Top 10 Things You Need to Take Abroad

small globe sitting on a table outside

When you’re packing to go abroad, it can be tough deciding what to take. To help you out, here’s my top ten things to take abroad, whether you’re leaving for 4 days or 4 months!

1. Power Adapter

This first one seems extremely intuitive, but when you’ve spent all of or most of your life not having to worry about using an adapter, this may slip your mind in the excitement of packing. Most of Europe uses the same two-pronged outlet, but a small amount of places, like England, use a different one. Just do your research and you should be fine! You can find adapters, both here in the US and while abroad, in most electronics stores and even some hardware stores. If whatever device you are planning to use is not dual-voltage, you may need a converter rather than an adapter, but most modern technology is dual voltage.

2. Good Shoes/Boots

I can’t stress how important a good, sturdy pair of shoes, or even better, boots, is to have while traveling. When I went to Iceland this past spring, I only took my eight-year-old boots.  On the second day of the trip,  I ripped the sole of my left boot wide open. I borrowed my friend’s spare pair, and then promptly fell into the ocean and got those drenched. It was freezing outside and wet boots wouldn’t cut it, so I then had no choice but to go to a local outdoor shop and buy a new pair of hiking shoes. I would have preferred boots, but they were far too expensive (everything is expensive in Iceland), so I ended up spending way too much money on a new pair of hiking shoes. Moral of the story is: don’t make the same mistakes I made. There are few things we take for granted more than dry, comfortable, protected feet when we’re on the move.

3. A Journal

People keep journals for a lot of reasons. Some record what happened to them each day, while others write short stories or poems. Personally, I kept a journal to record different film ideas that came about when inspiration struck on the road. Regardless of the exact uses of your journal, you can be sure that you will encounter things while traveling that affect you in very new and foreign ways, and you will want to express these feelings somehow. Keeping a journal is an easy, quick way to do this.

4. A Camera

This is another one that seems obvious, but a camera is so important to have while abroad. And the great news is, with how great phone cameras are today, I really could have just said to take your phone. As a filmmaker, I generally carried three or four types of cameras with me at any given time, but regardless of what exactly you use, make sure you have something to snap a picture when you just don’t want to forget that sunset over Morocco, or that Roma vs. Barcelona football match.

5. One Rugged, Unfailing, Go-To Outfit

Odds are that while you’re abroad, you’ll be using a lot of budget airlines. They’re great options when you’re a wandering college student, but remember: their baggage fees are what hit you where it hurts. Because of this, you won’t want to pack too much so you can avoid checking a bag. On every trip I went on, I would pack an extra outfit or two, but I would get on the plane wearing my go-to traveling outfit to save space. Usually, unless I knew it would be warm where I was going, this outfit consisted of my running shoes, one of three favorite pairs of pants with a few sets of pockets, a t-shirt, a hoodie, and a sturdy and waterproof jacket with lots of pockets. You can see what works for you, but my best advice is to always have a lot of pockets (you’ll be carrying a lot of things that you need readily accessible - your boarding pass, phone, wallet, headphones, charger, passport, sunglasses, etc.) and layers. It is always easier to remove a layer when you’re warm than it is to materialize one that you didn’t bring when you’re cold.

6. A Hat

This is a fairly simple explanation. First of all, hats keep your head warm, and second of all, depending on your style of traveling and how frugal you are, you might not always have showers. (I showered once in seven days in Iceland. Judge me all you want.) Not having showers means not washing your hair, and not washing your hair means your hair gets messy, and your hair getting messy which means you’ll want a hat. Hats are also great for pulling down over your eyes when you want to sleep on planes or buses or in the grass in front of Buckingham Palace because you’re so tired you can barely walk (not that I ever did this). Plus, if you’re like me, you’ll let your hair grow out the whole time you’re abroad and need some way to keep it in check. Hats remain undefeated.

7. Portable Charger

Nobody likes it when their phone dies. Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to unplug, especially when you’re traveling, but it’s always good to have a phone in case you need a map on the go, or to make an emergency call, or even just to play music. At any rate, you might not always be able to find an outlet, so having a portable charger with a few charges on it is a great safety net.

8. A Good Backpack

This one is crucial. Take it from someone who basically lived out his backpack for four months: you absolutely have to have a good backpack. I had to replace my old one while I was living in Rome and the one I have now is amazing. I would recommend getting one with loads of storage space, hidden pockets to put your money and passport in, that is also waterproof, because you never know when the rain is going to come. I used mine for books during the week, and traveling during the weekends, and it took every new situation I threw at it like a champ. Even as I write this, it is sitting to my right, looking just as sturdy as the day I bought it, albeit a little bit dirtier.

9. A Water Bottle

It’s always good to have water with you, and buying disposable water bottles over and over again gets expensive (not to mention it’s horrible for the environment). Water is much more expensive in a lot of other countries than it is here in the US, and trust me, you will get tired of paying for it. Of course, in some places, you have to buy bottled water because the tap water isn’t safe to drink, but whenever you can, it is super convenient to just fill up your own bottle from a tap and be on your way.

10. An Open Mind

There are a million material things that I could recommend you take abroad, but the most important thing is completely intangible: an open mind. Having an open mind is so important while traveling. You will meet people from all walks of life, from all over the globe, and more often than not they will see or do things differently than you. They will have different opinions, customs, faiths, and beliefs than you do, and that’s okay. Actually, it’s better than okay; it’s really, really cool. As long as you take in all these new ideas with an open mind, and you respect others and what they believe, you will ultimately grow as a person. I am a completely different person than I was when I boarded my flight for Italy in January, and it is for the better. I will openly admit, it can be hard to be open to new ways of doing things when you’ve done those things differently for your entire life, but once you learn to get past that, you will connect with other people in ways you never expected. And the people are what make traveling worth it. In the 16 countries I’ve been to, I’ve seen a lot of beautiful places and done a lot of pretty amazing things. I went skydiving over the Swiss Alps, I rode camels in Morocco, and I went cliff diving in Positano, but none of that even comes close to comparing to how much I value all the people I met while abroad. The people are what make traveling so special, and you will never truly get to know them if you don’t approach every situation with an open mind.