In my article Top 10 advice for new travelers, I ranked first advice to travel as light as possible. And I mean it. I can do without many things, even if they seem vitally important, and I can gratefully use something simple without complaining about lack of comfort or pretentious brand name. Sometimes I even wonder if I am a woman enough 🙂 But that’s a different subject-matter. Anyway, even being a proud minimalist I would not miss a few things while packing for a long-distance ride. Some of the things like helmet and other motorcycle gear, or necessary tools for your bike, go without saying so I will not even mention them. Some of the things you may be surprised to see in this list, but still I find them very useful and even vitally important to have during my travels.
1. Camelback – With several liters of water inside of course. I always had my camelback with me but I really started to appreciate it and use it regularly after I passed out in Mexico at the end of a long, tiring and quite hot day ride. I didn’t really feel thirsty, was fully concentrated on a twisty road and thought of having a stop at the nearest gas station to top up my fuel tank and buy a bottle of water. I encountered the nearest one a few hours later though and after getting fuel for my bike I was heading to a store nearby. On the way there I had a weird feeling that something was going wrong with me, I could hardly get to and open the door, and the next moment I entered the store, I was already lying on the floor surrounded by plastic bottles which I scattered while falling down. After this embarrassing episode my camelback is always on my back where it is supposed to be and not fixed somewhere on the bike behind. I sip water regularly even if I am not thirsty, it’s not very hot outside and I don’t feel like drinking at all. I learned an important lesson that water is a vital thing to be energized along your ride, to feel good and be good.
2. Sleeping bag – I don’t always have a tent with me in my travels because honestly I’m not a big fan of camping. Besides in certain countries it’s not very wise for a woman to camp alone; with this reason and the obsession of traveling light in mind sometimes I choose to leave my tent behind. But I always have my sleeping bag with me. You never know where you will end up for the night, it can be a hostel with thin blankets and freezing nights outside. And I’m a kind of person who needs to stay warm and needs many layers to reach this goal. Sometimes people make fun of me for this reason. They say that I don’t seem to be a person coming from a country with rather fierce winters, and that I should be used to different weather conditions. But my answer to them is that exactly for this reason I know how to keep myself warm and stay away from freezing at nights.
3. GPS tracker – I got this device just before the start of my trip around the world, and I find it extremely useful. This is a satellite communicator determining and tracking your current location, transmitting this information to the corresponding website where any of your friends can see it and act correspondingly in case you need help. Quite helpful is the SOS button with the possibility to link it with a few trustful contacts who will be notified immediately when an emergency arises. When you’re traveling alone, it’s very important that at least a few close people know where you are and where to look for you just in case. I know that sometimes we feel like getting lost from all the world around and enjoy solitude and silence. But it’s better to be on the safe side, and to get lost for everybody except just one or two trustful people who will not intrude in your solitude but in case of necessity will raise alarm. I use InReach Delorme device and very happy with it. Sometimes I don’t have internet connection in some isolated places and cannot notify my friends that I am fine. In this case GPS tracker is also helpful, they can see where I am, they can see that I’m moving so everything is fine and they keep calm.
4. Photo camera – Actually for me this is my number one necessity because it is my main memory recorder. And whenever something is wrong with my camera and I cannot take pictures, I feel like I’m with my hands tied behind my back. Besides being fascinated with capturing life moments and scenes around me, when I look through the photos it helps my memory be alive and sharp. Sometimes I don’t have time for writing down regularly all small things happening around me. But having my camera helps trigger my memory later when I need it. When I’m finished with my trip around the world, I am planning to write a book, or two : ) And I know that I will need all the small details captured in the photos I took along my way.
5. External battery pack – It’s extremely important to keep your gadgets, especially communication ones, always charged. They tend to “die” exactly the moment you need them mostly. It happened with me when I was crossing quite isolated and dangerous stretch of Russia of which people told me to pass it as fast as possible without stopping anywhere and talking to anybody and to keep friends informed about my whereabouts. And of course to try not to ride at night which is exactly what happened to me. So I was riding at night through the forest in the middle of nowhere, the headlight of my motorcycle was the only source of light around. And that was the only time when my phone was completely and irrevocably dead. My GPS tracker was off too. The thoughts I was riding with were that if something happened to me, nobody would ever know where my breathless body was. I was lucky that night to reach my destination safe and sound, and since that time my phone and all other important gadgets have been always full of charge.
6. Cover for the bike – Out of sight, out of mind – a friend of mine told me when suggesting to get a cover for my bike. Adventure bikes, especially long-distance adventure ones with all bright stickers, lots of luggage, etc. attract a lot of attention, and sometimes this attention is not harmless. Covered bike still will not guarantee that nothing will happen to your bike, and of course it’s better to use all the means of protection possible, but I’m sure that keeping the bike out of sight of general public will lessen chances of bad luck. Moreover, there are less chances that people will want to get on covered bike for a picture. When I was dismantling my tent in the Salar of Uyuni in Bolivia, my bike was parked just a few meters away from me on the central stand. A group of tourist girls passing by decided to take photos and one of them without any hesitation hopped on the bike posing for a picture. I came up to her and said that I don’t mind her taking photos with my bike and even on the bike but it’s better to ask for permission first. She seemed very embarrassed, apologized hundred times and said that she thought the bike was not real. I couldn’t stop laughing the rest of that day. To make your bike seem even less real for curious folks around it’s a good idea to hide all its beauty and magnificence under a simple and unpretentious cover.
7. Hand sanitizer – This is not the only thing I have in my first aid kit of course, but this is the thing I never forget to take with me in my bag every time I go out – either ride on the bike or just walk along on the streets of a place I’m staying at. Your main objective when you’re traveling is to keep yourself as fit and sound as possible, and the disease of dirty hands can cause a lot of troubles able to spoil your whole trip. It’s especially relevant to some of the countries with low level of hygiene in general, but even in more prosperous countries you can find yourself in some specific places where simple precautions would not hurt.
8. Plastic bags – Yes, simple plastic bags of different sizes, or even garbage bags. They can be extremely handy in the rain if for any reason your waterproof gear starts to fail and leak. Putting plastic bags on your feet or other parts of body, or wrapping important documents or papers with plastic, may turn out a very simple but very efficient solution. It made me warm and dry not once during my travels.
9. Dress – I consider myself a traveler and a motorcyclist but first of all I consider myself a woman, and I want to preserve this identity no matter what. Well, I agree that t-shirts and jeans are much more comfortable to wear when you travel, and I have to confess that most of the time I use this type of clothes. But I always have one dress and appropriate shoes with me for special occasions or just when I want to feel more feminine. I think that being a woman on the bike which is still considered as a more masculine hobby or lifestyle, especially in some parts of the world, it’s quite easy to start looking and behaving more masculine as well. But I think that no matter how often, if ever, we being women on bikes put on dresses or skirts we should never forget of who we are and keep our feminine nature alive in any situation and life circumstances.
10. Smile – Many people ask me about what kind of personal protection means like guns, knives, etc. I have, etc. I have none. I personally believe that unless you’re professional user of any of these means, trying to awkwardly use them to protect yourself from a danger may trigger even more danger and aggression from another party. It’s always better to prevent the situation when you will need to protect yourself – not to find yourself in dangerous places or escape from there as soon as you detect that the place is not safe for you. I believe that the best weapon and means of safety and protection is your smile, your positive attitude and positive expectations. Aggression evokes aggression, affability evokes affability, as simple as that. For me this is the axiom which proves itself again and again during my travels no matter which part of the world I am in.