It’s easy to be comfortable on a 5-day 4-night trip. The carry on only crew has it made. But what about us true vagabonds? Those of us that live out of a backpack for months or years at a time. Blowing from one destination to another? How do we stay dry, safe, and comfortable? Well, it’s all about planning as is everything in travel. A few small adjustments and a bit of preparation can save you from months of painful travel. Here are a few tips to get you started on your long term travel comfort preparation.
Know Your Travel Style
Self-awareness is a funny thing. It’s a trait many believe they have but don’t realise they don’t until embarking on a long-term trip. Granted, by then it’s too late. Knowing your travel style takes a bit of trial and error. And for many who aren’t particularly well traveled yet, it can be tough. But start with the basics. Are you ok with sleeping in a room with 7 strangers? If you didn’t like summer camp the answer might be no. Do you prefer street food or fine dining? Hot weather or cold? Answer these few simple questions will have you on your way to determining your travel style and planning accordingly.
TIP: Don’t compromise what you do and do not enjoy. Of course, be open to new things. If you’ve tried something and don’t like it, don’t do it. Don’t allow others to dictate your travels and travel style.
Know What to Wear and When
What to wear and when to pack it is a nightmare for long term travelers at times. Especially those of us that jump from continent to continent regularly. July in Spain is not the same as July in Argentina. Not to mention you never know what you’ll want to do in long term travel. One month you might be diving the Thai islands and the next you’re trekking Norway to see the Northern Lights. The key is a bit of planning ahead. The best approach is to break your travel into continents. While conditions can change from country to country, it’s far easier to plan between Poland and Spain than it is Romania and Botswana. When it comes to over garments like pants and shirts your approach should be rather simple. For hot and humid weather, stick to Cotton or Chambray (which looks like Jean) for durability and comfort. Linen is PERFECT for heat. Which is why it’s so popular with islanders. Cold weather, wool is your best friend. Cotton is always a good choice. For my base layer, I go with a fleece. Usually made from some blend of Polypropylene.
TIP: Undergarments are always the key. Drawers/Panties, Socks, and Bras for the ladies. It’s all about the material. What works at home doesn’t necessarily work on the road. When you might not be able to change/wash your undergarments for a couple of days. So you want underwear that dries quickly, controls odor, and lets your goodies breath. And of course are comfortable to wear for a long time. While I’ve been hearing about all this “smart tech” blah blah blah stuff for years, I’m still in the polyester blend camp. The Go Anywhere Line over at Tommy John (shout out to my man Kevin Hart) would be my recommendation for comfortable boxer briefs. Unfortunately, they only make men’s underwear for now but hopefully that changes in the future.
Socks are a seriously underrated travel comfort concern. One of the first things I learned in the military, always take care of your feet. Always wear clean socks when possible and keep your feet dry. Hands down, Merino wool makes the best socks. I won’t go too deep into this but i’ll speak on two situations. Regular everyday touring and hiking. For regular touring around cities, it’s fine to wear what you feel comfortable with. While I still recommend Merino Wool, some good Coolmax socks will do you fine. For hiking, definitely get some good Merino wool socks. Also, a base layer sock if you are hiking in the cold. One note, if your feet tend to sweat, DO NOT WEAR COTTON. You’ll have the worse blisters of your life.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Some of us are blessed to have grown up in “tough” environments. Places where having your head on a swivel is second nature. But many aren’t fortunate enough to have grown up in the hood. Yeah, I said fortunate enough. Being aware of your surroundings is a key component to feeling comfortable. Because beyond the cliché “knowledge is power”, knowing what’s happening around you gives a certain control. Always be aware of the safety situation in the area you’re traveling in. While I tend to disregard embassy travel warnings, I find the advice of hostel/hotel staff to be fairly on point in this regard. The more you know the better prepared you can be.
TIP: Start paying attention to what others are wearing, how they are acting, and whose watching you before you begin traveling. This will get you used to it before you hit the road. Always know where the nearest exit is. And what the local numbers for emergency services are. It’s not 9/11 everywhere. For example, the emergency services number in the U.K. is 999. Thailand is extremely confusing. Tourist Police 1155, Police (General Emergency Call) 191, Ambulance and Rescue 1554, Fire 199.
The Travel Trifecta of Travel (Towel, Baby Wipes, and Powder)
Douglas Adams immortalize the towel as the single most important travel accessory in the galaxy. After 5 years of traveling around the world, I can agree. Towels are amazing for travel comfort. They can be a source of heat and shade. A pillow. A wrap. A seat cover/pillow cover/bag cover. A hole plugger. And yes, an item to dry yourself after a shower/downpour. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the towel is your number 1 travel accessory.
Baby Wipes and Powder are the two greatest comfort accessories OF ALL TIME!!! I’m not going to go into too many details but trust me, you’ll thank me later. Always have these two in the bag you’re carrying. I can’t tell you how many times these things have saved me from potential bathroom catastrophes.