1. Iphone. Clearly, travel did not exist before the Iphone. If it did, it must have been ridiculously difficult. With my Iphone in hand, I can search maps, find the best rated cafe nearby, book a flight, and talk to my friends and family who are 15, 000kms away. Asia has quickly caught on and restaurants, cafes, and hostels heavily promote their "Free Wifi". Overnight busses claim to have WiFi but the ticket agents will smile and admit with a shrug of their shoulders, "Sometimes work. Sometimes not work". Even lounge chairs on the beach come with a WiFi code. A few of my favourite passwords around Asia include the very common 12345678, or "BeHappie" and "BuyaDrink". My Iphone is also my camera and I'm equally happy with the photos as I am to not be lugging around an SLR. Long gone are the days of writing down addresses and emails on scrap pieces of paper that inevitably get lost. With just a few clicks, a friend for a day in Laos can become a friend for life on Facebook. Even without WiFi, I have access to offline maps, a book, and a flashlight. The life of a backpacker is much easier with an Iphone.
2. Two bikinis. Maybe three. Not surprisingly, I've spent most of my travels on the beautiful beaches of Asia. In addition to soaking up the sun with a book, I've also learned how to scuba dive and surf. Obviously, different activities require different bikinis. And if you're subjecting them to this blaring sun, swimming in salt water, and getting them washed every week or two, they quickly start to fall apart. Good luck buying a new bikini that fits a Western body here. For that reason, I always have a few on hand!
3. Kleenex. I am single-handedly keeping the Asian tissue industry in business. I buy 5-10 packs at a time, never sure when I'll be able to find more. Between sweating profusely in +30 temps, Asian bathrooms sans toilet paper, and a sinus infection, I never seem to have enough Kleenex on hand.
4. Wet wipes/hand sanitizer. Whether you're on a bus for 6 hours, stuck in an airport overnight, or you've touched something you really wish you hadn't, wet wipes and hand sanitizer can make you feel a thousand times better.
5. Claritin. As you walk through the food stalls of Malaysia or pet "Spaghetti" and "Pizza" the friendly beach dogs in Cambodia, you'll be glad you had Claritin on hand. Not normally allergic to much but when my eyes start itching and my nose starts running, a Claritin can save the day. I found a similar allergy pill here but was relieved when a friend brought me a fresh stock of the real stuff from Canada a few months into my trip.
6. A waterproof bag for my laptop. I was headed to another island. It was a beautiful sunny day with not a cloud in sight. There was no reason to put my laptop in my waterproof bag, right? Wrong. Four hours into a three hour trip with no island in sight, the wind was picking up and the waves were getting bigger. As the boat slammed down on each wave, water sloshed up and over the sides of the boat. It got so rocky that midway through the trip we all put our lifejackets on. All the while, I used every inch of my body to protect my beloved Macbook Air. My laptop survived the ride but I haven't travelled without it in its waterproof bag since.
7. Tampons. That's right, folks. For whatever reason, tampons are incredibly difficult to find here in Asia. Glad I've dedicated a good portion of my 12 kilos to them.
8. A bottle opener. Unfortunately, I have yet to master opening a beer on the edge of a table or with another bottle without slicing my fingers open. Without a bottle opener, I'm shlepping my book or laptop to the nearby beach bar where I will inevitably pay double what it costs for a cold beer.
9. Deodorant. As important as my SPF50, I keep a stick of deodorant in my backpack and my daypack. It is just too hot here to be without it. Plus, you never know who you'll meet along the way! Canadians have an awesome reputation out here and I can't be stinking it up as "that smelly girl from Canada".
10. A good book. When your Iphone battery dies, it's nice to have an old fashioned paper book with you. A good book can add to your travels or it can even take you away from them for a little while. When you're working on Asia time, a good book can also occupy you while you wait...and wait...and wait a little longer. When you've finished it, there's no need to keep carrying it. You simply leave it at the hostel or in the cafe and pick up a new one on your way out.
11. A Snickers bar. I can't say I liked them before I began this trip but there is no argument that they are the best, and sometimes the only, chocolate bar in Asia. As a purist that prefers Aero or Jersey Milk, I've come around to Snickers when I need some sugar or am stuck on a bus.
12. Space. After all, I might need to pick up a new dress, bikini or tank top along the way. Even if it means tossing something out, I always have a little space!