Monday, September 7, 2009

Tips for the Independent Traveller, Part I of (?)

Ever since the KTGC tour days, there was this idea in my head to provide tips for people who intend to embark on crazy multi-city journeys. Not that I think that I’m the most sophisticated traveller in the world, of course; but you know, sometimes, when you share ideas with other people, their comments may teach you something you didn’t already know.

So the first tip I can give you is about packing, and it goes like this: PACK LIGHT. Very simple, huh? well, as it turns out, easier said than done.

The basic fact you have to fully understand here is that each and every extra gram you pack, is another gram you have to carry with you. So most people say “hey, what’s another 100 gram here or there”. Well, quoting from Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”, the vast majority of people have trouble understanding the concept of compounding. If I give you a piece of paper and ask you what would be the height of the folded paper if you folded it 50 times, not a lot of people will be smart enough to reply back that it’s physically impossible because such a stack will be so high that it will surpass the distance between Earth and the Sun.

So yes, weight counts, and counts a lot. There’s an extremely good reason why, for example, weight difference of 100g in laptop prices can lead to differences of hundreds of dollars.

“Packing light” means two things at the same time:

  1. Only pack what you absolutely need, and
  2. Of what you need, if you can, select the lightest and smallest item possible (for example: if you really need a camera, get the lightest and smallest you can possibly get)

Special tip about clothes: don’t take too many. It really isn’t necessary. For the Get Lucky tour, for instance, I intend on taking two pairs of jeans and two shirts. That’s it. You really, absolutely don’t need more than that.

Shoes: pick the lightest you can, and accept the fact that it’s going to cost you. That said, it’s definitely worth it.

Depending on your strength and physical condition, always prefer a container that you can carry on your shoulders and hips (i.e. a backpack) over a suitcase. A proper backpack should have comfortable straps that allows you to fasten the backpack around your hips, making it very easy on your shoulders and you will be surprised how easy it is to get around.

The reason I would always prefer a backpack is that you can walk around and still have your hands available to do whatever you need to do. Also, it is immensely easier to maintain in trains, buses etc and, if you followed my previous instructions about packing light then you might have been lucky enough to suffice with a backpack small enough to fit as a carry-on luggage – eliminating the need to go through baggage claim if your itinerary involves flights.

Once you pack according to my instructions above, if you follow my directions strictly, you will end up with a backpack that is half empty. You will be very tempted to say “wow, I can really put more stuff in here, so why not? Look how much space I have”.

BULLOCKS. Trust me on this one – DON’T DO IT. Instead, go buy yourself a smaller backpack.

An advice about backpacks: good backpacks cost good money, but this is one of those things that you don’t, and I repeat, don’t want to skimp with. Your backpack is your best friend. Not sure what’s the inventory in Europe, but in Canada, I wouldn’t buy my backpack anywhere else other than a renowned outdoors gear store. My favourite one is MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op) – they sell outstanding gear; it’s pricier than the average, but you get a lifetime warranty for pretty much anything that can go wrong with your backpack, and those are very, very well made.

That’s it about packing, for now. The next subject will be food & diet.


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