Over the years I’ve travelled a fair bit. My experiences differ; from driving through the U.S. mid-west with my parents, to sleeping on a bus while backpacking across Europe. What has remained the same is the fact that those experiences seem to have music inseparably connected to them. Is this just me or do others have the same thing happen?
I’ve got three examples for you.
Fall Out Boy – Folie A Deux
This album was released just before my 10th grade art and history tour to Europe. I listened to this album on repeat, again and again as we drove through the mountains in Greece. In fact, I was listening to this as we approached Delphi. I see green and slate, ruins and buses, friends and teachers; it never fails to make me smile.
Kesha – Warrior
While on exchange in New Jersey I listened to a lot of music that I honestly hadn’t been that interested in before; this album was part of that. Getting the bus into New York was a 30 to 40 minute drive through increasingly metal filled environments but, there was one magical moment before you hit the city tunnels. The Lincoln Tunnel Helix gives you a moment of the best view of New York I have ever seen. It is the perfect skyline, during the day and at night. This album just makes me think of that perfect view and that amazing city. I think I left my heart in New York.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist
Oddly enough this album reminds me of Belgium and France. I messed up on my way to Belgium, I missed my flight in Milan. After minutes of pure panic, I went to the bus stop. 70 euros later I had booked a 24 hour bus from Italy to Belgium. This was going to be one of the most memorable trips of my life. We would drive through the alps, through rural France, only to awaken for a 15 minute break in Paris. Then there was another 6 hour trip. We left Paris as the sun was rising. The sky was stained red, with shoots of orange reaching out into the night sky. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen and this was my soundtrack.
What about you, do you have a song or an album you will always associate with a place? Let me know in the comments!
Buy a bag you are happy with. Something you can carry up the stairs of a three story hostel in London or walk across cobblestone in Italy. I met many girls on my trip with massive bags who complained about how difficult it was to carry them in subways and up stairs; and these were backpacks! Look at the reviews, try find recommendations from people who have done the trip you’re doing. I bought a backpack after I noticed one of the reviews talking about how well it lasted on their 3 month trip to Europe; perfect!
9. A reusable shopping bag
The amount of times I ended up carrying breakable, hole filled plastic bags from random grocery stores is astounding. I would always go and buy some bread and basics before any trips on a train or bus and then carry them simply because it meant super easy access on a possibly crowded train/bus. Having a small carry bag/ reusable shopping bag is also great for going between climates and needing to take off jumpers or put them on. You can also use this on the way home as a second carry-on for the plane if you have bought a bit too much!
8. A quick dry towel – a big one!
It’s always exciting when your hostel rents out towels cheap but occasionally they just won’t have them, or they will be an exorbitant price. Solution: bring your own! But bringing a big fluffy towel is not good when you only have limited space. The quick dry towel works great and folds into a tiny packet – like this one! Buy one that is large, especially if you are female/ have long hair.
7. A Powerboard
Buy one before you leave home. There are many hostels across Europe that have one socket for a room of 8 to 20 people. If you have a small powerboard you will be the King/Queen of the room, and I am dead serious about that. It’s also very useful when stopping in cafes so you can quickly charge, your phone/ table/ electronic devices all at once. Just don’t forget the adapter! P.S. Europe, Switzerland and England each have different plugs
6. A comfortable neck pillow
I constantly asked myself whether I should get a neck pillow, but by the time I realised I should, I just didn’t have the money to get a good one. Having one is the difference between sleeping and not sleeping on that 20 hour bus to Amsterdam. If you’re smart you can grab one with a clip that is easily attached to your backpack until you need to use it.
5. Washing Powder
This is a bit of a hit or miss. Something that is essential in some places and unnecessary in others. In an Italian hostel I was told they would have no washing powder that day and to please come back tomorrow. In London it was included in the price of using the machine. It is a good idea to put a bit in a little Ziploc bag and then chuck it in with your toiletries. This can be great when you realise you have no undies and need to wash them ASAP. Sinks are your friends.
4. Flip flops/ thongs
I’m Australian so I’m going to call them thongs and everyone can just deal. These are ESSENTIAL. Each hostel shower has had thousands upon thousands of people in there, you have no clue what could be in those drains. You do not want to spent precious money on going to a doctor for a fungal infection (ick).
3. A good camera lens!
I’m a (amateur) photographer so having good camera equipment with me is a must. I bought along two lenses that were great at close range and with people but not fabulous for the intricate details of European architecture. It is a good idea to have a capable lens with a wide focal length range, for example 50-200mm. Going with cheaper, less well-known brands (Pentax, Tamron, etc.) is a great way to save money; just make sure to look at reviews on the internet!
2. Emergency Money
Keep some money separate, either in a compartment in your valuables and/or online in an account you can easily access. There may be a time that you desperately need cash because something has gone horribly wrong. An overbooked hostel, a lost visa, a missed plane; all can be solved if you just keep enough emergency cash to deal with them.
1. A Lock!!!
I’ve heard a lot of stories about people who have had stuff stolen in hostel dorms. Well, in three months backpacking Europe I didn’t have a single thing stolen. I bought a trusty lock when I started in Chicago and it lasted me until I unlocked my locker on my final day in London. It is not about locking your whole bag away in the lockers; what is important is putting every item of value that you own into that locker in your room. If the hostel doesn’t supply one ask if they have secure places at reception to leave a laptop or passport when you go out.