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Tall Tales of an Adventuring Prima Donna "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So...Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain

In The Life of a Backpacker

INDIA | Monday, 26 May 2008 | Views [5675] | Comments [4]

Don't Leave Home Without...

I am finding that my most prized possessions are toilet paper, tums antacid (which i make sure are with me at all times), and my flashlight (for when the power goes out -- which happens all the time due to faulty wiring or the timed power usage for certain villages).

And at times, I have needed all three at the same time.

For example, you never know when you'll be hit with a case of the "Delhi Belly" -- in other words, you have to at all times, be prepared for a stomach explosion or minor quake.  It's not fun, but this is the reality of backpacking through India. 

"I have a friend named" Renee =)-- who just this afternoon, had to run to the nearest building while desperately in search of a toilet.  It really doesn't matter if you're in the back of a small sweat shop, because you'd do just about anything to be near a toilet. 

A man at the small post office took her in the back through several tiny rooms to a small enclosed toilet area, and he pointed to a bucket of water with a small pail sitting in it, saying "for you to clean."  Thank God for Renee that she had her own paper AND her flashlight!....because in the middle of her stomach explosion, the power went out.  Complete darkness, not a glimmer of light in the cemented room without windows. 

So, the most savvy backpackers know to be prepared at all times.

It's funny, because I was never a Girl Scout.

The majority of my packing the important essentials and being organized while travelling has largely been due to a combination of my experience as an air hostess, my previous travel through SE Asia, and my father's influence.  You see, before he was an agent in the CIA, he was in Special Forces with the U.S. Army -- a Green Beret at the tender age of 17.  In other words, my sister and I were taught on some level to think ahead.

Other essentials I like to have with me are:

Journal and Pens, a first aid kit, medication (Antibiotics, Anti-Malarial Pills, Ibuprofen, and Immodium), my "mini" travelling office (mini stapler, tape, post its, and permanent marker), baby/Cleansing Wipes, important phone numbers and Contacts (including credit card bureaus and bank info., etc.)

And most importantly.....a good luck charm when all else fails!

Letting Go

Though, as savvy as I'd like to think I am at packing, it's ridiculous how much I packed for my three month journey! 

Truly comical, and I've been teased a great deal from other, more minimalist backpackers for all that I've brought along (except for when they are delighted that I have mini speakers for my Ipod that we can all use if there's no music).  Occasionally, other male backpackers have even helped me carry one of my three bags. 

But, I quickly learned that the only way to be mobile through the journey of busrides, train rides, airplanes, and sometimes toting your belongings to transport stations and rickshaws is -- to pack as little as possible.  Antoine St. Exupery had the right idea when he said, "He who travel happily must travel light."

I learned this the hard way, and have since, given so much of my favorite things away.  I've given away jeans (which are so heavy to carry), a rain jacket (because a lightweight poncho will suffice), t-shirts, a book or two, and believe it or not, my makeup!!!  But, come on, who needs jeans and makeup in 120 degree weather? 

Let's face it, in this kind of heat, all vanity is out the window.  You're left sitting in the heat on a dirty seat in some overcrowded bus just hoping that the heat doesn't give you a grownup version of a diaper rash. 

That is the extent of vanity you're allowed. 


What helps with the heat is to make sure that you are washing your clothes regularly, which is sometimes challenging unless you send out your laundry for an Indian woman to beat it against a rock in a river -- using some form of industrial powder detergent which destroys the woven fibers in your clothes.

Otherwise, you can wait until the next destination or guesthouse, who may have a better laundry facility.  I personally prefer a washboard and tapwater in a bucket vs. the slapping of my clothes into a rock in the river and laying my clothes in the fields, sunning them dry.

In my two weeks here so far, I have another approach to doing laundry.

I bought a couple of linen tunics and pants which were covered with some kind of mite similar to a bedbug.  I discovered this after wearing one of the tunics without washing it first to find tiny, little itchy bumps all over my arms. 

I ran to my bungalow, stripped everything off and as showered, I placed all my dirty laundry into a bucket (most showers in India always have buckets nearby), filled it with water and shampoo, and stomped around in the bucket trying to create my own version of "spin cycle."  I'm sure it looked ridiculous...my rendition of that famous episode of 'I Love Lucy' making wine in the vat of grapes.

If you walked past my bungalow, you'd see colorful tunics, underwear, and pants all hanging to dry wherever i could find -- the hammock, the tree branches, chairs all covered with drying laundry.

That's how my fellow backpackers know that I'm still there.



Tags: backpacking



I'm sure you can picture the gi-normous smile on my face as I imagine you giving away your precious jeans and makeup while thinking of me saying, "I told you so..." =) By the way, I didn't know that you were such a great story teller. Keep it up!

  Anson May 28, 2008 2:49 AM


Girl, I thought you were completely mad when you told me you were off on this quest of yours; however, now I am CONVINCED that you are TOTALLY BONKERS! Please try not to come home with too much fungus and other stuff growing on your body surfaces; it's already too much for me to imagine you stomping around in a bucket trying to kill tunic bugs. (You know that my version of "slumming it" is the Holiday Inn, so all of this is going to give me nightmares!)

  Terry and Mel May 28, 2008 6:10 AM


ok,well only you, only you. have fun

  terry c Jun 9, 2008 1:01 PM


Hey sorry I don't even know you but am about to go backpacking in India for a month and wondered if you had any further advice for me. I have never done anything like this before and my family and friends are almost ready to lock me up. They think im crazy for wanting to go!

Your stories give me a little idea of what to expect so I'd love some advice if you dont mind!



  Courtney Jan 16, 2009 3:25 PM

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