For this month’s Taste Vacations Team Dish, we asked “What travel item can you not live without?” As frequent travelers, there seem to be a few items that begin to become essential to our packing lists for our various journeys. Once you get past the toothbrushes and clean underwear, it’s interesting to hear what makes the list.
Here’s what the team had to say:
Some of the most fascinating aspects of travel are the people we meet, the new sounds we hear and sometimes the new languages we interact with along the way. For me, however there are also certain times tuning out from these new sounds and conversations and tuning in to my own musical accompaniment enhances the journey. Watching the world go by from a window seat, walking through streets filled with color and history, watching waves reach their final destination or kicking back with a drink at a local café, these are times a cool soundtrack can help me transcend the now. Travel is an experience that gives us an opportunity to think a little bit about what we believe, about where we came from and about where we are going. Music helps me appreciate those opportunities for perspective.
I have two things I don’t travel without, and apologies if these sound like product commercials, but I love them so much!
- My Patagonia down shirt. Temps on flights (or even car trips) can vary, so I always have it with me in my backpack or purse (it can crumple down to the size of a grapefruit). Even when I travel to where it is “summer,” there are places that turn on the AC or get cooler when the sun goes down. This lightweight item provides a layer of insulation that ensures that I am always the right temperature. Because it is black, it also doubles as a dinner jacket when necessary and looks classy with a dress or jeans. Bonus: every one of Patagonia’s down products come from birds that were not live-plucked or force-fed.
- My Oofos sandals. I don’t love to wear shoes and always prefer sandals or bare feet whenever possible. These babies are super comfortable to wear when pounding the pavement of a new city or taking a hike, especially when it’s hot out. And I’m kind of funny about having my bare feet touch carpeting or showers in some hotel rooms, so these are handy to have since they are waterproof. They are very lightweight and easy to pack, plus they are also black so can pull double duty as my dress-up shoes (if you know me, you know what a fancy dresser I am…not) when going out to dinner. When I get home, I can throw them in the washer, too! Bonus: they are designed to revitalize your feet!
They aren’t sexy travel items…in fact, they are just rectangular in shape. Typically the color white. And really flimsy. But I can not live without (drumroll, please…) ENVELOPES!
Letter sized envelopes are handy to travel with for a number of reasons: to stuff receipts into and organize (especially if there are any write-offs!); use as bookmarks in your travel books; and to house a “kitty”. Two of my girlfriends and I travel to a new, international destination every year and the kitty makes splitting up expenses so easy. The idea behind the kitty is to make paying for common expenses like gas, transportation, groceries, hotel and f & b as easy as possible. Everyone traveling together contributes the same amount of cash every time the kitty needs to be replenished, one person is in charge of holding onto the kitty and handling each bill, and as a result, the haggling over who owes who what is eliminated. Voila! Envelopes are necessary for housing the kitty which has become a staple way for me to travel with friends.
I always try to pack a comfortable, yet versatile dress that can either be dressed up or down depending on our plans for the day or night. Usually a LBD (Little Black Dress) does the trick – I can wear it over a bathing suit as a cover up at the beach or I can pair it with heels and a colorful necklace to go out to dinner. Another travel essential for me is a wine opener that can also open beer bottles (though when flying, I’ll bring it only if I have a checked bag). Nothing’s worse than packing up a picnic, getting to a beautiful, peaceful spot, and realizing that you have no way to open your delicious bottle of wine!
Other than dental floss (which is a pretty boring topic), the one thing that takes precedence over all other items, the one thing that I think about for weeks before a trip, the one thing that is always with me, that I look forward to almost as much as the vacation itself, is a paperback classic. It has to be one I haven’t read before and a lot of it depends on the destination.
If it’s a winter trip, Russian Literature: Turgenev, Tolstoy, Pasternak or of course the safest way to avoid disappointment, Dostoevsky. Now if it’s a beach trip, Latin American Literature all the way. They are by far the best storytellers in the world. I have burned through thousands of pages sitting by the most beautiful beaches in the world. When I think back to Koh Phi Phi in Thailand, yes I think of the beautiful water and the fresh coconuts and the amazing mangrove tree that provided so much welcome shade, but mostly I think of my dear friend Maqroll the Gaviero and his Adventures and Misadventures by Alvaro Mutis. While in Malaysia I got to know Isabel Allende and have never been taken to such far away places in so few words. During my treks through the Himalayas, I began to relish classic English Lit from Charles Dickens to Virginia Woolf, even straying to Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.
I love history, and perhaps the journeys I was taking with my fictional friends created a richer context for the wild and ancient lands I was exploring. I find my memories of travel are woven into the fabric of a collective imagination, both dreamed and historically grounded, that found its most perfect expression in those beautifully rounded soft pages of so many paperback classics.