Have you ever had that dream that you’re leaving to go somewhere and you’ve forgotten something? Perhaps it’s your clothes? Passport? I had that dream several times over on my recent trip to Peru. Not because I did, in fact, forget something but I seem to have brought too much. Because this could happen to any traveler, these are my top picks for travel gear for solo travelers. I have personally purchased these items and recommend them to solo travelers!
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There are many perks to traveling solo but for those who have begun the journey on the road less traveled, it might be safe to say it’s less traveled because you also have to lug all of your things by yourself. I haven’t mastered the art of packing light. On my recent trip to Peru, I had a large suitcase with so many clothes and so many shoes because, options. I flew to Cusco and was planning out outfits in my head. Sure it wasn’t going to be a photoshoot but I had planned for different items for any occasion. Rain or sunny days, bring it on!
I was picked up by my guide and driven to my hotel. I was staying at Casa Andina in Cusco. A beautiful, 16th century house in the city center.
Once I was checked in and settled, I sat down with my guide to go over my itinerary. As she went over the sites I would visit, she then informed me that for the following three days, I would only be able to carry a backpack with me due to luggage restrictions on the trains and busses on the way to Machu Picchu. I would get my luggage again when I returned to the city center. There was a pause and I stared at her for about five seconds because it hadn’t registered. I asked her what she meant. She repeated it. This is about the time I thought if I was traveling with someone, they might have had more room for my things or we could have shared some items like toothpaste, leaving more room for things I had imagined wearing while visiting ruins.
Have Suitcase, Will not Travel
As I came back down to reality and picked my jaw from off of the floor, I realized I didn’t have a choice. I could keep my luggage and not go on the tour that would take me to Machu Picchu or I could get a grip and make this happen. That was an easy choice. I pulled up my big girl pants (the ones that would fit into my Ful Backpack), and laid out the rest of clothes and essentials I would need for the next three days over the Super King bed in my suite. Believe me when I say my clothes covered this whole bed.
For some, this may have been the easiest thing. Maybe you are a traveler who only ever travels with a backpack anyway but this was not the case for me. For me, this was the Machu Picchu of packing, a monstrous feat. I had to figure out how to travel with only what I needed.
Diva Duties and Toned Down Travel Gear
I had a job to do and had to do it quickly because I was being picked up shortly for a tour of Cusco. Because I wouldn’t be back until late that evening, I knew I had to get down to business and start figuring out how to get three weeks worth of clothing into three days. I was only going to be in Peru for ten days total by the way. I quickly went through my essentials. Toothbrush, makeup, my Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Mirrorless Digital Camera with 14-42mm II R Lens, one pair of yoga pants, three tops. I had also purchased this professional accessory camera kit. This kit has everything for a pro or novice like myself. I love how compact it is. The size was a big pro when I purchased it but I didn’t expect it to come in so handy when I had to suddenly downsize.
In my backpack I was able to fit everything it came with:
- 16 GB SDHC Card
- Hi-Speed SD USB Card Reader
- 50″ Tri-pod
- Camera Case
- Cleaning Pads
- Lens Cap Strap
- LSC Screen Protectors
- Memory Card Wallet
- Mini Flexible Tripod
I chose to take the mini tripod only. All of the items were compact so it didn’t take up any major room in my backpack and I was even able to tuck some things in the case itself! As I wiped the sweat off of my brow, I took a look at my efforts and realized, I did it. Me, the girl who typically packs an extra suitcase just for shoes! Someone give me a medal. MacGyver had nothing on me. Although the first night I remember after I finished packing I kept dreaming I forgot something. The first day of traveling with a backpack and nothing more, I never felt so naked but here we go.
It wasn’t long after my tour set out on the journey to Machu Picchu, I stopped asking myself questions like what I would do if I got dirty or if it rained and I didn’t have a few changes of clothes. The weather changed a lot while in Peru. Lima was where I started my trip and that was on the coast. Cusco was in the mountains which was cold, then hot, then rainy. I did get dirty. I got sweaty. One day it poured and I was soaked but interestingly enough, I didn’t care. Makeup? I made room for it, but I didn’t need it. I realized that being in the presence of such natural beauty, no amount of makeup I wore could compete. No one would be looking at me.
It was then I became fully aware the only person who cared about what I looked like without makeup and what outfit I was wearing was me. Peru was never about glamorous photos and perfect eyeliner, or different outfits. The country and the people were the features, the main show, the headliners. Not me, not any of my fellow tourists.
What I Learned about Packing
This was an interesting experience for me. At the end of the day, I’m a girl who likes options. This was my first taste into traveling light and even though I was forced, I realized I could do it. On my trip to Greece, it was about what outfit I would wear to breakfast, to cocktails, and to dinner, on the particular island I would be on that day. This was a nice peek into the life of those who travel light. I am slowly understanding that not all trips will be glamourous simply because there is no need to be. When you stand amongst giants like Machu Picchu, they steal the show. You have no choice but to humble yourself as you dare to stand next to them.
I can say from this trip, I understand a little bit more about what “essentials” really mean when traveling. For one, I know my camera can always go with me. I also know I can fit a lot into my Ful Backpack. I was also surprised that on top of my clothes, I still had room for my camera accessory kit but it fit perfectly. I’ve had my backpack for years and it’s never failed me. It was comforting to know that it still served me well for being my only luggage in Cusco. It’s why I find it to be perfect for solo travelers.
What You Can Learn from Me
Maybe you’re that solo traveler that has it down. You know how to pack light. You can travel from Los Angeles to Peru or any other location with only a carry-on and still rock a winged liner without breaking a sweat on a hike. Is that you? If so, good for you. I may not be quite there yet but I’m learning. On this trip, I was brought back to the foundation of why I travel solo. I travel for the people, the spiritual experience of being alone and in this case, looking at a mirror figuratively and literally. I was able to see a more raw version of myself in Peru and actually, dare I say, liked it. There was no need to hide behind my foundation or perfectly combed hair. People still liked me and I was still able to make friends. Maybe I’m not such a diva solo traveler after all.
If you aren’t a pro-packer, I hope these products help you save a little room on your trip for what matters most.
What are your must-haves for solo travel? What am I missing? Leave a comment, I’d love to know!
Cheers solo travelers!