There are few things that scream ‘I’m an independent Millennial’ more than a backpacking adventure abroad. And when your autonomous spirit finally saves enough of your disposable income to purchase a flight, you want to take full advantage of your time and what limited space you have in your backpack.
While the country, the season and your style will ultimately determine what you bring, keep some of these important items in mind before you head through the airport security line:
1. SNACKS ON SNACKS
The best part about going abroad is throwing your diet out the window and taking in the local cuisine. You’ll want to taste sandwiches off of street carts and order meals you can’t pronounce because food is one of the main reasons we travel. However budgeting for breakfast, lunch and dinner can be a major strain on your 20-something year old travel budget, regardless of what country you find yourself in.
Packing a few of your favorite granola bars, dried fruit or sealed snack packs can come in handy during your travels. You can skip the pricey, stale airport food when you have layovers (I’m looking at you, Amsterdam airport). You can also take out your trail mix at those times when the local food is just a little too sketchy even for your adventurous palate. Ultimately, bringing along a few snacks will save you money so that you can splurge on the colorful, exotic dishes you’ve seen all over Pinterest.
2. A NECK PILLOW AND A JOURNAL FOR GROUND TRANSPORTATION
You probably won’t have any problems finding English speakers at airports. But buses, trains and trams are the most authentic – and often most cost efficient – form of travel. Yet outside of big cities, I found that local transportation is not accessible to backpackers (unless you had time for a crash-course in Serbo-Croatian right before heading to the Balkans). But still take advantage of late night buses to get from city to city. There will be moments of complete frustration as you try to purchase tickets and figure out the time schedules. But your neck pillow will be your best friend as you try to catch a few precious hours of sleep in an old train cabin. But if you can manage to stay awake during the ride, a journal is necessary to document all the crazy moments that are bound to happen. Because when you sit next to a man drinking Heineken on a 5:00 AM bus out of Belgrade, you can bet it is going to be worth tweeting about when you finally find WiFi.
3. SOME STAPLE ITEMS OF CLOTHING
If you and your friends have committed to the backpacking lifestyle, you must accept the fact that you will be using sketchy hostel laundry mats for the very few items of clothing you brought. But you should make room for the following items:
- 1 or 2 versatile dresses — Cotton dresses are a good space saver and an easy time saver when you are attempting to put together an outfit in a dimly lit hostel bedroom. Plus, a simple maxi dress is an easy way to not look like a jet-lagged, hung-over American during your travels. (Sorry men, I don’t know what the equivalent wardrobe item would be for you).
- A pair of clean shoes – NOTE: Europeans do not wear running shoes out in public. It may be tempting to bring your favorite pair of worn, comfortable Nike shoes, but these are a quick way to label yourself as a foreigner. Invest in a nice, clean pair of tennis shoes that are comfortable and sturdy enough to get you through countless miles. It’s the classic fashion issue of comfort vs. style, but it is a worthwhile investment.
- A scarf – Everyone loves a colorful infinity scarf, but a simple, long scarf is a must when you travel. It is the quickest way to cover your head or your shoulders if you want to see inside places of worship like churches, mosques,or temples. Plus, a long scarf can be a good alternative to a cardigan on chillier nights out.