I like to go on picnics. A lot.
They’re sort of a religion in England, where I lived for two years. On sunny days, my heart desired nothing more than to spread out a picnic blanket, feast until my belly was content and laze around with a book in the (probably very fleeting) sunshine.
Not to mention the practicalities of the item when involved in outdoor cinema, where you end up spending more time battling the elements, rather than enjoying the film at hand.
Yet despite all the picnicking I did actually end up doing – I could never quite convince myself to invest in a picnic blanket. I wasn’t sure of how long I was going to be living in London (although I knew it probably wouldn’t be forever). It was another thing I’d have to ship back to Australia – and I already had one somewhere at home, in any case.
So, I sacrificed my wants, desires and often having a dry bottom whenever I sat upon dewy grass, lest I be saddled down with yet another item I probably wouldn’t end up needing.
I’ve asked a bunch of other travellers and expats what they wished they could take with them whilst travelling or living abroad, simply out of curiosity. The answers are varied – some funny, some emotional. All items however share one thing in common – they are sadly impractical for the lifestyle we’ve all chosen to lead.
An espresso machine, for dealing with early morning wakeups with the kids
“Coffee. I will let you in on a little secret – I am addicted.
Drinking coffee was a habit before the kids arrived but now with 2 young kids and a 3 year old that doesn’t sleep, it has become a full blown addiction. Now I will also admit I am a coffee snob, no instant rubbish for me! When we travel to Bali with our kids each year I have the dilemma, how can I fit my coffee machine into our luggage for those 5am wakeups with our darling son? Airlines usually allow prams, portacots and car seats on for free but guess what, there’s nothing to keep Mum’s and Dad’s going as the kids don’t care for a sleep in even on holidays.
Can you imagine my excitement when we stayed at a villa in Seminyak with a coffee machine! It may or may not have swayed my decision to book that villa. But for the times we stay at hotels without a coffee machine, I am constantly on the search for good coffee places that are open at 6am but I’m yet to find them! So the mornings are long until I sneak out to find that elusive, delicious cup of caffeine goodness. But hey we are in Bali, the cocktails by the pool make up for the lack of early morning caffeine.”
A massage chair, perfect for after a long day’s adventuring
“I chronically suffer from tight muscles in my back which can make it difficult or impossible to sleep, and in my shoulders which can tighten my neck and lead to mind-crushing headaches. The best present my husband ever surprised me with was a massage chair. It’s probably the single best non-living addition to my life, and if only I had a shrink ray and a companion re-size ray, I would take my massage chair with me travelling! After a long day walking, hiking, or standing in museums when my back is sore, or my shoulders are a mess trying to sit and sleep awkwardly on international flights, or even after a long day photographing with my really heavy portrait lens, it would be heaven.
One place I would have found it particularly divine would have been on our recent Antarctic expedition cruise after a day of kayaking and using that lens to photograph penguins. It would have been a snug squeeze into our cabin on the ship, but oh, how I would have appreciated it!”
– Shara of SKJ Travel.
A piano, the centre piece of my younger years
“Finding nice and affordable accommodation in India, especially in the big cities, is a great challenge.
After the weeks of searching, here I am – standing in my furnished apartment with all the amenities, an excess of the daylight, close to the metro station, reasonable price, a great neighbourhood – everything one might want while living abroad. There were just two important components missing – my family and my piano.
The piano has been an important part of my life since early childhood. Somehow, my piano was always around while I was growing up. It tolerated my lack of skills and impatience during the first years, it has a lighter colour of wood under the keyboard since I was holding my thumbs there when I was upset with my failures, it remembers my fall when I accidentally slipped on the floor and left a light scratch on the cover, it helped me earn my first pocket money in the high school when I got a student willing to learn some basics.
Many people advised me to buy a keyboard in Delhi since I was planning to stay there long-term. Though it was a reasonable advice, yet the keyboard doesn’t replace the sound, feel and touch of the piano and moreover, the whole story and relationship with my piano that is always waiting for me to come back.”
– Natalia, My Trip HackWhat do you miss the most while travelling or living abroad? Click To Tweet
My piles and piles of books
“I’m a book hoarder. I love going to new and old bookstores to find new books — and I rarely get rid of them. When I found out that I was moving to the Netherlands, I wondered if it was possible to bring my large collection of novels with me. After finding out the cost of transatlantic postage… by the pound, I realized that it was probably a poor idea.
