Budget and packingMarch 29, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C
This one will probably only interest fellow backpackers or want-to-be backpackers, so some of you might want to skip.
Money. Something I've probably always been a little too interested in. I enjoying speaking of budget and costs out of interest and curiosity, not because I'm actually that broke or that cheap. So for those who don't care, skip ahead. Jack and I, together and individually, are often asked how do we travel so much? It's easy, it's about priorities. I want to see and do things, so I spend less on food and accommodation. I'm not a foody, I don't get amazed by spices or dishes, so I can save a lot of money eating local, simple foods. As far as accommodation, I just need a bed. Preferably clean sheets, but even that's negotiable since I have a sleeping bag. A shared washroom is perfectly fine. Using local buses allows us to be mixed in with locals, to do as they do. I don't use minibuses because they're cheap, I use them because they use them.
I had budgeted, in my mind, a very generous 100$US per day for this trip. I spend a fraction of that. A quick calculation with the budget we've been keeping (out of curiosity, we never stopped ourselves from doing what we wanted to do) says that we each spend 4200$CAD, not including the Addis Ababa to Entebbe flight, so grand total of 4838$CAD spent since leaving Ottawa January 8th. That's 59$CAD per day, each. FYI - my rent was 1300$, which means I spent almost the same amount as my rent. Now I give you this info not to somehow show off on the cheapness, and not to show how much money I might have, but to show that it can be done on any budget. This is how I travel as much as I do. Some people spend the same 4800$ in 2 weeks in Europe, and that's ok. Like I said, priorities - everyone has their own. I want to see the world, as often as possible, and that's what makes sleeping in a not so fancy place, or eating beans and rice for the 4th time in a row, perfectly fine.
That's that for money.
As far as packing goes, I think I actually did pretty ok! I always had extra space in my bag, I'd say around 8 liters was empty throughout. I say 8 because my bag is 46L and Jack's is 38, and I'm confident my things would fit in her bag, but snug. I had originally brought 3 t-shirts, but since one was stolen, did the majority of the trip with 2. It was ok, but a third would have been great - so I confirmed, 3 t-shirts is perfect. My long sleeve shirt, thin like a t-shirt, was something I could have left behind. I only wore it in the evenings when it was cooler (so mostly Ethiopia) but I could have easily simply warn my sweater. If I still had my sweater - it being a zip up and black, it looked dressed up if I needed it too and still kept me warm, it was perfect. One regret, bringing flip-flops instead of a small loafer like pair of shoes. I didn't use my flip-flops at all. Yet when going out in the evenings, when everyone around looks all made up and fashionable, entering a bar or nice restaurant with either sports sandals or hiking shoes isn't the best way to present yourself. So having a pair of small, simple and presentable loafers would be nice. Last thing I'd change, my camera. Yes, I love taking pictures. But the truth is, I can't really tell the different in quality if I had a nice hybrid camera or something along those lines, instead of my heavy and bulky DSLR. My camera is the biggest and heaviest piece I have, by far. Eliminating that, and having a small compact camera, would give me an incredible amount of free space in my bag. And the reason I want that space is it's still pretty hard to carry a 46L bag on and off buses and up staircases and both of us with bags on a bike and everywhere else your backpack follows. Jack had a lot more ease getting in and out of minibuses with her 38L. I didn't use my 2L waterpack/hydration pack too often, but during hikes, it fits perfectly inside my day bag which made it so useful. We also brought a hammock tent, which we did use a few times. But we used it more as a bug net on top of beds, or a tent on the ground. So to do over again, I'd either bring a travel mosquito net that I would still use outside if I felt like it, or a travel tent, depending if the country I'd be visiting has camping options.
So to sum up my ideal packing, the bigger items would be as follows : 1 rain jacket, 1 zip up sweater, 3 t-shirts, 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of shorts, 3 pairs of underwear, 2 bras, 2 pairs of socks. The key is making sure everything matches with everything. 1 bathing suit, 1 sarong (used as towel, sheet, cover-up, etc). 1 day bag that folds into its top compartment (or very collapsible). 1 hydration pack. 1 pair of hiking shoes, 1 pair of sports sandals, 1 pair of loafers. 1 very compact sleeping bag (mine is for 9C and up, so not the warmest, but it packs to about 15cm diameter and 30cm high). Tent if camping is an option.
As far as my firstaid kit goes, I over packed my pharmacy, but still probably wouldn't change anything because it's what I do. Being a nurse, I rarely need to go to a clinic or see a doctor for a prescription. I know what I need, so I'll take my own supply. I have cipro (which came in handy twice during this trip), azythromycin, keflex (for the odd skin infection or abscess), polysporin, zovirax cream for the odd cold sore, some bandaids and gauze and nursing tape (which actually came in handy to fix my tent), mini scissors, and a pill bottle with a whole mixture of things like imodium, Tylenol, gravol, a sleeping pill I can't remember the name of, naproxen, hydration tablets, and I'm sure there's more. I may be overly prepared, but it comforts me to know I can have access to my own mini pharmacy when needed.
Cosmetics themselves are easy, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, gel, shampoo and a soap bar in a soap box. Sunscreen depending on destination.
Then there's all the side stuff, like a universal sink plug (super useful for daily laundry), laundry soap, phone, earphones, phone charger, adapter if needed, diving book and PADI certification card if I plan to dive, tissues, and the obvious passport and flight itinerary (I always bring a copy since many countries demand to see a proof of exit).
And let's not forget the travel book! My only piece of research. I generally leave with no research done at all, so I wouldn't go very far without it.
That's it. You don't add the "in case", you never say "well I have the space", you never say "maybe I'll want it". If there's a doubt, you don't bring it. Remember, if you really need it, you can buy it there. Every tiny item added to a backpack makes a difference.
That's that for packing!
I guess that sums it up. For those who are interested in backpacking, I hope this helps get you motivated! No matter if you're leaving for 1 week or 1 year, carrying a small backpack makes all the difference in accessibility. I would pack the same bag for a week as for a year. I might actually be more likely to pack more for short trips since I know I won't have to carry it too long! Traveling is more and more accessible, it's being done more and more, and therefore countries are getting even easier to manoeuvre independently. These packing tips can apply to even the fancy travellers out there! Who says you can't have a backpack and walk into the Ritz? Or give it to your driver? A small, easily carried bag just makes transitions easier. Now is the time to explore before tourism changes the face of these countries for ever!Read more