a prop.

A Home at the End of the World, Micheal Cunningham (1990)
Also not actually about running away, but definitely about a search for home, love, and family and the different ways that each of those things can be interpreted. Romantic, twisted, heartbreaking, and gay, A Home at the End of the World is a beautifully narrated story about growing the fuck up.

Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami (2002)
Although Murakami is potentially best known for his 1994 novel, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, for a young person on the run, Kafka on the Shore is highly relevant to your interests. Existentialism, magical realism, more Greek mythology, and the intangible but unavoidable intertwining of lives pushed into 650 epic pages to keep you good and busy during long journeys. Also, this quote: “Time weighs down on you like an old, ambiguous dream. You keep on moving, trying to sleep through it. But even if you go to the ends of the earth, you won’t be able to escape it. Still, you have to go there- to the edge of the world. There’s something you can’t do unless you get there.”
And if that doesn’t make you want to travel, well then I just don’t know.

All right kids, that’s it for now. Go on, get out of here, you’re gonna miss your bus!

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phoenix has written 64 articles for us.


  1. This is fantastic!

    I second the carabiner. It comes in SO handy when traveling.
    and I always put boarding passes and money in a notebook. I don’t know how much it has to be a moleskin, something small to write notes and lists and whatever in will do. Also, no one will pickpocket your notebook.

  2. Damn, this awesome post makes me miss the times when I was always on trains and planes and buses being a hobo/homo in a bandanna. With the exception of kick-ass boots, though, I still own all these items, including Kafka on the Shore. Now I feel all inspired to embark upon a journey/quest.

  3. I have all of these necessities, except the dr. martins, should i be on the run? are my personal belonging choices a subliminal message? oh dear, existential crisis.

  4. Use two or three of them when you get out of the shower ’cause, duh, your hostel doesn’t provide towels, and you just do. not. have. room. for that kind of shit in your pack.

    Sure you do. I’ve never used one, but it has to be better than using a bandana.

  5. “Use two or three of them when you get out of the shower ’cause, duh, your hostel doesn’t provide towels, and you just do. not. have. room. for that kind of shit in your pack.”


    ‘A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. 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 mini raft 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 to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

    More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: nonhitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might have accidentally “lost.”. What the strag will think is that any man that can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, ruff it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.’

  6. True story, you have just described me on ANY GIVEN DAY.

    I am pretty much without fail to be found wearing a hoodie, my green Docs, jeans that have a bandana in the back pocket and carabiner with keys and a mini-leatherman* hooked to a belt loop, and a messenger bag that has a metal water bottle, notebook, dayplanner, novel (Murakami is a favorite), ipod & headphones, and first aid kit. There’s usually an apple or luna bar in there as well.

    Which is to say, I totally 100% appove of this list!

    *Let me just say, I think some sort of multitool is a great addition to the lesbian staples. Not only is a leatherman/swiss army knife/&c super duper handy (knife! scissors! screwdriver! bottle opener!), but it means that you can swoop in and help that totally cute girl who is struggling to open a package/adjust her glasses/open a beer/&c!

  7. I LOVE this article!!! except now all i want to do is pack my bag and run away! my lease ends in november but awesome student loans are making me get a jobbbbb, yuck.

    carabiners are such a good idea! i’ve done a fair amount of traveling but never thought to use those. genius.

    and are there boots that look good with non-skinny jeans/leggings? i have no money/fashion sense and am therefore confined to the flares/bootcuts i purchased in high school.

    wonderful article.

    • Same! I wish I didn’t have school/work/bills. I am dying to hop on a bus and just go right now.

      Also, Doc Martins definitely look good with anything. I have the exact red ones from the picture and I wear them with my bootcut jeans pretty much every day. I have never worn skinny jeans. They look so uncomfortable.

      Also also, Docs last FOREVER. My mom has a pair that she bought the year I was born (it was almost the beginning of the 90s, boots with dresses were like, fashionable or something) and anyway, that was 22 years ago and I stole those boots from her and wore them for years before I got my own. They are indestructible.

      • Doc Martins look good with EVERYTHING. I usualy wear mine most days with baggy boys jeans, but on the rare days where I which to present more female they still look awesome with a dress.
        (and I only own 5 pairs :P collected over 4 or so years)

  8. What is this travel you people speak of? I have a full time job and live paycheck to paycheck. The furthest I go is downtown

  9. Love this. And what perfect timing, I have a flight tomorrow morning.

    Headphones and a reusable water bottle are necessary whenever leaving the house. The worst though is when you just want to zone out on the bus/train/plane so you put in your head phones and someone still decides to make conversation.

    And Middlesex is perfect. I should really reread it. I love Jeffrey Eugenides and need to get a hold of his new book.

  10. regarding #4
    “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” — Oscar Wilde

    Words to live by. Happy travels1

  11. i drive a hour and a Half every day to get to school and just in case i allways have a towel in the car just in case. and a multitool but the towel is the big biggie

  12. I must have those Doc Martens. I don’t understand how something can look so ugly and fashionable at the same time.

    • mine have flowers on them. i like the juxtaposition of “i’m a fucking badass” and “look, pretty flowers!”

  13. how do you know me so well?

    seriously, though,
    “You probably over- or under-packed, but that’s okay, because you’re in love.”
    how do you know me so. well.

  14. This is highly relavent to my interests, as I will be hauling ass around europe next summer. Bandanas for everything! Luggage, straps of backpacks, heads, tying bags shut, bating bulls etc…

  15. this is awesome.. i have all of these things! complete with kickass doc martens and murakami.. and i just bought a new pair of headphones too (earpollution throwbax), so i am rrready to hop on a plane in december! yay!

  16. I am missing some boots and I’m all set. I don’t have bandanas though. I have some necker chiefs, do those count?
    though a towel is a MUST HAVE. always know where your towel is.
    that and a knife/multi tool.
    my backpack usually has a snickers for when I get hungry, a novel, a swiss army knife,ipod & headphones,a notebook and a pen, a waterbottle with a carabiner I can hang on my trousers, a keychain with a firefly and a torch(something else to add to the list!) and I have a big collection of hoodies.

    I’m not planning a trip or running away, I’m just a scout.

  17. The shoes. WOW. I need some Doc Martins in my life. Another musst-have would be a sturdy-ass backpack. The easiest/cheapest place to get one is the thrift store. True story. Also a lighter. You meet people when you have a lighter, and you never know when you’ll need instant fire.

  18. I have been in possession of The Most Perfect Lesbian Shoes for years and years and didn’t even know!

    This makes me feel like a proper lesbian. Thank you. I’m seriously considering dusting off those Doc Martens of mine.

  19. Ohmygosh, I’m running away possibly in two months. I’m working on selling/trading/donating everything in my apartment so I can give in to my wanderlust with as little in material possessions as possible. I’M SO EXCITED FOR THIS LIST! Thank you thank you thank you!

  20. This post is my life. I am typing this in a library with my boots and hoodie on, and my messenger bag with a notebok, carabener, fucking good book, reusable headphones, and bandanas for the hostel I’m staying in tonight that totally doesn’t have towels. Love it.
    Also, make sure you bring good socks, guys. Seriously.

  21. You have basically described my work supplies, apparently runaways and roadies are one and the same?

  22. What can I say? Where do I begin?

    I keep most of these items in my amazing Kelty womens redwing day pack (designed like an internal frame pack but smaller) AT ALL TIMES.

    I see that I am not alone. What is it about us that we carry these items everywhere? Zombie apocalypse prepping? Naw, I did this in the early 90’s.

    It took a LOT for me to finally stop carrying rain pants everywhere. I live in New York City, people.

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