I ended up selecting a handful of books that I treasured to bring with me. It turns out that I’ve just managed to accrue more books from used markets, however with the high cost of English-language literature, I’ve been sorely missing my novel collections. However, as someone living in a studio apartment with another person and a cat, I realise that it’s probably for the best that I didn’t bring my boxes of books with me as my husband also faced the same dilemma.
It can take some time to stop being so sentimental about things, but having room for new books that I’ve purchased here around the Netherlands has made my new home feel like a proper home.”
My goofy dog
“The impractical thing I wish I could find a way to travel with is my dog, Artoo. He’s a fluffy ball of energy who thinks I’m the centre of the universe (and he’s super cute, if I do say so myself), so he’s sorely missed when I’m on the road. At 20kgs (45 lbs), he’s too big to fly as a carry-on, and with his excessive shedding and severe separation anxiety, even pet-friendly hotels are a no-go. Taking him anywhere significant is completely out of the question, so unless I’m camping locally, he gets left behind with my parents or boyfriend whenever I skip town.”
“Like most dogs, he loves going for long walks to explore the great outdoors. I miss him the most when I’m out hiking and enjoying beautiful scenery because I know how much fun he’d be having running around and sniffing all of the new smells. In a perfect world, I’d be able to take him everywhere with me, but until then, I’ll have to settle for filling my phone with pictures of his goofy face.”
My paint set, for when travel inspires me
“I want to be honest. I really tend to pack for even the faintest possibilities. Boarding a plane with just my carry-on might just be my greatest nightmare. But on my first visit to Machu Picchu even I couldn’t convince me to bring along paints and easel. I could well imagine how the authorities would have laughed seeing me walking through the gates with that cumbersome thing on my back. Yet, sitting there at the top of the famous Inca ruins, my every being screamed: “paint it”. Everything was just so unbelievably picture perfect.
But you know what? In a way, I’m glad I didn’t bring it. There are so many pictures of Machu Picchu floating around the world that I really didn’t have to add one more. Instead, I used all my time there to breath in the stunning vistas and brought back memories to last a lifetime. That painting really was and is not needed. And if I still feel like painting it one day – well, I’ll just draw it from memory!”
– Follow Norman’s adventures on Twitter
My target, for when I fancy a game of disc golf on the beach
“Back home in sunny Florida, my all-time most favourite hobby (aside from beach lounging, of course!) is playing a round of disc golf. I already know what you’re thinking; there is literally a form of golf played with frisbees?! The answer is simply yes, and it is just as awesome as it sounds. Most courses are either 9 or 18 “holes” and the same rules apply as golf: the fewest amount of throws to each target wins the game. The discs used are much smaller and heavier, though they can be hurled up to 300 meters by some really serious players!”
“From the photo above, you can see what a typical target looks like. I have my own, personal target and love to throw around the yard, moving it from one spot to another, attempting different angles of difficulty. It’s also great to bring to the beach for a seaside game with friends and family. While travelling, I carry 3 of my discs around just in case I stumble across a course abroad, though those discoveries are few and far between. I have come across too many awesome spots in my travels to play (such as this sweet little stretch of secret beach above), though am always stuck without my clunky target. Of all the larger, more obscure possessions nestled back home in Florida, this one is definitely my most missed item of all!”
My beautiful cat, to share the adventure with
“When I packed my Chicago apartment nearly four years ago before jetting off to South Korea, there were quite a few tangible items that I had a hard time parting with. While it was difficult leaving behind my record collection, books, and vintage clothing pieces, the hardest aspect was saying goodbye to my cat, Willow.
My journey was only intended to be for one year max; I fell in love, changed my life completely and realized I wasn’t quite ready to move back to the States. As a result, after extending my contract to stay in South Korea for a second year, I began a search to find a perfect match for her forever home, as nobody in my family was willing or able to take her in. After a stressful few months of uncertainty, the stars aligned and she’s happily set up in the Chicago suburbs with a super kind soul.
