What (not) to pack for an adult gap year
More and more people (read: millennials) are doing it; leaving their lives behind to travel the world, often working along the way.
But, as well as the hassles of packing up a flat, you need to pack up a bag that will see them through the next however many months — and a variety of climates and environments. Even within the same country, altitude can see temperatures fluctuate a huge amount.
If that means of a size and weight you need to be able to carry on your back, it has a whole new set of challenges — though ones which are certainly comforted by the satisfaction of minimal living. (Something like a North Face duffel, in no bigger than Medium, or a Lefrik Foldable Trolley, if you want the option of wheels, are good options.)
It’s not the same as packing for a pre-university trip (as you’ll realise pretty much immediately). With nearly a decade’s worth of life experience and accrued stuff, the prospect of jetting off to some unknown clime is far freakier — and you feel like you need way more.
The best way not to leave anything you do need — within reason, obviously, you can’t have all the moddest of cons — is to start writing lists months in advance, so you allow yourself a period of time for things to pop into your head which you wouldn’t need for a usual holiday. Do you dye your eyebrows every month? Buy a couple of your favourite brand packs to take with you. Nail clippers? You’d usually do them before a holiday, but this is far longer… You get the gist.
TRAVEL YOGA MAT
If you have any regular sports practice, take what you need to continue it (though remember running isn’t always possible, depending on the place and heat). Something like a Manduka eKO SuperLite which you can fold up is ideal.
The best way to cut down on weight, liquids and packaging. And imagine how satisfying it is to have everything, from face wash and shower gel to shampoo and body moisturiser, in solid form.
LOADS OF BAGS AND POUCHES
They’re the only way carrying all of your stuff in one bag won’t drive you insane in the first week.
CLOTHES THAT ARE ON THEIR LAST LEGS THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO CHUCK
It’s the clothing equivalent of going out with a bang; serving you well on your trip, getting to socially unacceptable levels of holes, then recycled.
A SEWING KIT
Sounds a little rustic but odds are something will rip or break and need fixing, even if it’s a button on your backpack.
They double up as laundry and underwear holders when you’re not actually white water rafting (which is most, if not all, of the time).
A PLATE AND CUTLERY
Just a plastic one, like Sea To Summit’s X-Plate, which triples up as a plate, bowl and chopping board. And, like, normal knife, fork and spoon as there’s rarely need for a Bear Grylls-style machete. Ever. And airport security is nightmare enough.
Citronella incense, candles, cookers where the gas isn’t working — it will justify its weight at some point.
The level of necessity is slightly dependant on your type of trip but, if there’s any chance of needing one, it’s worth taking as there are few things worse than trying to sleep in a room of hungry bugs, plus they pack up small and light. Same goes for sleeping back inner.
Again, make the call: if you’re not going near water then likely unnecessary but, for their size and weight, they’re handy not just for surfing but for giving your new-to-the-sun skin a breather from the rays in the first few weeks.
Common to go without nowadays, but it’s handy to be able to tell the time without brandishing your fancy phone around.
REUSABLE SHOPPING BAG
You don’t use plastic ones at home, so why create more waste than necessary while you’re away? And they can be used for beach or laundry bags too.
If you’re going somewhere the water isn’t safe to drink, you’ll likely have to buy bottled water (which can seem pretty galling if you’re conscious of your waste). Cut down by buying huge bottles and refilling your reusable one for days out.
AS MANY SUNCREAM AND BUG SPRAY AS POSSIBLE
It can be tricky to find high quality brands when away so loading up on these practical products, especially if you favour natural or organic formulas, is wise. (Think about amounts in advance — even in the sunniest of cities, you’ll use far less SPF than on a beach. And, side note: Incognito is a reliable option for non-toxic anti-mosquito sprays, soaps and incense sticks.)
Though it’s tempting to think you’ll use the hydrating face spritz that’s sat on your desk for the last year, the truth is you won’t. Or the lotion that goes with it that requires cotton wool pads, which will run out in the first two weeks.
ANYTHING YOY DON’T WEAR AT HOME
You’ll still hate it, wherever you are, so you still won’t want to wear it.
TWO OF THE SAME STYLE SHOES
If you have one leather pair of sandals and one that looks the same, but is waterproof, then just bring the waterproof ones. Why would you ever actively need your shoes not to be waterproof? (Thinking Salt-Water rather than Teva as the latter are comfy, practical and fabulous, but do definitely look waterproof, so justify their place alongside something like a Birkenstock.)
Though it’s an appealing idea, being in the middle of nowhere with just a browning paperback for company, in reality Kindles (or something similar) come into their own while travelling, even if you’re a print person back home. Book swaps are possible, depending on where you’re going, but it’s an unnecessary hassle.