Packing List

Next to the flooding in of questions about how I funded my year abroad, I have had many women (and a few men) reach out to me asking how I knew what to pack for a year abroad.  “How could you possibly plan for a full year with just a backpack?  Didn’t you feel like you’d forget or miss something?  What about the weight on your back?  

The simple (and very honest) answer to these questions: I did NOT plan very well.  In fact, let’s just go over both what to do, and what not to do.

First things first…

The packing list for women

  • The Backpack (or as I call mine: Big Red Mother Fu*%er) 
    • I am torn on this one. I purchased mine at REI for $320, which I do not necessarily recommend.  Depending on where you are going and for how long, you may actually want to bring a suitcase.  For example, in Europe many travelers carry suitcases as it’s fairly easy to get around; versus Asia where you will be getting on and off Tuk Tuk taxis and will need to be quick and mobile with a backpack.  In addition, it is much cheaper to buy a backpack abroad instead of home in the states.  I have seen them in Spain and Portugal for no more than $150 (less than half what I paid in the states!)  If it’s possible for you to bring an old suit case you are ready to get rid of and switch over to a backpack while in Europe, that’s what I would do if I were to do this over.  Save money, get rid of something old and battered…double win.  
  • Packing Cubes!  
    • These are a life saver and were recommended to me by another solo female traveler.  They keep you organized and sane.  These ones are from REI and cost about $20 each.  
  • Socks, Shoes, Undies
    • 5 pairs of socks
    • 8-10 paris of undies
    • One pair of running/hiking/walking shoes (I brought my Nikes)
    • One pair of sandals
    • One pair of flats/nicer sandals for going out
    • ZERO high heels- Yep you heard me.  They weigh too much and are unnecessary.
  • Electronics
    • Phone charger (x2 because you may lose one- like me!)
    • Converter/Adapter
      • I recommend getting one that can convert in all countries.  The best ones I have seen on other backpackers came from Amazon or an outlet store anywhere in Europe.  I originally got one from Target for $35 (which I do not recommend) and it broke.  Then I bought a replacement in the Netherlands for 10 euro. Moral of the story here?  Wait until you are abroad to buy this.   
    • Phone/Camera
    • Computer (Depending on what you do- I need mine because I write)
  • Clothing
    • Don’t overdo it like me.  Trust me you won’t wear half of what you bring if you do.
    • A good rule: First pack what you think you’ll need then cut that in half.  Then cut that by a third and THAT is probably what you will actually need.
  • Toiletries/cosmetics
    •  This depends on you.  I am a cosmo girl.  I worked for years in the industry and have loads of product which did not make it in the backpack.  I brought what I considered “the basics,” but this is what I actually have needed (the rest I have thrown out or given away).  FullSizeRender
      • Moisturizer with SPF
      • Eye Cream
      • Facial/Body Wash
      • 2 Razors
      • Toothbrush and toothpaste
      • Mascara
      • Eye liner (waterproof)
      • Bronzer/Blush
      • Lip Liner (Waterproof)
      • Lip balm
  • Miscellaneous  
    • First aid items   
    • Sleep aid (if you’re like me and need that)
    • Sleep mask and headphones (this will get you through sleeping in dorm rooms).

In addition to the above list, perhaps the most important thing you pack is your courage.  Adopt the attitude “I can get through anything!” and you really will be able to- regardless of what you prepared for (or didn’t) through your tedious packing process.  One of the biggest shockers for me has been the realization that I really don’t need much to get by or to be happy- and this is coming from a former product-designer-shoe junky.  

Trust me, If I can do this, anyone can.