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36 Tips From a Gal Backpacker

I always bring...

Lots of extra stuff...
I also carry zip lock bags, large trash bags, a small alarm clock, little bottle of Woolite and drain plug for handwashing, small photo album of my family, friends and dog to share with those I meet along the way. My packing list also includes antibiotic cream and alcohol wipes, small sewing kit, bandana, sunscreen, tweezers, glue stick to stick little bits of memorabilia into my journal and my Swiss Army knife (this last only in my checked luggage or it will be confiscated by airport officials).
Travel documents...
Make copies of all your travel documents and leave then with someone reliable at home. Carry the original plus one set of copies with you. Record numbers of all your credit cards and travellers cheques.
Socks...
The brand, "Smartwool" makes great, comfy, breathable socks. They're a bit expensive, but they dry quickly, will save you blisters and they last for years. Buy black silk liner socks for your European city wear, then use them as liners inside your cushier socks for hiking, etc. An added thought - it's frequently colder in hostels so if that's where you will be staying, bring those little running and tennis footies to wear in bed. They make a world of difference.
Compass...
Get a compass and pin it on to your daypack or whatever you carry around every day. Even a little, cheap, pin-on number will save you endless blocks, even miles wandering out of your way in the wrong direction.
An Immersion heater...
This little device saves tons of cash when all you want is a cup of tea or a quick cup of soup. And when you may be feeling a bit sick, you can brew a packet of herbal Cold Comfort Tea. Of course, you may need an adapter plug depending on where you are, but they're small and inexpensive too. These heaters have dual voltage, so there's no need for a big, heavy adapter.
Water and food...
Always carry water and some food. Trail mix, energy bars etc, dried soup packets, tea bags are cheap and small to tote. I've learned the hard way that every train does not have a dining car and that sometimes there are unforseeable events in a day that will leave you hungry and crabby, etc. Not fun! I try to be prepared for (almost) anything.
Little treats...
I bring little treats to give to people who are nice to me along the way. Since I live in Minnesota, I carry a little ziplock bag of tiny, inexpensive loon pins (our state bird). My new friends love 'em. In Canada, I'm told that if you call the office of your member of parliament, they often have Canadian pins for you to give away.
A radio...
Buy a little portable radio and listen to local music on the beach or from your tiny Paris balcony, etc. Set the mood, learn the language, know the news and weather, dance up a storm!
A toned body...
Get in shape before you go. On the road is not the place to do it. Take the stairs at home and you'll be without surprises when you find there's no elevator in your Amsterdam, 13-floor-walk-up, very quaint, attic room.
Tiny notebook...
Carry a tiny, spiral notebook easily accessible in your jacket pocket or daypack. I write notes for myself before I leave the hotel. That way, I don't have to look like a tourist with my map and guide book out all the time. Someone gives me directions and I don't have to rely on my memory. I have a quick place to jot new notes; concert times and locations, thoughts that need to be entered into my journal later. See a great place to eat dinner, but it's only time for breakfast? Mark the intersections and café name to have for later when you can return. I have a whole collection of these little books.
Money belt...
I sleep with my moneybelt or travel wallet in my sleeping bag if I'm staying at a hostel. Don't leave these ultra-important documents for even a minute while you go to shower. Take them always and keep them on your body always. On a train, keep your bags locked and nearby.
Bring an open mind and friendship...
Finally, let's all watch out for each other on the road. Let's always be sure to step out of our proverbial boxes and ask questions, speak to new people, learn something special every day and go the extra mile. Hope my hints will help. Carpe diem. Seize the day, ladies!
Best regards from another Journeywoman... Kerry in Minneapolis

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