The journey so far…

At my mum’s request I have cobbled together a couple of crude maps. The first shows the mammoth journey we endured last week from Yangon, Myanmar to Koh Tao, Thailand:

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And this one depicts the three months of our journey so far (blue is for air, green for water, pink for land):

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I’m very curious to know how many miles we’ve travelled!

Not one to keep things short and sweet, I thought I’d use the remainder of this post to share something I started writing a couple of months ago whilst I was reading Gulliver’s Travels. I thought it was interesting to see what the people of Lilliput discovered in the ‘great man-mountain’s’ pockets: pistols and bullets, gold and other coins, a handkerchief, a silver snuff box, a journal, a comb, a knife, a razor, a pair of spectacles and a pocket watch.

Obviously times have changed but it got me thinking about what I’ve come to consider as my top backpacker ‘must-haves’. Here they are:

1. A good camera. Not just an essential for photography enthusiasts like us, it doesn’t have to be an SLR but you want to do justice to those once-in-a-lifetime moments in a way that you (or long-suffering friends and family 😉 ) are ever going to want to view again. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel bad for people who have mainly blurry, dark, non-descript or wonky photos to show for their adventures: a decent-ish camera does a lot of the work for you. I also have what was an amazing camera bag – it holds my camera, 3 lenses and everything else (clothing, toiletries, snacks, electronics) I keep in my hand luggage. It’s a Lowepro Flipside 400 AW rear-loaded bag which, with the help of two padlocks, feels quite secure. It also has padded waist straps and a waterproof cover. But enough of the sales pitch! I say it was an amazing bag because it turns out I inadvertently bought a knock-off version which gradually frayed then proceeded to break the other day whilst we were exploring Bagan on the electric bikes! Not good… I’m hoping Singapore or Tokyo can supply a replacement!

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2. Resealable plastic bags. It may sound bizarre but I swear by them! I have two large ones for clothes (one for tops, one for bottoms) and a pack of 40 little ones. Why? Apart from the obvious use for liquids on a plane, the list is endless: storing smaller items of clothing, preventing ants getting at open food, protecting valuables from water damage, keeping wet things wet or away from dry things, storing open liquids safely, bundling scrap book items (tickets, receipts, etc) together, disposing of muddy items until you can clean them, packing small items together in your hand luggage for long journeys…see what I mean?!

3. A sleeping bag liner. If it’s too hot for an actual sleeping bag, these are great for when a bed is too gross to lie on or as a little extra mosquito protection or when traveling on an overnight air-conditioned bus.

4. Electronic entertainment. It’s an obvious one but, particularly when travelling for a long period of time, you can’t be out and about doing things every waking minute and, inevitably, there are many long waits and longer journeys too. With me on this trip I have: a cheap, lightweight mp3 player with music and audio books; a Kindle paperwhite with travel guides, some new fiction but also lots of free classics (hence Gulliver); a Galaxy Note 8.0 with an external memory card in to blog from, browse the internet, Skype and manage photograph downselecting and uploading to online storage (Google Drive seems best); an adapter that plugs into the Galaxy to read an SD card full of TV seasons and a few films. Dean has an iPod and a Kindle Fire. And for when all the batteries are flat, two card games: Monopoly Deal and The Backpacker Game.

5. Earplugs. I can sleep in most places and through a lot of noise but, even so, these are some of the noises earplugs have rescued me from: braying donkeys, loud reggae music, crowing cockerels, village announcements, croaking frogs, food vendors on trains, crying children, squawking parrots, calls to prayer, clunking fans, traffic…another endless list!

I’m sure there are many more things we wouldn’t leave home without but that’ll do for now. As everything equates to extra weight on our backs, we take it as a challenge to make sure we use everything we bring or it has to be binned or sent home. In the last couple of weeks my peg-free washing line and our compact cutlery sets have been saved from this fate!

My last time- and frustration-saving tip is to give everything a sensible (think frequency of use, breakableness, logical neighbours, required orientation) home in your bag and make sure it stays there! It takes a little while to figure out the best arrangement but now I always pack things back into my bag the same way. It saves you searching around for things when you arrive late at night and stops you having to find a new Tetris solution when packing up for an early morning departure. Highly recommended!

Right, enough ramblings for today!

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