Having traveled A LOT over the years, I’ve honed a kit of essential items that see me through, both physically and spiritually, the unexpected events that are guaranteed to hit, sometimes hard. Since I have a seriously-sensitive constitution, I’ve learned the hard way that taking some fortifications is well worth the bit of thought and effort that goes into rounding them up. Perhaps some of these will help fortify you in your travels. And they beg the question: What do you consider essential when you travel?
Lavender Essential Oil: I decant lavender essential oil into a small plastic or glass bottle and carry it in my backpack. Over the years, I’ve used it endless times to mask unexpected odors when traveling. I’ve rubbed a drop right under my nose to block the beery smell of the just-come-from-partying guy in the seat next to me, to a few drops on my pillow and sheets and carpet in a stale hotel room. In Finland, I devised an effective room spray by emptying the little spray bottle that came with the room toiletries and filling it with water and a few drops of lavender oil. It is also a famously calming scent, so helps to reduce stress during en route an upon arrival.
Incense: I have yet to find a hotel room that has not been sprayed with some mighty chemical, even in the guise of “aromatherapy”. Incense helps to clear the room of lingering odor as well as lingering vibes, and fill it with a calming REAL fragrance.
My incense kit which includes matches and a little holder weights little. I prefer unsweet scents like Minorian frankincense or the astonishingly calming Hyofu Aloeswood (both from Japan Incense).
Ear plugs: Being extremely sensitive to noise — and at the mercy of noisy neighbors — I actually did a comparison of earplugs. E-A-R, for me, are the best (though ear plug preferences are a highly personal thing). They can block A LOT of noise, and are an almost weightless solution to noisy hotel rooms. (At a recent stay at a Marriot, they blocked the sound of the elephantine guy walking above, and the moan of the plumbing in the shower in the next room, as well as street traffic. I buy them in boxes of 200 pairs.
I’ve also found thatBose Noise Cancelling Earbuds provide wonderful meditative effect, with or without music, when on a plane or noisy airport. They do require charging.
Portable Pharmacopeia: Coming down with a cold when traveling is a serious bummer so I make sure to take benign medications that I find effective in warding them off, even after sitting next to someone who has one. They include Rainbow Light Counter Attack and Kold Kare.
Traveling these days can involve a certain amount of shock to the system (like when ALL flights to NYC Pittsburgh were cancelled recently, not to mention the stress of uncomfortable, noisy airports and planes). Rescue Remedy is made of five Bach flower essences that help alleviate anxiety and stress. Boiron Arnica 30C , homeopathic pellets (take 2) that facilitate are excellent for shock, both emotional and physical, such as muscle aches and bruises (a sprained ankle for example).
Many is the time I’ve helped a fellow traveler calm down or ward off a cold with my portable pharmacy.
Disclaimer: These remedies are not for everyone, so I recommend you put together whatever works for you to keep you healthy and calm.
A Shawl: The silvery-gray pashmina shawl (below), a gift from a friend, has traveled the world with me for at least two decades. It is light, warm and pretty. I’ve used it as a wrap when evenings turn chilly (perfect when dressed down or up), a blanket on frigid over-air conditioned flights, and under-heated rooms. I also use it, and other shawls to disguise a homely chair or ugly permanent artwork in a hotel room, and to have something pretty and comforting to look at from home. Depending on the time of year and the fabric you chose, a shawl can double as a sarong or skirt. OR be tied into a head wrap.
Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap is a pure castile soap that is seriously multi-purpose. It is a fine body soap, can be mixed with hotel hair conditioner to make a nice shampoo. I use it routinely as a dish soap for cleaning up my hotel room food preparations, and to rinse out clothes in the sink. It comes in a variety of fragrances, including peppermint, almond, tea tree and lavender, which is my favorite. I carry it in a small plastic bottle decanted from a 5-gallon bottle (since I use it everywhere in my home as well).
A multi-purpose knife or two. My never-without travel tool is a basic Swiss Army Pocket Knife, which has a knife, can opener, cork screw, scissors, screwdriver, bottle opener, nail file, toothpick. I use it for hotel room repairs and other food preparations and picnics. The scissors and screw driver come in handy when you least expect it. Since there are MANY iterations, check out Swiss Army Knives here to find the combination of tools that will work for you.
If I am traveling somewhere I will be doing some cooking, I take my trusty Opinel Folding Pocket Knife, which has a super sharp carbon steel blade; it is a lightweight solution the dull or serrated knives that seem ubiquitous in many kitchens I’ve been in, which make cooking a chore. The Opinel is, of course, great for picnics.
I’ve used the two knives to cook dinner for twelve.