How does a girl pack for a year abroad?

This blog entry may be TMI (too much information) for most (and for that, I apologize), but I do think it is important for the traveling ladies to understand the panic that I went through when trying to pack.  What to pack and what not to pack has been on my mind since the day I started planning this trip.  The list below is everything that I brought with me in my 55 liter Osprey Farpoint backpack which has an attachable day pack (love it!).  I can’t yet comment if I made the right packing choices as I have just begun this adventure, but so far, I am mostly happy with the decisions I made.

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PACKS AND ORGANIZATION

  • Osprey Farpoint 55L backpack (size: S)wonderful pack with an attachable daypack.  It is unisex. It won’t fit all comfortably, so make sure and go to REI or another sport store and get measured.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE that it is not a top closure pack but rather it zips all around (great for quick access rather than digging through the top all the way to the bottom for one small item).  The attachable daypack I use as a carry on for all essential things and electronics.
  • Ebagsamazing organizational tool for your clothes, toiletries and even shoes.  I have 4 of them in my pack in different colors and sizes so I can tell what is packed in which bag (2 rectangular, 1 small square and 1 medium square). I have one more ebag for all of my toiletries, which has a very handy hanger inside of it so you can hang it up in the bathroom.
  • LeSportSac Everyday Hobo Cross Body Bag: I bought this one at Nordstrom Rack for $30 –  this is my every day bag (lovely size and super light with lots of zip pockets).  When I travel, I actually stuff it in my Farpoint day pack (a purse inside of a purse).
  • Eagle Creek Undercover Wallet/Passport Holder:  another good and secure item to either wear under your shirt or a small cross body purse.

SHOES

For any girl, packing shoes for one week is an ordeal; packing shoes for 6 months to a year is a suicide mission.  I debated this topic for months (do I bring hiking shoes, do I bring running shoes, a combination? is there such a thing? how ugly are they?).  I read through dozens of blogs and I just couldn’t commit to having 1 pair of hiking shoes with me and calling it a day.  Who knows, in 3 weeks, I may be so over carrying my 4 pairs that I will be throwing them all out! 

I brought the following with me:

  • Merrell Waterproof Hiking Shoes:  I apologize to anyone who owns these, but HELLO UGLY SHOES!   I will admit, they are comfortable and they are the best out of all the ones I tried on when it comes to “the look”, but every time I look down at my feet,  I simply want to punch myself.  These will come in handy for the Machu Picchu trek and Patagonia and will likely end up in the dumpster after.  I did wear them around the city for one day to break them in, and I have never felt less attractive (yes, I can be THAT shallow).
  • Running shoes: I have my favorite pair of Asics which I have been running in.  Love them!
  • Sanuk:  these are my everyday walking shoes (and possibly mistake #1).  They are lightweight and cute, but they already caused a few blisters, so realistically, I should have brought a pair of TOMS that were fully worn in.
  • Havaianas flip flopsfor showers and the beach.

CLOTHES

  • (1) REI Roll-Up Pants: these are cute, comfy and UPF rated.
  • (1) Jeans: most people said DON’T do it, they are heavy and hard to dry; but i LOVE my favorite comfy “boyfriend Paige” jeans and I wear them every day (unless it’s too hot).
  • (1) Lululemon running leggings
  • (1) cotton favorite yoga pants (mistake #2 which will likely be thrown out soon)
  • (1) Running shorts
  • (1) Pajama shorts
  • (1) Pajama t-shirt
  • (3Zella T-shirts
  • (1) Cotton t-shirt (mistake #3 – I do love it, but just say NO to cotton)
  • (2) Tank tops
  • (1) Long sleeve lightweight thermal shirt
  • (1) Thermal lightweight pants
  • (1) Fleece
  • (1) Marmot Rain Jacket
  • (1) Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket: this is already a favorite item of mine and luckily I got it during REI’s big sale.
  • (1) Warm hat for hiking (this will be thrown out after)
  • (1) Gloves for hiking (will also be thrown out after)
  • (1) Black casual dress
  • (1) Cardigan (mistake #….. obviously many mistakes have been made)
  • (1) Casual shorts
  • (3) Thin socks
  • (2) Hiking socks
  • (11) Pairs of underwear: 6 of these are ExOfficio (quick drying).  Most people have said bring just 3 pairs, but I adore having tons of underwear and not worrying about laundry for a bit.
  • (1) black bra
  • (3) sport bras
  • (1) bathing suit

TOILETRIES

  • Moisturizer
  • Eye cream
  • Razor
  • Deodorant
  • Nail polish (just 1 color for touch ups): this already broke and leaked, so forget this idea!
  • Rubber bands/hair pins
  • Hair band
  • Comb
  • Make-up: very minimalist here (lip gloss, foundation and mascara)
  • Sewing kit: no idea why I bothered –  I never use it at home, don’t see why I would use it abroad, but felt pressured to bring it.
  • 1 month supply of feminine products (the rest will be bought as needed).  This topic is controversial as many women suggested I bring “the diva cup”.  Here comes the TMI part – ummm ladies, not all of us are made equal!  Some of us have very light barely there periods and some have very heavy, prolonged ones (something that a diva cup would not be able to handle).  So, when suggesting (pushing this topic on others), consider the fact that we are all different! Gracias!
  • Baby wipes (travel size)
  • Face wipes (travel size)
  • Sunblock: forgot to put it on the first day and looked like a tomato the rest of the week
  • Moroccan oil: a favorite for my Jewfro (see urban dictionary definition)
  • I did not bring shampoos/conditioners as I primarily will be staying at hotels and apartments, so all will be bought as needed.

