While filling up boxes to move out, I filled up my backpack to move in.
The bright purple piece of fabric would be my new mansion for a while, so I carefully had to select how to decorate it.
I had to keep in mind that I'm not leaving to a place where my skin gets burned and the sand dries out my hair. No, not this time. I had to think practical, light and most of all Siberian cold.
Before leaving I have been reading a lot about how to pack the perfect backpack, but I personally did not learned a lot out of it.
If you want to pack in a clever and eco way, you need to sacrifice.
My biggest frustration during my research was the fact that most bloggers are paid for listing up material they probably never use themselves. They want you to buy the stuff (that they got for free) to earn money while you suck up their sponsored travel gear tips.
The main tip that I was given is: travel light!
Excuse me, but travelling in -30 degrees makes this quite impossible. I mostly found lists for hot destinations and the only one who included a winter edition added "a sweater" to his list. HAH!
My historical coat already weighs about 5 kilos and with “a sweater” I think my breasts will freeze off before even leaving the front door.
I could have bought myself the warm and light hoodie of brand X and the matching sleeping bag that keeps me warm in freezing temperatures.
I could have bought the not-to-be-missed travel cubes (seriously?) in order to keep everything organized.
I could have bought a handy pocket knife with cutlery and bottle opener.
I could have bought the sportive dress which allows me to travel in comfort and style.
But I didn’t.
And I haven’t regret it a single moment.
People laughed at me looking at my travel gear several times, and as a matter of fact, I enjoyed it.
I am heading slow but surely south, and I can not imagine how for god's sake I will fill up the space of the missing sweaters, scarves and socks.
Second of all: let’s get away from the idea that you need to buy all this fancy stuff in order to be prepared.
Except for my hiking shoes, I haven’t shopped for anything new before the big leave.
This is my first backpacking trip, but I was still able to gather the most important things to survive on the road for less than 250 Euro; and most of all without creating even more waste than we are drowning in already.
I bought my backpack, sleeping bag and towel on a second hand website. It is disturbing how much quality stuff you can find online of people getting ‘all pro with it’ and then never travel again.
I carefully selected the most used and colourful items to reduce the chance that my stuff gets stolen. They are bright purple, and stealing something this prominent just looks pretty gay. Safe! 🙂
Ok, I admit that my eagle eye has let me down when I received my sleeping bag by mail: it was much bigger than I had imagined and quite heavy too… If you burn your ass, you should also sit on the blisters. So a kilo more it is then.
Since I worked in a hostel before, I could take some items out of the ‘lost and found’ after they had been expired. I was lucky enough to get an international adapter, raincoat, backpack cover and even a Kindle.
Since I had been dreaming of travelling for a long time before actually doing it, I have hoarded quite a bit with the idea that one day it will come in handy. So over the years I collected some stuff here and there - totally for free -.
In this way, I only needed to do a tour in my house instead of hitting the adventure store.
I got a camera from my sister. She believed that it was broken, but after charging the battery in a separate charger, it worked perfectly fine. It is a very handy Nikon Coolpix P300 and makes stunning photos for its small size.
To the great frustration of my friends, I was one of the dinosaurs still walking around with a phone with real buttons and no Internet. I knew I needed to get one before leaving the nest, but before I even had the chance to enter the shop, I got the old one of my fantastic neighbour.
Simply send out your will to the universe and it lands right on your lap.
There is always someone who knows someone who has somewhere just the thing that you need.
Because, admit it people, we are consuming in order to be happier, leaving only a pile of perfectly working material and devices to rot in our closets.
Thirdly, carrying only second hand stuff and not really feeling the hole in your bank account, helps to not freak out about losing it. If my backpack would get stolen the only thing that would bother me is the hassle around it.
I remember surfing the Internet on my fully working Macbook pro for a Macbook mini, which – if you think about it – is just absurd. I was searching on my computer for a new and more expensive one so I could follow the idea of travelling light over travelling economical and ecological. The new one would have cost me a lot of money and a lot of stress. As long as my second hand baby hasn't given his last breath, we will stick together. So, two kilo’s more it is then.
To finish, everyone has clothes, come on!
I had one of the biggest collections of pantihose in Brussels and surroundings, so I simply took the two that were the warmest and about three thinner ones. I am layering them according to the temperature outside and I still have both of my legs. If you are a man, you sure know some women who have old pantihose to give away.
Tip: pyjama pants underneath your normal trousers work fine as well. Can you believe it?
Even though you have paid over 50 Euro for your 'super sonic thermo pants', I can assure you that your knees will freeze just a half an hour later than on the MacGyver-way. So, is it worth it?
I didn’t have a coat and it was only after two months of travel that the perfect one had found its way to my shoulders.
So, believe me, if you miss something, someone will help you out and fix you just what you need. Besides, I did not really cry for a coat, but people just could not believe that this European girl was not freezing while wearing the content of her whole backpack.
I frankly did not know what I was missing out until I had put on my Russian coat for the first time. It is like walking around in my living room, but then outside on the scarce landscapes of the Mongolian Steppe.
It was comfortable, but I am still convinced one does not die from a bit of cold.
Even though I am a woman, you will be surprised about my toiletries. I only carry a toothbrush, toothpaste and some mascara (to feel pretty sometimes whilst having braids in my leg hair).
I don’t have shampoo, soap, make up, cream, …etc.
I want to try the no-poo method by not washing my hair until it gains back its natural state. Beauty products often contain chemicals and whatever you put on your hair and skin finds its way into your body anyhow. On top of that, I don't want to get started on trying to find a natural shampoo in countries where I can not even read the alphabet. Besides, it's not worth it to carry around bottles of soap for the few times I cross a shower on the road.
Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t stink. Water does the deal pretty fine and I don’t remember learning about stoned shampoo bottles in my archaeology classes. It is just not natural.
As a solo female traveller, I mostly prefer to look like crap in bump-like clothes anyway, so I don't draw too much attention of the opposite sex.
To make a long story short, I'm carrying a 65 litres backpack which I've packed as multifunctional as possible:
- Long underwear and pantihose are easy to wear under any pants, sexiness included
- Take long t-shirts that can service as dresses as well, if you're too hot, you simply take off your pants and gambol on
- Invest in good walking shoes and try to wear them as much as possible, because they're freaking heavy
- Earplugs and sleeping pillow are a must if you want to be the irritating sunshine for everyone around you who hasn't slept the tiniest bit
- Pick original colours for your backpack and towel so you can see the bright moving dot in your eye corners before someone gets away with it
- Don't forget your passport, insurance card and money (believe it or not, I forgot my on-line banking device)
I have been on the road for about three months now, and I still haven’t managed to lose some of the weight. Every time I am repacking I try to reduce it, but without any success. Every time I promise myself to be even more strict, but I literally use everything that is in there. Name a situation and I'll be your hero.
Everything I need to survive weighs about 21 kilos and even though it is heavy, it feels like home.