Advice From a Round-the-World Traveler

Last September I visited a friend who was about to embark on a year-long trip around the world with his new bride. I took a break from the travel gear reviews on the gear blog I run and profiled what he and his wife were packing here: round-the-world gadget packing.

Hard to believe it’s been a year already, but it has and the evidence is laid out in highly readable form on their One Year on Earth blog. (There’s a link from the 9/15 post with a radio interview.)

We met for a few happy hour beers a couple weeks back and I got the scoop on what Derek learned along the way. This couple (both lawyers taking a long break) had plenty of cash stashed away and got lots of cool gear for wedding presents, but here’s some good advice if you’re planning your own vagabonding journey.

1) Ex-Officio rules.
“I should be getting a commission from ExOfficio” Derek said before he left, since half his backpack was filled with their clothing. But it all held up incredibly well. “After a year on the road,” he says now, “most of that clothing still looks as good as it did when I packed.” He’s the guy that turned me on to their quick-dry underwear and I have to agree that it’s a beautiful thing. Both used an Eagle Creek Ultimate Explorer LT backpack and were very happy with their choice.

2) Loved the Leatherman, but that means always checking a bag.
In the pre-terrorism days you could carry on your bag and circle the globe carrying a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman knife. No more. You have to commit one way or another: have the knife or carry on. But if you take the knife and check your backpack, you’ll always have a corkscrew.

3) Carry a water bottle.
Europeans are even more obsessed with bottled water than Americans, so you’ll spend a small fortune in restaurants if you let the waiter’s scowl intimidate you into ordering it every time. Plus you’ll spend a lot buying water in a store when what comes out of the tap is perfectly drinkable. (In a developing country, use a purifier to avoid adding to the plastic piles littering every town and beach.)

4) Electronic items that only do one thing are a waste.
“I really didn’t need to bring a digicam,” Derek says. “By the time it gets compressed by YouTube or whatever, the footage doesn’t look any better than what you can shoot with a simple digital camera.” He also says he packed too way too much medication. Most of it could have been bought locally. Which brings us to…

5) You can buy what you need along the way.
We talked about this before they left and indeed this is what they found in practice. Take the items you really want and treasure, but if there’s something you need for a specific place—like a warm coat for Nepal—you can get it there, probably for quite a bit less than you would pay at home unless you’re in Europe.

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