I travel to most places with two bags: A small sling bag for my travel essentials, and a backpack for the rest of my barang. And while I try to pack light most of the time, here are the few things I can’t go without.

Water bottle

I’m a camel. I drink lots of water, and I always need to have some with me. If the airport has a water cooler, I fill up before flights once I’ve cleared security. It’s extra important to stay hydrated while flying because Airplane air is so dry, and I don’t want to pay for overpriced water on budget flights.

Hostels and some long-distance trains may also have a water dispenser so I can fill up my bottle, saving money (and the earth) by not buying disposable bottles.

Travel journal

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection,” said French novelist Anaïs Nin.

It is for this reason that I write as I move. I started keeping a travel journal in 2012, on my first solo trip abroad to Yogyakarta. In lieu of a travel companion to share my thoughts with, I put them down on the page instead.

Since then writing has helped me make sense of the things I’m seeing. When travel forces me to move faster than I’d like, when there are too few days to see a city and too many attractions to absorb in a day, I steal a couple of hours from sightseeing to stop and write.

Sometimes reflections flow easily in prose; other times my journal is a collection of haphazard paragraphs when I am struggling to make sense of a place. These days, since I started travel writing, my journal is often the first draft of my articles or blogposts, a rough cut of memory.


Travel inevitably involves downtime. Books are for layovers, journeys, quiet nights where I’d rather stay in my hostel bed than socialise at the lobby or rooftop bar. They are an escape within an escape, a alternative universe to retreat into.

Recently I have been reading this series called The Best Women’s Travel Writing, now into its tenth edition. The adventures of these women both inspire and intimidate me. Will I ever hike through Indonesia’s forests and fight through the sting of a Portugese man o war jellyfish as Simone Gorrindo did in An Unwanted Guest, or disappear for weeks at a time like Rachel Friedman in South America‘s Bolivia and Argentina and Chile?

So I read, and I keep writing, hoping that one day I’ll be just as savvy and accomplished and well traveled as these authors.


Also known as: Skirt, beach towel, blanket, headscarf. This tie-dyed rainbow piece of cloth has shrouded my bare legs in temple complexes across Asia, kept me warm on budget flights where blankets are not standard issue, and protected me from the rain when I didn’t have an umbrella.


They hide my eye bags and allow me to skip the eyeliner, allow me to people-watch surreptitiously in a foreign land, and protect my eyes from flying bits of sand on tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis and pretty much any other kind of open-topped vehicle. Also: They always make me look better in photos.

Singapore passport

The Singapore passport was ranks fourth in the world, according to the 2015 Passport Index. This allows us to visit 143 countries visa free, including North Korea, China and the United States. Singapore and Malaysia are the only two countries in the world to not need a visa for the hermit kingdom, which I am most excited about.

And because Singaporeans love ranking and competition: Fourth place puts us on par with five other countries including Japan, Denmark, and Finland. Countries ahead of Singapore include Italy, South Korea and Sweden, while our overachieving island nation ranks ahead of Switzerland, Canada and Norway.

The United States and United Kingdom passports tie for top spot, and both allow visits to 147 countries visa free.

What are some of your travel essentials?

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