TECHNOLOGY

  • Macbook Air 11” + charger
  • External Drive: time machine + a few usb’s
  • Kindle Paperwhite: I love this – 8 week charge, backlit, super light + charger
  • Unlocked iphone 5s + charger
  • Fitbit + charger
  • Travel Adapter

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Dry towel (one small and an x-large): again, pricey, but a must for hiking, camping, beach, etc.
  • Silk sheet: these are pricey but great to have when one doesn’t trust the hotel sheets
  • Headlamp: a must for hiking and camping
  • Water treatment drops: not sure if these taste good or if necessary yet
  • Ultrathon Bug Repellant
  • TSA lock with chain: the BIGGEST waste of money as I had to throw mine out about 1 hour into the trip because it broke.  I ran around Houston airport for approximately 3 miles (according to my fitbit) looking for a TSA agent to help me open it and nada!  I recommend getting one with a key rather than combo; the combo ones are a pain in the butt.
  • Water Bottle: meh, so far I have been buying water, but maybe this will come in handy when hiking long distances down the line (if it makes it that far).
  • Ear Plugs: another must have as the hotels are loud
  • Eye Mask: great to have as most rooms have barely any curtains
  • Inflatable Travel Pillow: this is by far THE BEST purchase.  The design of this pillow is seriously amazing (one side bigger than the other and so your head just kind of falls onto the bigger side).  Also, it blows up within 2 seconds and you can release air with a touch of a button.  Disclaimer: these are not drool proof.
  • Zip lock bags of all sizes: good to have a few for dirty clothes, wet clothes, electronics, etc.

MEDICINE

This is another topic I battled as I did not want to carry a pharmacy with me, but I wanted to make sure that I had all important meds for at least a short amount of time.  Here is what I have:

  • Tylenol/Aleve
  • Bandaids
  • Benadryl
  • Neosporin
  • Nyquil/Dayquil
  • Imodium
  • Cough drops
  • Diamox (altitude sickness)
  • Antibiotics
  • Travelers Diarrhea (the serious prescription stuff)
  • Ambien: I am an anxious flyer, so this is a must for me when I fly long distances
  • Diflucan (yeast infection meds) and Econazole (same but cream form):  TMI, I know, but when hiking for 4 days and camping and not showering, you do NOT want the possibility of being miserable
  • Malaria pills: just in case!

Can you believe all of the above fit into my cute little bag?  I KNOW, I am impressed too! 🙂  I would love to hear what others tend to pack and what you suggest I throw out immediately.

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The final product (the gorgeous socks sold separately)

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  • Masha

    Love love love! And how would you know that cotton yoga pants would be a mistake until you tried it out! It’s all part of the experience!

  • Sabrina

    I’m in awe you got everything in that bag!!!

    • thanks, Rosie! Me too!

    • Larry d

      Can we get “mock” Sabrina packing list for comparison?

      • Alina

        hehe 🙂

  • Kylita

    Awesome! I trekked for two weeks with a huge pack.. you look sooo much more comfy. And I think I have the same boots.. truly ugly.. but if you are gonna hike around.. not a bad thing to have.. can’t wait to see the pics..

    • Thanks for understanding, Kylita 🙂 I knew you would know my shoe battles!

  • Nazgol

    I am still in awe with you guys! Way to go for it. And sorry about the blisters 🙁

  • Carol

    This is going to be awesome. I backpack for a month at a time and bring way more, never need 3/4 of the stuff. You’re brilliant to take only the “essentials.” So impressed that you got everything in. Go, Alina! One of my favorite things to bring when I travel and ALWAYS end up needing are acne pads. Not for acne but to clean my face when on the go. If you’re going to be hoofing, plane, train, bus, boat, and automobiling it your face will get grimy quickly. No worse feeling. Since the acne pads are textured, it gets in deep, you instantly feel refreshed after using one. Looking forward to following your posts.

    • Thanks for the tip, Carol! I will check out what Lima has to offer when it comes to acne pads. Love to hear that you backpacked month at a time (would love to hear where to). Thanks for following 🙂

  • Gene

    So what did Kieran pack? 2 pairs of socks and 3 pairs of tighty-whities? :p

  • Wigi

    Looks great Alina! Curious – y r yoga pants a bad idea?

    • Hi! Generally, this is not a bad idea. The ones that I brought are made of very heavy cotton material which means they won’t dry quickly and will get stinky much faster.

  • Paulie

    Great & fun article, hope you’re both doing well say hi to my irish brother there, looking forward to the next one