5 Travel Essentials & Why a No-Spend month before Vacation is a Good Idea
The countdown to a tropical beach in Central America is down to 3 days, and as any of you in seasonal climates can imagine I am looking forward to sun, sand, palm fronds waving in a gentle breeze, long walks, cobblestone streets, markets, summer clothes and a 5-o'clock-where-I-am-week. The tickets are bought, the passport is updated and the itinerary mostly set. Even "The Wait Zone" <said in ominous tones> is over (the Wait Zone is approximately the six weeks before a trip where I plan minute details and buy all the things).
Stop! It's a trap.
There is a personality group in the MBTI categorization that loves to plan, and not just loves to plan but, on the darker side, fights anxiety if they don't plan. Spring a surprise on this personality type and they're liable to cover their face, cry, or flee. Sometimes all three. I'm in this group.
- I bawled in the Mexico City airport when I missed my flight to Guatemala City. Pretty much the world crashed down around my ears in a puddled mess of debris complicated with fatigue, hunger, no Spanish capabilities, and missing luggage. Had I known the ways of airports this mess would've been avoided.
- Later on in Paris I panicked when a key piece of my pre-planned info was missing and I couldn't get my bearings to get to 17 Rue Cauchois.
This type of thing has been evolving me into a seasoned traveler that can decide what types of things should really be pre-planned and the things that simply must be let go in interest of keeping my sanity and wallet alive. For instance, I know to book a place to stay for my first night in any foreign city or town. This isn't necessary for everyone but it is for me because when I disembark tired and hungry I won't think straight to find the public transport and find a decent place to stay. Therefore I almost always find a good place to stay and how to get there and establish it firmly in my head. It will save me a storm of tears somewhere, and I like to save mine for things that really matter, like reading about the moment the flight Adolph Eichmann was on left for Israel (The House on Garibaldi Street).
Part of saving my mental energy before a trip came serendipitously to me last month. Don't tell me New Years resolutions aren't good.
The No-Spend Months
For 2017 one of my goals was that beginning in January every other month would be a no-spend month; this first month just so happened to fit into the "Wait Zone." It's been invaluable. For all the usual panic on what could be "just the thing I have to buy" instead there is, "I think I've already got something that works."
The January no-spend month has kept me from pre-trip buying mania and saved much mental "white noise" allowing me to focus on essential trip plans and anticipation.
A friend asked recently what I consider my traveling essentials to be, excluding obvious things like passports and plane tickets. This is a recommended activity for anyone because it will gain you some perspective on how much you wouldn't have to take.
The Travel Essentials List
1. Comfortable shoes
You walk much more while traveling, at least while traveling adventurously poor, and if your feet are killing you it won't be a good time. Shoes should be well broken in before you leave with a back up pair in case your main shoes give you blisters. Also, take band aids. A vivid memory I have is wearing a pair of shoes in London that weren't broken in to my feet and by the end of the day I was shuffling with the urge to weep with every step when the tight parts rubbed my feet for the 2,000th time. It's miserable.
I was going to give these sandals a go for Guatemala, but sadly they broke on my first time wearing it (they were NIB but Free People wouldn't replace them) so I found these instead and promptly fell in love with how comfortable they are. No breaking in required. For walking shoes these Converse were the 'A' option.
Tip: always go for half a size too big because feet swell when walking miles each day.
This is probably the most non-negotiable one on my list next to good shoes because to capture the essence of the places I visit in visuals is of paramount importance to me. I recently bought the lovely Fuji x100T and it is so much fun to play around with. The image quality jumped many times from the phone images I was taking and I get to shoot manually. Man, I do love to to have control over my settings.
Personal preference here, but while traveling you can't always keep up with personal details such as squeaky clean hair, and a hat is so convenient to throw on for a bad-hair-but-good-style day. Plus, they create great stories like the London Hat Incident.
My selection for this trip is a straw fedora for those easy, breezy days in a warm locale.
4. Kindle E-Reader
By far one of the best purchases I've made for traveling. It will entertain you for hours on train trips, in airports, and on planes and you can consolidate everything you're reading into one small device. I downloaded several books for my Europe trip and had a blast reading while blitzing through France and Italy by train (we didn't take the scenic route).
Find the Paperwhite model here. It won't have internet browsing capability but since most of my traveling is outside of wifi anyway I didn't want to spend for it. Plus, the internet just distracts from reading anyway.
Books I read in Europe:
- The Princess Passes (a story about a walking tour through the Alps)
- Chronicles of Avonlea
- The Blue Castle (by L.M. Montgomery, I love this spirited and beautiful tale of a cowed old maid who rises up and takes charge of her life)
5. The "Stop and think" mentality
Unless you're in immediate danger of some kind this isn't the end of the world, or your world. Most of us will miss flights. Things will be forgotten. Directions will get muddled. Keep your head. Find wifi if necessary. Keep a granola bar in your pack if blood sugar levels are an issue. Learn to compensate for the things that really matter and then calm down. Whatever you're experiencing will make a great story someday.
That's it, folks! And now on to the brand new story account on Instagram. It's called...
Wait for it...
It started out as "thesandalthatcouldnt" because it was clever and humorous, but I quickly realized it kind of limits this account from going anywhere. I wanted something that indicated growth, awareness, and then change on an existential level so went with another friends suggestion "free the sandal."
My aim isn't to get money back from Free People, though I would love that, but to make them aware of their current shoddy policies and resulting customer service, and have some fun taking this sandal all over the world.
I'm off to the beach: shrimp ceviche, palm trees, mercados, and sunshine!