On a European travel adventure with my daughter Fall of 2017, I had plenty of opportunities to consider why I packed what I packed, sent home what I sent home, and chose to add to my suitcase.
Like any self-respecting Pinterest-loving introvert, I initially packed using a combination of checklists that I’d previously pinned to my travel boards. You know the ones. Articles with titles like, “How I Packed Everything I Needed for a Month in Europe in a Tiny Vintage Lunch Box” and “How to Buy the Best So You Can Be the Best on Your Next Trip”. 🙂
Eventually, I asked a few friends for packing tips, watched multiple youtube videos on complex rolling, folding, cube-compressing methods and even shopped last minute for a few irresistible and overpriced official travel products.
Probably not surprisingly to more seasoned travelers, part way through the trip, I outgrew my suitcase and sent some items home. The fancy dress and stylish shoes, the old pearls and antique London monopoly game picked up in an Irish charity shop were replaced by a pair of gray jeans (Sweden), a small micro-fiber blanket (Denmark), and a pair of warm sensible boots (Germany).
And, really, how could anyone resist adding a quirky stuffed hippo travel mascot (Edinburgh) and some Cooper’s Croze Jameson (Dublin airport)?
But there were other things that fell into my personal “I’m SO Glad I Packed These 5 Items” category.
I’ve traveled with essential oils (and often diffusers as well) since my children were babies. On family road trips, we pack the Family Physicians wellness kit including extra spritzer bottles to mix up various sprays. With limited space on this 2-month European World Schooling trip, I had to whittle down my list. Not counting the 10 bottles of 5ml wild orange oils to give away as thank you gifts, I packed 2 roll on oils (one for headache and stress reduction and one for moon cycle support) and 5 full sized (15ml) bottles: lavender, slim & sassy*, deep blue*, peppermint, frankincense, and onguard*. *Over the years, I’ve used various high quality essential oils. I’m currently using doTerra essential oils and these formulas are unique to doTerra.
Daily Use: While I ingest a few oils internally by adding drops into water, I mostly use my oils topically and aromotherapuetically (Is that a real word?!) to reduce stress/anxiety, improve energy, provide moon cycle support/cramp relief, for respiratory support, clear sinuses, sanitize/sterilize, boost the immune system, clear emotions, lift mental fog, curb appetite/balance blood sugar, assist with digestion challenges, provide muscle relief for back, feet, neck and legs, freshen breath, freshen other odors, or simply add to a bath or shower.
The word altar might sound strange in context of a travel list. The idea behind the altar is to intentionally create a familiar spot of beauty and inspiration wherever you go. Live as Art and what not. Whether staying in a 5 star hotel or a 15 bed per room hostel, it’s often comforting to see something familiar and spiritually meaningful while on a longer trip.
If you are like me, you may have been creating altars for years without even realizing it. I simply called my little altar areas “decorating” when home and “nesting” when traveling. Usually the altars would be quite simple, a special rock or shell or a collection of bits of nature on the dresser top or night stand. Many people prop up a little picture of their family or home.
These days, I travel with a mini altar in a travel tin. For my first trip to Ireland and Scotland, I made a tiny tin altar that held a little felt doll representing the Celtic goddess Danu as it was an intentional desire of mine to work with the divine feminine aspects of Ireland/Eeirin. On this second trip, a good friend gifted me a little Bee Priestess altar tin because she knew I’d been doing some bee medicine inner journey work.
As you might expect, there’s no right or wrong mini-altar, and no need to be religious in any way to enjoy the benefits of beauty and intention. I identify most as an Ethical Humanist, so was amused when several weeks into the trip I ended up with a mini-tripic of the Holy mother and child next to the bee priestess and my small collection of bits of nature.
Daily use: Enhances focus for prayer or intention setting. Reminds us to be grateful and grounded no matter our physical location. Allows us to consciously integrate new ideas to maximize personal growth–ie: I added the iconic Christian imagery with the intention to make peace with/allow space for recognizing the divine feminine that had been so alienated from my fundamentalist christian religious upbringing.
Food (Preferably Real)
Food certainly isn’t an unusual item for travelers, but it’s often overlooked as an item to pack. Real food at all times is a must for this easily hangried mama bear. I hardly walk around the block without a snack in my pocket. So, when traveling longer distances, I’m always packing a few (usually high-protein savory) favorites from home. I recommend KIND bars and an assortment of seeds and nuts. You can’t go wrong with a handful of cashews (unless you have a nut allergy of course!). One small handful of cashews curbs hunger, provides healthy fats and proteins, and elevates mood! Hummus or cheeses are other high-protein staples readily available in most countries. And I’d be remiss to forget to mention the value of an apple a day! Although cherries and blueberries, if in season have higher antioxidant benefits.
Planning ahead and packing healthful snacks is especially important when navigating transportation systems in other countries as you never know when you’ll find yourself without access to food and water for hours at a time. True story.
Daily use: While traveling, eating small amounts 6x/day is ideal. The foods mentioned above (and also certain teas like Tulsi) are highly beneficial for maintaining stamina, avoiding blood sugar crashes, irritability, and digestive dysfunction.
Sea Salt and Honey Sticks
In keeping with the food theme, I’ll admit that I travel with my own salt and honey. First, to be clear, the salt is no ordinary salt! I travel with Celtic Sea Salt manufactured by a company based in my hometown, Asheville, NC. Unlike commercially processed salt, which causes bodily harm, sea salt benefits the body. Since I am an avid salt user, I’d rather use a quality salt I know and trust. Also, salt has long been known for its grounding properties. In some cultures, mothers send their children to school with a pinch of salt in their pocket to remind them of home and keep them safe. It’s odd I suppose, but the right salt can make the difference between good and great when it comes to maximizing a meal experience. And I’m all about maximizing a meal experience!
So much can be said about the beneficial properties of honey. Some people prefer honey gel packs to give a boost of energy on a hike or long journey. I travel with honey sticks because I find them easier and less messy to use. Like the salt, the honey sticks also remind me of my home town and the communal nature of bees in general. I purchase the sticks downtown at a wonderful shop called The Bee Charmer, but they’re commonly found at health food stores and coops.
Daily use: As needed or desired–add to tea, eat raw for a quick energy boost, use to fight seasonal allergies or even apply to a wound for its antibacterial properties.
Sooooooo. Ever wished you could travel with your own personal massage therapist? Here’s the deal with these beneficial balls: Used correctly, they act as a massage therapist rolling tension out of muscles and joints. And, unlike a massage therapist, they don’t require a paid seat on the plane–or tips. The smaller balls alleviate muscle tension, break up plantar fasciitis, and create counter-pressure. Some people I know simply use a tennis ball or two. I love traveling with a few distinct styles to target different challenges. On this trip, a simple small pink rubber ball, a small spiky rubber ball, and a larger 6” inflatable ball made the cut. Find them online or purchase through your local Pilates studio.
Daily use: Roll spiky ball under your foot while taking long plane, train, bus, car rides. Use pretty much any time you’re sitting (‘tho not ideal for use in fancy restaurants and/or on hop on/hop off tourist buses!). Place smooth pink ball between a wall or the floor and the muscle region you want to work on. Using the ball as leverage to reach the tight muscles, move your body against the ball until the tension releases. The larger inflatable ball works best for a variety of strengthening and relaxation exercises. When partially deflated, it can also double as a pillow in a pinch.
As an added bonus, when bored, you can always use the balls to practice juggling!
These are my top 5 unusual trip items but I’d love to hear from you . . . What unique must have! daily items are on your personal packing list?