Packing Essentials – Things You Should Never Leave Home Without

I am a great advocate of packing light and making do with bare necessities because let’s face it, if you wanted to travel to another country to experience all the things you love at home (re: McDonalds), then you might as well stay home. To be fair, I make it a point to try the local KFC meal just because. This is what it looks like in Bangkok.

KFC Thailand
(Expert’s note: When they say spicy, they really, really, really MEAN IT!)

Jokes aside (but seriously, the word ‘Spicy’ in a meal is a warning, not a description!), there are somethings that you should carry with you no matter how large or small your luggage space is. It has helped turn travels into journeys into unforgettable adventures and the best part of it all is that they are ABSOLUTELY FREE!

In no particular order, I give you my packing essential list.

Packing Essential #1 – An Open Mind

Bucket Cocktails

Shady Bars

Right alongside your handy travel adapter (even though being phoneless can have great perks!), bring an open mind. There will be times when you are called on to drink cocktails from shady bars in buckets, there will be times you will have to drive on the other side of the road, times when out of sheer hunger you will say yes to the man selling roasted scorpions. These make great icebreakers when you’re on your next adventure but mostly you will remember having the time of your life!

Packing Essential #2 – Patience


If you don’t have an annoying sibling, find an annoying friend or go stand in the queue at Nilgiris (a supermarket that just can’t bill your products without also making you wait for 500 hours) in India. It will help you develop this great thing called Patience which is also free but you won’t believe the things it will help teach you. That delayed sky-train ride, those long hours being lost in translation, those cancelled flights, those times a terminal becomes your second home – these are things that help you live a realistic day-to-day life in a foreign country. It could lead you to holidays you never planned for – like an island trip to Zanzibar or breath-taking views because walking through dangerous hills was your only chance out. When you aren’t trying to follow in Bill Murray’s footsteps, life happens to you.

Packing Essential #3 – Greetings 101

I have always been the kind who doesn’t read much about the place or its culture till I am actually smack in the middle of living it. It is not always a good idea. There’s always a chance that somebody speaks English and will help you out, but it could just as easily go the other way. If you are like me, just observe the words that are being said in greetings. Saying hello is a big deal in all cultures and even if you speak no more than the word for ‘whats up?’, you will find your journey that much more easy because of it. It gives off the impression that you are trying (which, of course you are) and it helps you make friends with the locals which can lead to even more moments you won’t soon forget. Find a way to bond and if you can get them to smile (or laugh) back at you, you are set!

Packing Essential #4 – Manners

Tanzanian Kids

While not all rituals seem logical to you, when in a foreign country, it is good to practice your manners. They do things different two streets down from where my parents stay and yet, when I’m in their neighbourhood, I respect their way. As a guest, it is your duty to be mindful of what goes and what doesn’t. Keep your eyes open and read body language where you can. Take your shoes off where you need to, cover up where it is expected, and stand up for the anthem even if it is in the cinema. At the end of the day, good manners will take you where your money won’t go.

Packing Essential #5 – Curiosity


This great characteristic to develop is deadly to cats, or so I hear, but great for us humans. Wanting to know what that particular shrine is, or what is down that colourful street is a great way to discover things that aren’t on a Lonely Planet Guide or on Trip Advisor. Yes, you can see and do and all touristy things that your heart desire, but there is something appealing about finding a canal and pointing and ordering the greatest dish you have ever tasted. Forget the taxi and get on that rickety boat. You never know what treasure you will find on the other side!


Guest Blog – Christmas Love, Right!

The lovely Wilhelmina Upton (you should ask her why she calls herself that) from Lazy Happy Bored Happy Sad has been amazingly nice about writing for me for the holiday. You may know her from my rants in the previous post. Since I don’t have the luxury of travelling right now, I often let my mind wander, especially during big holidays, to places I haven’t yet been. I wonder about culture and traditions and which one I can adopt for the year. This is Willie’s story of what usually happens in her neck of the woods. 

I think I’ve’ve never even believed in Santa. Not really. Not even as a little kid. The thing is, growing up in Germany, Christmas gets confusing, or so I think, at least. First there is Nikolaustag on December 6th. He traditionally brings small presents to children. When I was growing up, it was mostly Christmas cookies, nuts and oranges or clementines. These days people give real presents because everything needs to be bigger and more all the time, always.

Then comes the actual Christmas. Depending on your family’s tradition and partly where you live in Germany, you either get your presents on the eve of the 24th – as in my family –  or the morning of the 25th. If this is not confusing enough, just give me a second. Santa isn’t the one bringing your presents! Again, depending on your family’s tradition, the so-called Christkind (child of Christ) brings presents instead of Santa. So what was I supposed to believe in? At grandma’s the Christkind brought presents, at home it was Santa. With these confusing alternatives Mini!Me knew there wasn’t some magical, mythical creature bringing my presents.

