You’ve made the checklist. Everything’s laid out. All the necessities are covered and you’ve even thrown in a few “just in case”s. But how about stuff to deal with those problems you’re not anticipating but happen on almost every trip anyway? I’m not talking about preparing for being stranded or shipwrecked… just a few key items to deal with annoyances that come with the territory of being a traveler (you’ll know when you read them).
1. Gin Gins (Ginger candy)
Delhi belly… mud butt… traveler’s diarrhea… whatever you wanna call it, having stomach complications is one of the ultimate destroyers of a good trip. It’s what makes you pass on the delicious morning dim sum and opt instead for yogurt and wheat bread. It’s what makes you plan your sightseeing around cleaner, more urban neighborhoods because bathroom breaks suddenly become a top priority. And of course, it’s the supreme energy killer, making each day seem more about recovery than about exploration.
Fortunately, there is a simple measure you can take to ease your potential stomach woes. Ginger has a long history for benefiting digestive health. Studies show that it helps increase the speed of gastric emptying, which results in the decreased likelihood of heartburn, gas, bloating, and other terrible things.
Do yourself a precautionary favor and pack some ginger candy for your next trip. I recommend Gin Gins because each piece comes individually wrapped. Super easy to take with you on the go for all your adventurous eating binges. The candy actually tastes quite good, and you can even put them in hot water to make a tea. Oh, and they’re fat free, gluten free, and vegan.NOTE: Of course, other forms of ginger such are equally effective. I recommend crystallized ginger, or even that pink stuff they serve with sushi.
- Reduces nausea – great remedy for motion sickness.
- Reduces pain and inflammation – good for muscle aches and sore joints.
A compass… Really?
Now I know we’re not going camping in the woods but just hear me out.
First, I’m not saying you need to bring an actual full on nautical compass. One of those coin-sized ones on a keychain or even a compass app on your smartphone will do. Hell, use the sun and stars to navigate if you can. All I’m saying is that you need something that can tell you which direction you’re going. Trust me, it comes in handy.
A very simple but practical use for a compass is finding out which side of the street you need to be on to catch a cab. If you’re in a sprawling metropolis like Seoul that has 6-lane roads and doesn’t offer much in U-turn opportunities, simply knowing to cross the street can save you precious minutes and dollars. Or put to a bigger scale, if you’re traveling on a long stretch of road in a less developed area like Phuket with few landmarks and cross roads, you better be damn sure you’re facing the right direction. Last thing you want is to be stranded in the jungle after dark with no gas in your scooter.
Of course all this is moot if you don’t already know which direction you’re supposed to go in the first place. So pair your compass with a map and use both wisely!
3. Quick-Dry Towel
This isn’t your standard fluffy bath towel. It’s made of microfiber, a material that’s thin, lightweight, and absorbent. You’ve probably seen divers use it to dry off in between dives. Feels a bit foreign on the skin, but undoubtedly dries effectively. It’s also super easy to carry, and has been proven to save lives:
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Ok I know none of that shit’s real, BUT it does however illustrate some fine points about the multi-functionality of a towel. I can think of at least two trips where I was freezing my ass off at the airport (one in Bangkok of all places) when a towel would have been just the thing to keep me warm. I know there are plenty of arguments against bringing a towel, but for something that folds down to the size of a dinner napkin, I see no real excuses.
4. Expandable Nylon/Polyester Bag
“Now how am I going to take all this shit back with me?”
When packing for a trip, people generally think mostly about what they’re going to take with them but not so much what they’re going to bring back. Unless you’ve planned a strict shopping agenda, making space for souvenirs takes a bit of guesswork.
Well don’t dwell on it too long. Why not bring an extra bag with you to carry all your purchases home? These bags compactly fold into the size of a wallet, and expand to the dimensions of a small gym duffle. Furthermore they are made of durable stuff like nylon and polyester, a step up from those plastic shopping bags you’ve been stashing ;-). They also have different types too, from duffle, to backpack, to tote.
If you don’t like the idea of carrying more stuff, you can always use the bags to separate your dirty clothes, muddy shoes, damp swimwear, etc. from the rest of your belongings.
5. Tiger Balm
Never heard of it? Think IcyHot… but with bits and pieces of tiger mixed in.
Tiger Balm gets the last nod because it’s the ancient Chinese remedy I used as a child and recently rediscovered as an adult. It’s also got a bunch of different uses and a pretty cool name.
As a kid, my parents gave me this to apply over mosquito bites. Its active ingredients menthol and camphor (rosemary oil) act as counter irritants that soothe the applied area by increasing circulation and making the skin feel tingly. Basically, it gets rid of the itch.
Now as an aging man, I use this product for a different reason – muscle pain relief. After seeing the world a bit, I’ve accepted that one of the inevitabilities of travel is that you get fucking tired. While one can take a few measures to get more comfortable, ultimately the wear and tear of daily exploration sets into your muscles and joints. This is where Tiger Balm comes in. Its main design is to be used as a topical analgesic, which means pain relief when applied over a body surface. This stuff is good enough to be used by massage therapists in Thailand, and it was my salvation when I lay in my hotel room a broken man after coming out of break dance retirement at age 30 and doing the world’s highest bungee jump all within a 36 hour period.
Best reunion with a childhood keepsake ever.
- Relieves headaches – rub small amounts over your temples
- Clears nasal congestion/coughing – apply over chest area