So girls, you’ve finally decided to get in touch with your inner explorer and travel long-term on your own. You kind of know where you’re going, you’ve paid for your tickets, and you’ve said goodbye to the rat-race. Most of all, you feel childishly excited, brave, and free.
If, like me, you have taken a year off to wander around the world, you have probably thought to yourself, what do I really need to pack for one year? After having been on the road for some time now, I have learnt that one needs to keep baggage weight to an absolute minimum. In my case I have capped mine at 15kg.
Why 15kg? First of all, it’s the magic weight for most low-cost airlines, which you will definitely be taking if you’re traveling in Europe. Anything over and you will have to pay a ridiculous surcharge. Also, your back will thank you (unless you have a nifty convertible roller bag like I do). With all this in mind, I have discovered that everything I need, REALLY need, actually does fit into my small backpack, with room to spare. So I have put together the following list to assist you, the solo female traveler.
Keep in mind you need clothes for all seasons. You don’t need any super-thick clothing, only different types of tops for layering, even in a freezing European winter. So, bring your most comfortable tops, and make sure the fabric is thin so they will dry easily and won’t add bulk and weight. Personally the only clothes I brought along are:
- 4 long-sleeved tops
- 2 short-sleeved t-shirts
- 3 tank tops/singlets to wear underneath
- 1 cotton cardigan
- 1 hooded sweatshirt
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 2 pairs of shorts (one light cotton one, one denim)
- 1 pair of sweatpants
- 5 pairs of socks
- A week’s worth of undies
- 3 good bras
- A small warm jacket (a washable one because it gets really grimy!)
- A light scarf
- Thermal top and bottom
The best thing about these items of clothing is that you can wear them in all seasons, hot or cold. Due to them being made out of thin material, they all fold up very flat and don’t take up a lot of space at all.
Trust me, you really don’t need that pair of heels. You will end up going to pubs, bars, and clubs that don’t really give a damn about what is on your feet. All you really want in your pack is a pair of sneakers, some flat sandals, and a good pair of boots (which you will probably be wearing so less in your luggage again).
This is going to be a tough one for most girls. Sorry to break it to you, but you will eventually discover that we really can survive on very low maintenance, while still keeping up good hygiene of course! So, this is what I’ve been lugging around with me:
- A bar of soap
- A good razor (refillable ones, not disposable ones)
- Face moisturizer
- Lip balm
- Acne cream (because skin does suffer while traveling)
- Cotton pads
- A small pair of scissors
- Some band-aids
- Condoms (face it, you will need them at some point during your trip)
Everything is quite light and tiny and should fit in an average toiletry bag. Of course you will notice there is not one ounce of make-up in there. Seriously, you’re traveling, not applying to be in a beauty pageant.
This really depends on you, and what you like to do while visiting a place. For example I liked to spend time drawing, so I carried tools for that. I also allowed myself one luxury item, so my miscellaneous items included:
- A hairdryer (my luxury item)
- 2 pencils
- A small sketchbook
- A good point-and-shoot digital camera
- Mobile phone with wi-fi ( I found this extremely useful)
- A really small bag for going out at night (for purse and mobile phone)
- A small daypack
- A Swiss Army knife
- A mini torch
- A full ipod
- Various cables for phone, camera, and ipod, with adaptor
- A quick-drying towel
- The smallest fold-up umbrella I could find
And believe it or not, all of the above packed perfectly into my excellent Osprey backpack. I forgot to mention souvenirs, but I figure if one is traveling for a year, souvenirs aren’t really on the list of must-haves. If you must buy something, the rule is it must be tiny and light enough to mail home so you don’t have to carry it. So, the last time I checked, after months of traveling, all my stuff still fit into the 15kg category.
Have fun preparing, and last but not least, keep a sharp wit, a cool head, and a thirst for adventure!