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5 Things You Shouldn’t Bring On A Long-Term Trip (And What You Should Bring Instead)

When I went to Southeast Asia, I’ll be honest, I lugged around a ton of useless junk. About a month in I realized how awful of a packing job I’d done and resolved to get rid of a bunch of my things. As the days dragged on, I even considered sending a package back to the US with some of the things I was bringing around but not using. I left a trail throughout Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam with things I’d left behind in hostels. Here are a few things you should avoid bringing so you don’t bog yourself down during a long-term trip:

1. A Beach or Bath Towel

Towels from home are bulky, large, and can start to smell mildew-y quickly. You don’t want to tug around that extra weight and take up that extra space for months on end! Plus, towels can make the rest of your clothes smell like mold and, technically, they need to be washed every couple of days to keep them bacteria-free. Is it really worth all of that work just to have a fluffy towel to use? No, definitely not.
What to bring instead: For bathing, I recommend a microfiber towel – it’s thin, light, and doesn’t stink as much as a full-size towel. These can be a little bit pricey but it’s well worth the investment for something that dries quickly and can be stored in less space than the average t-shirt.
For the beach, I’d bring a sarong to lay out and store easily. These are light, cheap, and easy to find in any somewhat touristy place where people swim.

2. A Camera Bag

 

Pricey camera bags scream “I HAVE MONEY” to potential bag-snatchers and robbers. Do you want to put yourself in that position? Camera bags are often fairly large and, for the average traveler, have more than enough space for the general public’s camera needs. Unless you’re a professional photographer, a much more simple carrying case will usually do the trick. Leave your swanky gear bag at home and you’ll be in much safer hands!
What to bring instead: Bring a regular tote bag or backpack with a camera insert. This way, you won’t be a target for shuttling around expensive gear in an expensive gear bag.

3. Large Books

I’m a culprit here: I love to read and therefore I lug books around with me all the time. However, I recognize that books are bulky and heavy, and once I’m done reading them, what happens? If you do decide to bring a book, consider leaving it at your hostel when you’re done so someone else can enjoy it later (and so you don’t have to carry it around forever). Or, if you’re like me, pass it on directly to another traveler who you’re particularly fond of.
What to bring instead: Try a Kindle, tablet, or iPad that you can use to read and also to communicate with family back home. That way, you could even have a device to replace your smartphone or computer while you’re on the road!

4. A Yoga Mat

We all want to stay fit and in shape on the road. That’s a given. But lugging your giant, awkwardly-shaped yoga mat around for months at a time? Not something we, as travelers, want. Of course it’s important to get a workout while you’re traveling, but there are many other ways to do this than lugging a giant mat around everywhere you go. Unless you’re on a yoga-infused and inspired trip, you’ll probably find that the mat offers less value and more hassle.
What to bring instead: Bring a sarong or cloth you can fold up nice and neatly, but that also works for you to cover a flat surface for a quick yoga practice. You can also check out local yoga studios to combine your travels with your practice. Otherwise, a pair of tennis shoes and a sense of adventure work great for staying in shape while on the road. If you just want a portable way to work out, try hiking, swimming, or running, which all require few equipment items and can give you a great workout.

5. Jewelry


Though we love jewelry, it’s just not practical on long-term trips because it makes you a target for theft and can be culturally insensitive to flash your expensive belongings in countries where the general population can’t afford them. Yes, this includes watches as well! Leaving your jewelry at home also causes less paranoia and worry about your things. If you enjoy jewelry too much to leave it all behind, consider buying a new (read: CHEAP) piece in every location you go. Often you’ll see backpackers walking around with a wrist full of bracelets they’ve picked up in every corner of the world.
What to bring instead: Nothing! Go on your trip jewelry-free and you’ll be safer and less worried about your belongings. If you feel you absolutely must wear jewelry, bring or buy cheap things you don’t mind losing or breaking.
If you leave these things behind, you’ll feel more free, light, and confident throughout your trip. Trust me, next time I go on a long-term trip, I’ll plan on taking much, much less!

Have you ever regretted bringing anything on a long trip? Share your tips in the comments!

13 Responses to 5 Things You Shouldn’t Bring On A Long-Term Trip (And What You Should Bring Instead)

  1. Pandaonavespa October 26, 2015 at 10:29 AM #

    I just recently bought a Kindle: I am Morocco and I´ll stay here for 5 months. I so love paper-books, but bringing along a lot of them is really a problem! I am so fond of reading on a kindle, but it´s ok!

    But over all I totally agree with you!! And when it comes to jewelry, not having it is a good occasion to buy local one =)

  2. Courtney! October 26, 2015 at 3:17 PM #

    I resisted the e-book forever and remember lugging 3 huge novels all across Thailand. I finally bit the bullet and bought a Kindle and I LOVE it. My other a-ha packing moment was packing cubes. They just sound like a stupid idea, but they make such a difference in terms of space and being able to find what you need in a pinch.
    I definitely agree about the camera bag too! I bought a $9 padded insert on Amazon and can stuff that in either my backpack or tote as needed.

  3. Michelle October 26, 2015 at 5:38 PM #

    Ha I always bring a lot of jewelry and tend to not wear anything. Such a waste of space plus everything gets tangled!

  4. Nick @ Goats On The Road October 26, 2015 at 11:28 PM #

    Super awesome tips. We have a kindle and it’s amazing! Saves room when we pack and we still get to read books whenever we feel like it 🙂

  5. Lindo Korchi October 27, 2015 at 5:13 AM #

    I can definitely relate to the first point. I brought a huge towel with me on my first trip to Japan. It took so much space and was quite a hassle. I definitely learned from that and now carry a towel at half the size. I haven’t heard of many people bringing Yoga mats with them, so that’s interesting. Did you bring one on your adventures?

  6. Izy Berry October 27, 2015 at 4:11 PM #

    i love this post!! and yes i regret sometimes when i travel i bring a big Bag and i am a girl so that means that i try to put everything their so is so heavy at the end

  7. Erin October 28, 2015 at 6:20 PM #

    Great tips. Switching to a Kindle was life changing in terms of packing. I still bring a paperback guidebook because I find it so much easier to flip through, but for all other reading, I use my Kindle. I think I brought half a dozen books on my first overseas trip years ago and I was only gone 3 weeks!

    I’m with you on the jewelry too. I have a few inexpensive pieces that travel with me, but that’s it.

    I’ve also definitely been made fun of for my microfiber towels, but I love them! Glad you do too.

  8. Lauren @ a tipsy gypsy life October 31, 2015 at 3:39 AM #

    Bringing heels on a trip abroad is the most foolish thing I’ve done… Even though I was warned against it! Never again 🙂

  9. Rianne October 31, 2015 at 1:19 PM #

    I say yes to Kindle haha! So nice to be able to carry tons of books with you with no weight at all 🙂

  10. Audrey November 6, 2015 at 8:18 AM #

    I would add jeans as well. Heavy, bulky and slow-drying

    • Steph November 6, 2015 at 11:42 AM #

      Jeans are so controversial among packers. Personally I always bring mine because they are comfortable and help you blend in. Lots of people are not on board though.

  11. Drifter November 12, 2015 at 12:19 AM #

    Wow – I never thought of not carrying my camera bag. Good list 🙂
    I never carry jeans as well 😉

  12. Joann Morrison November 13, 2015 at 4:41 AM #

    On my last trip, i carried my jewelry with me. I was in a tense situation and worried about my belongings. So, i request all to avoid carrying expensive items on your trip.

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