While it is nice to get gifts, I’m terrible at writing wish lists because the things I want most in life are not material. This doesn’t mean I don’t want more books, a new lens for my camera, a new camera and so on, only that these things do not really count. They may fill a void inside me for a hot second, maybe two if I’m lucky but having things and stuff doesn’t equal being loved and seeing love reflected in the world. Some people may confuse it with the joy of material things at first but it really is not the same.

Snow in Seigen
View of snow from my balcony

Maybe I am the odd one out though because I crave love like a black hole craves matter. Does this even make sense? Let me try to explain. I can be the loneliest person when I’m surrounded by an abundance of other people because they are usually not the right people. Not for me. It’s as if I don’t belong anywhere specific. I am either too shy or too forthcoming and direct; never part enough of the socio-economic construct I find myself in. Not German enough at times but nothing else as well. Most days my head doesn’t even think in the language it lives in. When it snows, my head speaks Swedish, most other times it’s English while I live in rural Germany. I either feel dumb or too intelligent for the people I’m with. I’m never anywhere really except on the internet. Which in return is a made up place. It’s beautiful but not completely real.

As a teenager there was nothing I hated more than seeing consumerism around Christmas. Well maybe my father but that’s a whole other story. You couldn’t go to the mall because EVERYONE was there starting late November. The escalators were full of people, trying to find the one right gift for their loved ones. While I do get that gift giving is a way of expressing your love or appreciation of a certain person, it never sat completely right with me. It still does not. When my uncle asks me what I want for Christmas, I get dumbfounded every year; wishing he would stop asking, mostly because I’m an adult and he doesn’t have to give me anything anymore. I name a book, or a cheap DVD box set of some series I watch just to make him shut up. Of course I am by far immune to the joy of unwrapping gifts or even giving them. I do it, but I feel like we sometimes forget the scope of it all, wanting more and more. Personally, I like to give cookies or other home baked goods as gifts because they were made with love and care and in my opinion say a lot more than some generic thing I bought on Amazon. (Don’t hate me Amazon, you’re still my favourite of all the online shops, k?!)

Christmas Tree at Willie's
Christmas Tree at our house from a few years ago


What do I really want for Christmas, you might ask. – Seeing my Grandma happy and without pain. Knowing my friends are happy, safe and with loved ones. I want racism, misogyny, genocide, homicide and violence in general to end. I want us all to get along and talk things out instead of trying to bomb each other senseless. I want someone to hold my hand while singing Christmas carols. I want to love and be loved back. Instead I will spend the evening of the 24th watching my two younger cousins unwrap their many presents only to see them disappointed because it’s not what they wanted, or not as much or some other stupid thing.

Happy Holidays!

PS: I hope I didn’t ruin all your Christmas feels with this post. I swear, I’m usually no grinch.

Thank you SO much for writing for me. For all of you, Merry Christmas. Let go and have fun. And if you’re wondering where in the world Santa is this year, you can return the favour by watching him as he sleeps!

Happy Holidays! 

Bob’s my uncle

I grew up in a household that had guests from around the world come in and come out. My parents worked as consultants to the German Government’s development projects in India. So when we had their colleagues come in, my frantic mum who was always elbow deep in making the house look welcoming would set up a chant for days.

“The Germans are coming! The Germans are coming!”

She didn’t realise what she was saying and why we were laughing till the next time we had German visitors, I set off the sirens, the dogs and the kids with jolly chants of “The Germans are coming” We still tease my mum about it and brings to mind the curious thing called – Stereotype.

This morning I learnt that my cousins from Australia are visiting. I know this because my broseph greeted me with a ‘G’day Mate! Fancy a cuppa Fosters?’. I had to tell him that Aussies don’t drink Fosters in much the same way Elephants don’t roam the streets of Bangalore but he said he didn’t want to get into a ‘barney’

What is the world was a barney?

He then went on to talk about Duck’s Dinners and investing in Eskies and how Bob’s my uncle. Then he went on to talk like Matt Preston with his dollops of cream and breaking down the chook before vac packing it.

wut (1)

The only Australian slang I know, I picked up from travelling in Tanzania and the UK with my Banana Bender friend. My cousins are from Sydney so I’m not sure the same slang applies. Anyway, I digress. I think the point I wanted to make was that as much as we hate being stereotyped, there’s something hilarious about picking up and using slang. The last time they visited us, I told the littlest one that she had a funny accent. She went on to say “YOU have an accent. You sound like Apu”

Fair enough.

This time I want to be prepared. I have those “I love you” koala’s I’m going to stick on my sleeve. I’ve already practiced my sports chants and I’m going to congratulate them on their marvellous victory in the Ashes. All that’s left is to pick up the slang which, in my opinion, should be a skill you put on your resume. Wish me luck!


Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi