Shalom from the road! Back in December I told you guys I was going off into the world to explore and meet new humans and see different places and try to get the fuck offline for a while, and then I packed up a bag and hopped on a plane and did just that. Well, mostly. I’ve sort of bent the rules on the whole “get the fuck offline” part of the deal (see: random bouts of tweeting, gchatting with Stef at weird hours of the night for both of us, this post that I am writing right this very second) but spending 20 minutes a day online versus 20 hours seems reasonable and has not impeded my sense of adventure, so I’m just gonna consider myself a rebellious wild child rather than a failure on this point.
I’ve spent the past three months traveling around Israel, and soon I will be flying to Indiana where I will embark on a crazy roadtrip situation that will involve a lot of farms, a lot of hikes, and hopefully a lot of really beautiful art and poetry and sunsets. I have big hopes and dreams for where my travels might take me after A-Camp, but the only real concrete thing I know is that I plan to keep doing this for a while. “This” being, putting a giant backpack on my back and running headfirst out into the world, hoping that whatever happens next will be awesome, ’cause it usually is. That said, long-term solo travel is definitely a skill, and my beginner status is painfully obvious at times, particularly when it comes to packing.
I am a notoriously awful packer, and packing for this extended jaunt was no exception. Now, ninety days into this new way of life, I feel like I am at a place where I can definitively look into my soul and say “I should not have packed all this crap.” But perhaps more importantly, I’m also at a place where I can look at my overstuffed bag of (mostly) useless shit and say, “Wow, I really should have packed [insert random useful object here].” So that’s what we’re gonna reflect on now: the top five things I wish I’d put in my backpack (instead of three identical pairs of black leggings, four similar-looking floral print dresses, six v-necks I have yet to wear…sigh).
1. A (Much) Smaller Backpack
Ugh, you guys. The well-known traveling secret of the world seems to be that if you have space in your pack, you will find a way to fill it. It’s truly incredible in an awful way. If your bag is 40 liters, you will fill it. If your bag is 60 liters, you will fill it. If, like me, your bag is 85 liters, you will fill it and then want to die every time you have to actually carry it, every time you are seen in public with it, and every time you struggle to get on a bus/tie your shoe/look inconspicuous while wearing a backpack that is actually as large as you. What is the solution to this embarrassing and inconvenient problem? Don’t bring an 85-liter backpack on your travels! Whenever anyone makes a comment about the absurd size of my bag (which happens pretty much whenever anyone sees my bag) I always defensively say, “Well, I’m really short. On a taller person it wouldn’t look so big.” This is a lie. Truthfully, I am ditching this thing, along with 75% of what’s in it, as soon as I can. I studiously check out other backpackers whenever I see them, and most humans my height seem to have a 40-liter pack. I should have brought one of those. Rookie mistake.
2. A Lighter
I don’t smoke so I figured I didn’t need to pack a lighter. I was wrong! I’m generally pretty terrified of fire, and getting my eyelashes and eyebrows half-burnt off in an unfortunate pizza-oven-related accident in January did not exactly help me get over that fear, but lighters are seriously very useful for lots of things aside from lighting your own cigarettes and/or joints. Plus they will make you very popular with potential new friends who do want to light their own cigarettes and/or joints. Also don’t worry, my eyelashes and eyebrows have mostly grown back.
3. Mini Speakers
Whether you want to listen to sad women playing guitars while you write in your journal on the beach, impress your new friends with the Official Autostraddle Cover of “Waterfalls,” or lull yourself to sleep with an acoustic version of Taylor Swift’s most underrated song, “Holy Ground,” mini speakers are your best friends. They’re cheap, portable, and another excellent way to ensure you’re the most popular girl on the goat farm. I’m going to buy a pair of bright pink mini speakers as soon as I can and impress all my future travel friends.
4. My You Do You Flask
I feel like this is self-explanatory. I have no idea why I didn’t bring this. It’s tiny, it’s cute, it’s so gay, and it’s way more useful than the 20 packs of Woolite and the bright pink duct tape I did bring, although one would think both of the former items would be useful too (thus far I haven’t touched either, but I remain more hopeful about those than I do about the two dry-clean only J. Crew cardigans I shoved into my bag at the last minute, ugh, why Past Self, why?!?!) Anyway I feel like any item that allows you to have booze on your person at all times and acts as a subtle flagging device to cute queer girls in the know is A Perfect Item. If you don’t own one you should buy one, and I personally will never leave the country without mine ever again.
5. A Diva Cup And An Understanding Of How To Use It
Okay. Okay. The thing is, even as I type this, I’m cringing. I don’t want to use a Diva cup. I’ve never wanted to use a Diva cup. I’ve had my period since I was 10 and in the past 15 years never once have I sighed wistfully and thought, gosh, if only I could take a rubber cup type thingy and shove it inside me to catch my menstrual blood once a month. It’s just not the stuff my dreams are made of (sorry Ali!). And yet. And yet. Dealing with tampons while traveling is a pain in the ass. I’m not that picky but I guess I’m a little bit picky because it turns out I don’t like all tampons. Plus they take up space in my bag that could be filled by a lighter, mini speakers, my Autostraddle flask, and okay if I’m being honest I’m not getting rid of my four similar-looking floral print dresses, so. And they’re expensive! I always resented paying for tampons once a month but now that I’m working with a very frugal budget it’s even more of an indignation. I know if you’re a Diva cup user I’m preaching to the choir and if you’re not you are likely doing what I always did when Diva cup enthusiasts tried to tell me how superior cups are to tampons, which was roll my eyes and ignore them, but this is where I’m at right now. The thing is I can’t just say “fuck tampons” and throw a Diva cup in my bag because I have no clue how to use one and I am frightened of it and honestly the last thing I need is to use it and have it leak while I’m on a public bus in a country where I don’t speak the language, or have it overflow on the bathroom floor in a grimy hostel when I try to remove it, or have it get stuck inside me while volunteering with a bunch of dudes on a farm oh god the horror, but… I guess I kind of wish I knew how to use a Diva cup, because I think it is probably the best way to handle my period every month while I’m traveling. So, I am willing to admit that if I could magically procure both a Diva cup and an understanding of how to use the damn thing, then I would trade in my trusty tampons for now. Reluctantly.
Okay, what do you guys think? Tell me your necessities when traveling light. Tell me how silly I am for packing dry-clean only items. Tell me where you think I should go next! Tell me your hopes and dreams and what you ate for breakfast yesterday and how you’re feeling and your new favorite song and really anything else that comes to mind ’cause I miss you weirdos, I really do.