Traveling in a developing country is much different from a sightseeing trip to Paris or even a backpacking trip around Europe. Even plans that are “guaranteed” to work will fall through and you’ll learn to depend on no one but yourself.
* Take all the money you’ll need for the entire trip in cash. Hide it carefully and don’t forget your secret safe spots.
* Learn to be your own doctor. Know your body, the ailments you’re most prone to, and the treatments that work best for you. Make sure to check for extenuating circumstances in the regions you’ll be traveling (e.g. high risk of malaria, poisonous plants, heavy pollution).
* Keep in mind your essential needs: Clean water, adequate nutrients, the means to regulate your body temperature, a way to use the toilet, and a way to wash your body. Pack with these in mind, thinking about how you can take care of each in a relatively comfortable and hygienic way, and then replenish your supplies.
In most countries you won’t be able to get your favorite brands, and sometimes you won’t even be able to find a product you want, so think about your essentials and the brand-name items you’d hate to run out of. Bring enough to last you the entire trip. Another rule: if you see it on a shelf in your destination, buy it. Don’t count on it still being there even 10 minutes later.
Essentials upon arrival:
* Enough clean water for 24 hours
* Toilet paper
* Hand sanitizer
* Facial wipe and toothbrush/paste
* Plastic bags (both Ziploc and grocery bags)
* Rubber bands
* Bobby pins and/or clothes pins
* String (often needed to tie up heavy or odd-shaped converters or plugs that refuse to charge your electronics without alleviating some of the weight and/or adjusting the angle)
* An all-plug converter (make sure you can charge your phone, laptop, and camera in not only your destination, but any country you might happen to fly through on the way)
* Vitamin C and other multi-vitamins
* A versatile warm fleece jacket (waterproof is helpful)
* A “buff” – all in one bandana, head band, beanie, scarf, and my favorite – the “blind chicken” blindfold that allows you to sleep in the sun and the most fluorescent lighting.
* A sleeping bag, or at least a sleeping bag liner. I’ve slept in some pretty questionable beds, and on blankets that I know have never been washed. Almost everyone else I know has been assaulted by bed bugs; I’m certain that sleeping inside of a flannel liner, inside of my sleeping bag, and zipping both up has protected me from the wrath of my beds’ insect residents!
Shortcuts (these make life easier):
* 2-in-1 Shampoo & Conditioner: Invest in a good brand like Pantene. Not only is it convenient for washing hair and body, but doubles as a laundry detergent with built-in softener and leaves even hastily hand washed clothes smelling pleasant. I got some funny looks when I walked away from the clothesline in Labuche with my nose in my hiking socks, but I couldn’t resist – they smelled so good!
* Face and body wipes: I love the Neutrogena acne-preventing pink grapefruit facial wipes. They come 25 in a travel pack and are a perfect, natural and gentle cleanser in a use-anywhere format. Use one to wash first your face and then your upper body. I bring other wipes, medicated with anti-athletes foot, anti-bacterial, ph-balancing wipes for my feet and lower body. These are especially important in regions where bathing once a week is a luxury and you might have only ten minutes with a bucket of warm water or even have to bathe fully clothed in a spicket of glacial water in the public square.