Okay, so as I have been incredibly bad with blogging for the past month… slash generally throughout the existence of this blog, I’ve decided that I’m actually going to make the effort. Well… of sorts. Not sure if I’m cheating slightly by just posting the articles I’ve written for either the University of Birmingham paper RedBrick, or the onlines student publication Exploration Magazine… but hey. This is written for RedBrick :

Whether you are going away for one week or one year, everyone panics about the things you should bring with you. On longer trips, many people just settle for the essentials, which sound easy enough. For a lot of people however this is just not the case. With this list of bare essentials then comes the unsolvable conundrum of what exactly counts as an essential.

Some people would class an iPod as an essential. Other people may class hair straighteners as an essential. And others still might think that ring that your grandparents have given you and you couldn’t go a day without wearing is something you just won’t be able to cope without whilst travelling. But the problem with all three of these items is their value. A lot of countries that people travel are significantly poorer than the UK, and something like the most recent Nikon camera or a Macbook are completely alien purchases to many of the local people you may encounter.

This makes your essentials extremely attractive, and unfortunately, prime targets for muggings and pick-pocketing. I experienced this first hand when I was in Thailand. Not really thinking too much about where my iPod was, it somehow went very mysteriously missing somewhere between leaving my hostel and travelling on an overnight train. In hindsight, the matter wasn’t helped in the slightest due to my iPod being of full view and probably pretty easy to take out of my bag without too much trouble. What wasn’t so easy however was the rest of the travelling I was doing without the relief of music.  9 hours on any kind of transport is pretty soul destroying, never mind transport of the questionable Thai kind.

Regardless of this bad experience though, I would still without a doubt bring my new and considerably more expensive iPod touch travelling with me. The ability to use the internet, the various amazing apps that you can now download and of course, the hours of music offering a relief from various modes of boredom are some of the most important things I consider when I’m away.

Aside from the benefits of technology to eliminate boredom, some items can be a more practical alternative to their traditional counterpart. The relatively inexpensive apps that you can download to your phone or iPod can prove to be absolutely invaluable when on the road, especially if you’re prone to remember everything but the most important things. Tickets and public transport times and routes are just some of the things that if forgotten can provide hours of unnecessary stress and hassle when you should be enjoying yourself. Having a product that almost completely eradicates this possibility definitely has its benefits.

The Amazon Kindle, as another example, can store hundreds of books at any one time, and many of the more famous texts are free to download. For someone that likes to read a lot whilst away, a Kindle could be invaluable. Not only will your backpack or suitcase be 10 times lighter, but you will also have a huge choice of what you want to read and the risk of rereading your battered copy of Russell Brand’s autobiography for the 17th time.

On the other hand though, a book can’t really break. If you drop it on the floor, accidentally stand on it, spill water over it or just generally don’t look after it as well as you should then it doesn’t matter. Chances are you’ll still be able to read it, no one is actually going to want to steal it and you won’t be racked with guilt over effectively clumsily throwing £100 down the drain.

When travelling anywhere the best advice is to only take what you can afford to lose. Chances are you’ll be able to live without your laptop for a few weeks or months, and you probably won’t die without your GHD’s, and maybe your Kindle isn’t the most important thing to ensure you bring along. Sometimes leaving behind some of those home comforts can help you embrace a completely new culture and open your eyes to the places around you, even if it is a bit less convenient.

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