Just wanted to say a few things about traveling in general as a backpacker.
Oh, the romanticism behind the thought of backpacking across New Zealand… Don’t get me wrong! It is plenty romantic, gorgeous and unique in so many ways, and I wouldn’t change it if I could. But man, you don’t quite realize what it’s like to truly backpack until you do it for a month or two alone. I’m going to give some advice on what to pack and what I packed for this trip. Let me paint you a picture!
A young woman with a totally full 75 liter blue-gray backpack, which if you don’t know backpack liters (I didn’t) can, with a lot of hoodzpah, carry maybe 50lbs. Mine is just 35lbs, and has only clothes (MY absolute bare minimum, I wanted to pack so much more before, and now I still feel as if I have too much) and toiletries & a few other odds and ends, and is pretty much completely full to the point of it not being too easy to zipper up. And it continues to get bigger even though I haven’t bought a thing…I’m convinced it’s filling up with all the experience. Or memories. Or maybe the change of weather expands the clothes. Or the backpack is shrinking. I don’t know, we have a few theories we’re working on at a couple of hostels.
A smaller laptop/camera bag type thing. Now this is my carry-on for the plane and bus because it has practically my entire life in it. A laptop, which by the way, if you plan on backpacking or traveling, is HEAPS better than just an iPhone or iPad. Yet again this advice is coming from an avid photo editor, blogger, video editor, Facetime user, online book reader, music listener, emailer and general Facebook stalker. Sometimes I pull out my laptop and the real intense “traveling 2 years out of my backpack” people think I’m a noob. Which to be fair, I definitely am, but you learn quickly when thrown in the deep end! Anyway, my advice, specially targeted to those of you Western civilization Netflix users, bring a laptop or a decked out iPad. You won’t regret it, just bring less clothes.
My camera, like a baby has its own camera compartment, including its zoom lens and other gadgets such as my iPhone 4 with a Lifeproof case, GoPro, hard drive for pictures, battery pack to last my phone to charge for months (in case I get very lost),all of my chargers for each of these, a stuffed animal elephant (named Rhiannon after my Stevie Nicks phase), a blow up hoodie/neck pillow my brother gave me in Colorado…genius., a book on the basics of Buddhism, a little notebook to journal, earphones, surf wax, pen, highlighter and sharpie, and most importantly copies of all my important documentation that allows me to be here, work here, and gives proof of my US citizenship. Reallllll important disclaimer folks! Pinky promise you won’t regret photocopying, maybe even twice, your Passport, credit card info, visa, driver’s license, and anything else you might need at all. Keep it in a safe and tucked away place and in a different bag than the one you have the originals in. Or, even better, one in each bag. I’ve already met a couple of Swedish chicks who drunkenly lost their passport (considering that is the only valid proof of ID to drink here if you’re international, license doesn’t matter!) and they were saved by this! Some hostels even ask for ID too.
And of course, there is almost always my across the shoulder tiny wallet-like bag. It’s just a square gray bag I have on me at practically all times, I’ve even slept with the thing. It has all the holy grails…passport, credit cards, money, bus tour tickets, my room key to whatever hostel, a graduation picture of my best friend, and my scuba diving license. Practically irreplaceable. Except Maddy, you could send me an extra copy I hope?
Sooo…Maureen how do you eat when you move to a different location every night? Carry it all, of course. And here is the best part! I’m poor. Everyone here is. Okay well I’m not really, but I’m on a budget called “spend as little as you can on small insignificant things so you can afford skydiving and bungee jumping and scuba dives”. Just like most people staying in budget accommodation and backpacker hostel dorms. But because of this ever popular budget, food is not something you can make much of a luxury. Which actually hurts me to say, because I really do love food more than I should, or more than any human being should. I just had cheese for the first time in a couple of weeks tonight. I even had milk in my oatmeal for breakfast, and felt on cloud 9! I could finally have dairy because I bought a freezer bag, so I can actually carry refrigerated items from point A to B, as long as B has a fridge. So I’m carrying a mini fridge bag with minimal food cause it is so much cheaper to cook in with large groups of friends or for yourself than going out and buying something pre-made or from a restaurant. But keep in mind, those little things you need that are in the cabinet next to the stovetop you take for granted, like salt and pepper, olive oil, any herbs or spices, teas and coffees, sandwich baggies, all are traveling with you too! My olive oil has seen half the country. Oh, and don’t forget laundry detergent!
Tonight I feasted and I made myself dinner that I’ll enjoy for days, it was shell pasta with sautéed onions and bell pepper and kidney beans with carbonara sauce. I have a huge plastic bag left and eating it for lunch tomorrow! Peanut butter is a staple for me, as are apples, rice cakes, almonds, eggs, pesto, and avocado. I could probably live off all of those if needed, and I basically have been. It makes it wonderfully easy to follow my wannabe vegetarian lifestyle, meat is such a hassle to cook when veggies are so easy, and protein isn’t even really needed as much in my diet because I’m not working out like I used to by any means. Plant protein is so, so underestimated in our culture, it’s almost embarrassing. But that’s for another day. Anyway, that’s why I was entirely too excited over parmesan! Never been more grateful for cheese.
So the big 75L guy on my back with a hip belt (did you know most of the weight of the backpack should be resting on your hips, not your shoulders or back?), laptop backpack with gadgets carried like a backpack on my front (looks like I’m pregnant if I wear my rain jacket), my wallet bag, my blue freezer bag filled with new foods I can finally eat, and here we go let’s top it off…surfboard!! With a lovely fake Hawaiian leigh around it that makes it look like its been through some parties, and a leash wrapped around the bottom.
Definitely a sight to see, and although its a handful I can carry everything I own at once and walk around, and I’m forming some new leg muscles.
Now I’m off to trade my board for something a bit thicker and wider in Dunedin and maybe go for a surf too if I can handle the freezing water! Next up: Hostels, and why do some people back home have the idea that I will get axe murdered if I stay at them?