The Directory of Unusual Places to Stay

backpackI am off on the road again. It's time to pack! For this 3 month trip we will be experiencing all weathers so its hard to pack light. But I will do my best. There's nothing worse, or that draws more attention to you, than dragging round too much luggage. From rainy season Japan, to humidity in the Amazon rainforest, and Javan beach to hitting the slopes in New Zealand....Our adventures touch on every extreme. Here's what I'm packing -

Trainers/walking shoes - I am taking one pair that I can hike or run in and don't look too bad with a pair of jeans. Sandals and flipflops too. 

Not only a raincoat - we need thermals and ski gear as well. It could be seriously below zero in parts of Bolivia - I want to be prepared for that, and NZ will be in winter. As there are 4 of us it is easier to leave one bag with all this gear in at the first overnight in a country where we don't need it, and collect it as we leave. I want to keep what I carry to the minimum.

Sarong, bikini and very little else for the beach bits! Kids need goggles and all of us will be prepared with insect repellent, hats and sunscreen.

Then there's that in-betweeny weather too - a pair or jeans, sweatpants, t-shirts, plus comfy layers to hike and fly in. Fleeces dry better than jumpers - but having said that I hiked in the Himalayas years ago with desert boots, and literally just shorts and a t-shirt, a jumper, jeans and sleeping bag and survived just fine. I would swim in a river with my gear in the day to wash it. If you want to go truly minimalist, you can make it work.

Buying some lightweight trousers to wear in temples and the Amazon (to keep the insects from crawling up your legs) should be cheap and easy in Indonesia. If you leave with an over-stuffed rucksack - you'll regret it. You'll want to buy (and dump) this and that along the way.

Instead of books, its worth picking up a Kindle so you can read frantically without ever running out of material. You can put guidebooks on there too - Lonely Planet even let you buy a chapter rather than the whole book. Books used to take half my rucksack space ... not anymore.

A quality torch, minimalist first-aid kit, plug adapter plus gadgets and their chargers. I don't like the idea of having too much technical kit to carry around, but that is the way of the world now - and I'll have to work a bit!

A traveller's towel is compact and quick-drying.

I'm not prepared for a smarter occasion but may throw in one item that could help me scrub up a bit! You never know. 

A flat money belt so you can keep your passport, cash and cards out of easy reach under your clothes at crucial times. Most banks allow you to say what countries you will be in and when on their internet sites; otherwise you may find your card is blocked unexpectedly. 

suitcaseTake travel insurance - it could bankrupt your family if you get helicoptered off some remote mountain. And there's all those gadgets you are carrying that could get nicked. It's a good idea to upload onto Google Documents a copy of your passports, and anything else relevant, just in case too. It is free. Why not add some contact details of friends and family? - you can go to it online anytime.

The wash kit always takes up more space than you expect. Half of what you first pack, you probably don't really need. You can buy stuff along the way don't forget - and often at much less than in your own country. I suggest you get a low maintenance haircut so you can shower and go.

A diary is a good idea. I've just started re-reading mine from 20 years ago. Watch this space, I may start sharing them! It's either that or burning them before the kids find them.

Of course everything will never fit - and you will have to do a last, more scrupulous, ferret through before the off. Take out those items that have a 'maybe' hanging over them. Once you are out there, the world distracts you wonderfully from the 'what-to-wear' dilemma. But don't overlook the idea of still looking cool!