This started off as a packing list.
You know, the kind of post that every travel blogger writes up at some point or another.
Personally, I find that these posts end up being one of two things:
- an impossibly long list of essential (essential in the same way that Waitrose categorises ratatouille provencale as essential) items that you *need* to take away with you, except you kind of don’t, but even so the thought of having to carry it around on your back for the next few months convinces you that you’ll inevitably end up with some long-term back problem that will eventually result in your untimely death at the age of 36.
- a frighteningly short list to the point that you have a little panic and do a little run around like a headless chicken skit and wonder how on earth you’re going to survive six months in Southeast Asia with just one pair of shorts, three tops and a sleeveless vest with Michael Jackson’s face on it all stuffed in a free drawstring bag from Sports Direct because hello, you at least need somewhere to store an emergency cereal bar, you know, for emergencies.
Mine wouldn’t have fitted into either category.
I’m not knocking these kind of posts, not in the slightest. Who doesn’t love a good list?! I freaking LOVE reading other people’s packing lists – especially the random ones full of gizmos I didn’t even know existed.
But I promise you, my packing list isn’t worth it’s own post.
It’s so mediocre that it made me yawn trying to write it, and only got to item 4 before giving up completely and eating chocolate while watching YouTube videos instead.
However, having a good rummage through my bag – even delving to the long-forgotten bottom compartment – made me realise just how much absolutely useless crap I brought along with me. Stuff that really could have been left behind and replaced with much more necessary things, like huge bags of Haribo or more socks.
So without further ado, here I present to you – in no particular order – 6 of the most useless crap I packed for this trip.
In all fairness to myself, when I set out for this trip I wasn’t exactly aware that I’d be 100% single by the time Brazil rolled around.
So yeah, if the trip that *starts* as a trip with your boyfriend actually finishes in the same way, matching underwear may be high on your list of things to take. You know, for those dim the lights, put on a little Boyz II Men moments.
But if I’d known in advance that Copacabana Beach would be the setting for that moment of clarity and ‘The Talk’ where I suddenly realise that I no longer fit the mold, no longer fit the future I’d tentatively planned for myself, and would never ever EVER be a good doctor’s wife, I wouldn’t have bothered. I would have traded in my fancy snazzy balconette for a comfy £4 Primark t-shirt bra and those uncomfortably flimsy knickers for a couple pairs of good old granny pants with pictures of pandas on them.
Because when you’re single and *not* looking, comfort > looking nice. Not that panda pants don’t make you look nice, mind.
This happens every single time I go to a malaria-prevalent region. Super responsible and health-conscious UK me heads on over to the GP (or Superdrug online pharmacy this time around) and stocks up on a bunch of medication that you actually have to pay for and that “only provide 90-100% protection when used in conjunction with other measures to prevent mosquito bites” anyway.
To date I’ve tried all three of the main anti-malarials offered by UK pharmacies: Doxycycline, Malarone and Atovaquone with Proguanil. The only time I’ve ever completed a whole cycle of treatment was back in 2011 when I went to the Peruvian Amazon. After a lot of umming and aahing, the pharmacist eventually decided that best course of treatment would be Malarone. And let me tell you, that shit is expensive! Completely worth it for the crazy vivid dreams you get though!
But yeah, comparatively the prices of Malaria treatment for a 71-84 day trip (10-12 weeks) at Lloyds pharmacy are:
Atovaquone with Proguanil – £187.75
Malarone – £225
Doxycycline – £85
Not all three treatments are suitable for every area nor for every person, and they all have unique side effects, so you really should consult with a doctor or pharmacist before making any decisions. For this trip I was lucky to basically be able to take my pick of the bunch. So naturally, I went for cheap and cheerful Doxycycline. The main drawback for Doxy is that it makes your skin really sun-sensitive so you need to wear Factor Bazillion at all times.
I bought about 120 tablets. Almost five months in and I have 92 left.
Run at me mozzies.
PAPERCHASE LOYALTY CARD
Because they have Paperchase stores in all four far flung corners of the earth, right?
This, unlike all the others on the list, was an accident. What happened was, I was switching over purses just before heading to the airport and Paperchase somehow snuck its way aboard. It wasn’t until I tried to use it to pay for water at the airport that I realised, and it’s been my trusty sidekick ever since. And by sidekick, I mean it’s the thing I use when I want to scrape one of those annoying stubborn stickers off the bottom of a new pair of shoes or book, or as a ruler when I need to draw a particularly straight line.
ROUGH GUIDE TO KERALA
Ordinarily a guide book is top of my mental list of what to pack. In this case though, I was staying with – and being guided around by – a bunch of local friends who gave me a much more thorough, amusing and probably not entirely truthful narrative of what we were seeing and doing. If they had their way, I’d have left the country believing that Kerala is home to the biggest everything in India, or even Asia in some cases. Like, I’m not going to believe that it has the biggest mall in Asia, soz guys.
They also took me to a lot of places that aren’t featured in guidebooks, such as dams (I went to a lot of dams) and elephant home things. I don’t know the actual word for where I went, but they were like elephant sanctuaries/training centres. Either way, there were lots of elephants and I like elephants.
So yeah, guidebook not needed.
I needed a camera before leaving. A DSLR one, to be exact.
For weeks and weeks the little devil and angel on each shoulder were having a good old debate about whether it was actually worth it. Of course, Little Devil would say. How else are you going to get super-awesome, photobook-blog-and-instagram-worthy photos?! Then Little Angel would chime in with her piece: But you already have an iPhone! Taking a camera would just be more weight and more to worry about.
Eventually I caved to Little Devil’s persuasion and splashed out. When I say splashed out, I mean I spent £200 max which isn’t too bad, and the camera is great! So really you’d think it’s a win. Except for the fact that I haven’t used it more than twice since leaving Brazil back in May. Oops.
Taking photos with a phone is just soooo much easier! You can shoot, edit and upload from a phone which makes it all too convenient to even think about whacking out my camera for a shot. Walking around with a big ole DLSR around your neck also screams I’M A TOURIST PLEASE ROB ME if done in the wrong places. So yeah, unless it’s a freaking awesome, once-in-a-lifetime scene/shot that is truly deserving of the effort trying to wrestle the camera out of my too-small bag, I just stick to iPhone.
I honestly do not know what the hell was going through my head when I decided it’d be a good idea to pack these. In the whole 23 years of my life I’ve properly ran less times than I have fingers: Bupa 10k in 2013, Bristol Half Marathon in 2014, a handful of times in preparation for each event and my disastrous, will live on forever in history Year 7 attempt at the Hurdles race. But let’s not talk about that last one – I, and all spectators, are scarred for life.
So yeah, good job pre-trip me for thinking that an 8-month jaunt around the world would be the opportune time to get my Mo Farah on.
The first and last time these bad boys came in use was on a day trip to Semuc Champey in Guatemala. See, all this walking up and down steps and hills and mountains and sand-dunes and volcanoes in 100° weather I’ve been doing, often with a bag on my back, has given me – for the first time in my life – an actual, noticeable bum. Huzzah! So naturally my bikini bottoms now fit rather snuggly, and not wanting to bless the local indigenous people of Guatemala with a full-frontal view of my hoo-hah, I thought it’d be best all round to cover up. Running leggings to the rescue!