I’ve travelled a lot. For school, for work, briefly for a relationship, and sometimes for pleasure. And some of those occurred during awful, and physically difficult times.
This foot happened 2-weeks into my 8-week trip across Europe; first four weeks backpacking alone, and then four weeks with my family in Poland. I got the aircast in Poland, and the two weeks before that air-cast were the most painful, challenging, and difficult weeks of my life (because of more than just the foot). I call it my Euro-Trip from Hell for a reason.
But there were some things that I found invaluable while I was over there, and I have used / continue to use.
Good Running / Walking Shoes
Alas, I should’ve brought my hiking boots, and I wouldn’t have fucked my foot so bad. But my walking shoes were fantastic. The first two weeks I was walking everywhere, every day. Sturdy walking shoes are going to last you a lot longer and be much kinder to your feet than your fancy flip-flops. Shoes can be raggedly, got they gotta be rich in support, when you’re doing this much walking. And they do have quality shoes that aren’t raggedly! Just make sure you get the right kind.
I got these from Amazon, and I love them. I used the large one the entire time I was in Europe, and it dried over night with no trouble. It felt a little funny at first, but I did eventually get used to it. And it takes off the water pretty well – it has nothing on my giant fluffy towel, but it’s decent! If you’re looking to save on space, and not spend money renting towels ever other hostel you go to, these are your best bet. But if you’re staying in hotels, you might not even need one! Though they’re so small you’ll barely notice it, and it’ll be there when you need it.
Bottled water is expensive. There are places where you can’t really get away from it, like when the hotel tells you the drinking water’s unsafe, but most of the time, tap-water’s going to be just fine. I had a nice 1L Nalgene one that I could fill with warm-hot water and use as a hot water bottle… which is what I was doing when I forgot it, on the train from Rotterdam to Amsterdam, when my sinus infection was first rearing its ugly head. I reused a 750ml plastic water bottle after that, which was almost nicer, since it wasn’t as big (especially because my walking and need for much hydration ground to a halt, four days after that).
I’m including travel-size containers in this. A toiletry kit might seem like an obvious choice, but it’s an essential for me. I have one that’s admittedly a little too small for me – I did end up using it in Europe due to a bunch of small travel-size containers, and my short hair, but I find that I can only use it to hold a few things when I’m car-traveling for work.
I took a sturdy, 75L hiking backpack I got from my bro and sisil for Christmas, on my Euro-Trip to Hell. I take raggedly suitcases when I travel with my car, and sometimes I can get away with my amazing expendable 40L day-hiking bag, when I’m staying somewhere for just a few days. You don’t want a piece of shit that’s barely holding all your belongings together. You want something you can trust not to fall apart, and something that’s sturdy enough to handle the innards of an airport. Shop around, find some great deals, and if it’s an ugly colour, maybe they’ll discount it for you!
Money Belt / Pouch
I use a money belt, this one here; my parents use a money pouch, that hangs around the neck. I like the belt because I can hide it under my pants and no one sees it. I can also stick it and sleep with it under my pillow, for added security during the night. I kept my drivers license, a VISA, and 20-40 dollars worth of local currency in my front pocket (for ease of access, and to keep from giving away my money belt), and while that got stolen in Rome (I chased that fucker down, with my crutches), my money belt never felt not-secure.
Maps, Copies of Documents, Paperwork
Pre-downloading Google Maps and plotting out my transit in advance was one of the most helpful things I did. I used the bus function to figure out all the routes, and saved screenshots of each part of the journey in case I got lost. The GPS still works on your phone even if you don’t have a carrier, so you can look up where you are on Google Maps without any signal, if you’ve pre-downloaded the map. It won’t tell you where you’re supposed to go though, so by saving screen shots you can compare where you are and where you’re supposed to be.
I had photocopies of my passport, VISA, and DL at home with my parents in case they got lost, and carried the copies digitally on a micro SD card, which… was in my money belt? Maybe? Or it was on a USB in my belt? I also had copies of all my train tickets and reservations, printed out, and stored digitally. Border officials are mostly concerned about whether or not you have a plan to get home, in my experience, as a Canadian, though that may be changing…
I also had my emergency contact information written down, and my travellers insurance in my easy-access pocket. If I got hit by a train in Germany, instead of falling down the stairs, I hope the paramedics would go through my pockets and be able to contact my family in Canada.
An Item From Home
If you’re a sentimental like me, don’t underestimate the comfort that something familiar and cozy can bring you. It might be a blanket, or a sweater, or a pair of socks – or in my case it was my stuffy, my nameless pup who I’ve had for 10+ years now. From acting like a blindfold, to being a neck pillow, to acting as lumbar support, to being able to snuggle into him while I recovered from panic attacks and shoved gummy bears into my mouth after asking strangers to stab me with needles, this little guy was a piece of home that reminded me there was love in this world, and that inexplicable fear and desperation clawing my soul down into a dark pit of despair and making it hard to breathe, wasn’t the norm.
Mr. Raggedly has been my companion every night, other than the occasional sleep-over at a friends house post-party. Sometimes I don’t actually snuggle with him, but he’s always there. Mr. Raggedly is the epitome of my raggedly rich ethos. When I got him, he was two or three times the size he is now – but those years and that squish are what makes him so important to me, and I imagine he’ll accompany me for many years to come.