Although I miss the little furball each and every day, I’m also beyond grateful for how it turned out. The silver lining in this experience is that it serves as a reminder to myself not to take any major steps or decisions going forward until I know I’ll be able to settle down.”
My kitchenware and all the familiarity it brings with it
“When I travel I miss my kitchen, but especially my favourite cast iron pans, spoons made of coconut shell I once brought from Sri Lanka and my marble pastry board. These things are so familiar I don’t need to look at them, my hands recognize them by touch. I would love to carry around a set of my own plates and cups and use them at every Airbnb house I rent. Sleeping in an unfamiliar bed doesn’t bother me as much as cooking with unfamiliar dishes.
Being a food photographer, beside my regular kitchen ware I also have dishes that I only use for photo shoots. Although having those at hand would make taking beautiful pictures much easier, they are too fragile to travel with me.”
– Yulia is a Russian expat living in Autin, TX. She writes about her adventures on her blog The Foodie Miles and shares her gorgeous photos of the American deep south on Instagram.
A onesie is sadly not practical in thirty degree weather
“I’m not ashamed to admit that I briefly considered packing my heart print onesie on my recent travels. It’s just so cosy that it breaks my heart to leave it behind. It’s a bit absurd to bring fuzzy pyjamas on a trip through Central America where daytime temperatures often exceed 32 degrees Celsius (90°F)… or to dedicate 10% of the space in my carry-on sized backpack to do so.
I tell myself that leaving it behind makes me appreciate it more once I’m home – absence makes the heart grow fonder, etc. etc. – but it’s a hard loss anyway.”
What this room is missing is a decent collection of manga
“There are some things electronics just can’t replace. Even though I have access to an online database of nearly all the manga (Japanese comic books) in existence, I still miss my hard copy editions while travelling.
I devour manga like crazy. In the train, on the bus, at home (and sometimes at work). Whenever I have some free time, I delve into one of my favorite mangas, or try to find a new one. The art work is often amazing, and albeit a bit tacky, story lines can be really entertaining and captivating.
Due to its graphical nature, only original hard copy version of manga really do the art justice. Unfortunately, travelling with the more than 100 tankōbon (volumes) of the different manga I have is not practical.
Normally, travelling is so rewarding that the idea of not having the originals on me doesn’t really pop up. But there are some places where you just look around and think, this would be even better with a book case full of manga.
One of these times was in Kutaisi, Georgia (the country). The room we stayed in was full of character, and overlooked a charming church and a flowing river. There was even a book case. Unfortunately, my manga were nowhere to be found.”
The delicious and fresh food from my home country
“After having lived in Dubai and Singapore for the last 11 years what I miss the most and without a doubt is the taste of fresh food from Spain. Food items in Dubai and Singapore are all imported frozen so when they reach the shelves they are tasteless and hard. Take a nectarine, here in Singapore they are hard as a rock, have no flavour and no juice. Seafood is also frozen, so it can never be the same as the freshly caught one from the town 10km down the road from where I grew up in Spain.
Now that I have just returned from Spain, I have actually brought some tomatoes with me. Impractical and crazy, I know, but one cannot make Catalan bread with tomatoes with the ones here, it is pure sacrilege. I obviously also brought the ham for the sandwich.”
– Follow Mar’s adventures via Facebook.
Weights probably aren’t convenient for even checked baggage
“One thing that I sorely miss while travelling is my weight set. At home, having my weights by my bed reminds me to work out every day and unlike endless cardio, weights are something I enjoy… but weighing at least 20 kilos, they would take up the entirety of my baggage allowance so are probably the least practical thing I could take travelling!
I’ve found a few ways to overcome my lack of weights while travelling. I look for cheap gym deals when possible and raid their free weights, I use my luggage as a weight set (when my backpack is full and weighs about 18 kilos I try and do a few rows and lifts with it!) or I find random items to use for the same purpose. At the moment I’m driving around Australia and have a 20 litre water tank that makes for a great dumbbell!
Exercising on the road can be difficult and isn’t at the forefront of everyone’s mind when they’re travelling. But I know for me, it’s important to keep at it; it’s sometimes the only thing that will clear my head as well as keep me in shape. So I have to do it – weight set or no weight set!”
What do you wish you could take with you overseas?
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