The impetus for this post comes from a discussion I had with my assistant Amy over 10 years ago.
I commented to her that there were only 3 things that you really needed to travel. If you had those three things, then you really didn’t need anything else. Moreover, all three of those things could fit in your pocket.
A few days ago I was having a conversation with someone about packing light and I repeated those same three things. In 10 years, my opinion of the absolute minimum necessary to travel hasn’t really changed.
When you strip everything down to the barest of essentials, there are only 3 things you need to go anywhere in the world (other than the clothes on your back). Those three things will fit in your pocket and take you anywhere. They are:
#3 A Smartphone
Clearly, people traveled before the invention of the smartphone or even mobile phones, so an argument could be made that this is the least essential thing on my list. However, given how useful a smartphone is while traveling, and how small, I consider this to be one of the three essential items.
My iPhone can serve the following functions for me:
- Alarm Clock
- Video Camera
- Music Player
- eBook Reader
- Airline Boarding Pass
- Email client
- Web Browser
This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what you can do with a smartphone if you start including apps.
You might need a power cord to compliment your smartphone, but that can fit in your pocket as well.
Believe it or not, this is not the #1 item. If you are in a foreign country and lost all your stuff and could only keep one thing, the one thing I’d keep would not be my passport.
The reason is simply that I can always get a new passport issued at an embassy.
That exception aside, you do need a passport to travel internationally and if you should lose it, it will be a giant pain in your ass.
If you don’t have one, you should get one and do so as soon as possible.
#1 Credit/Debit Card
If you have access to money, you can solve all your other problems.
You can find a place to stay, food to eat and transportation. You can get cash at an ATM machine. You can buy a suitcase and the clothes to fill it. If you have access to your money you can even purchase the #2 and #3 items on this list.
Having access to your funds is so important that you should probably carry two cards with you when you travel just as a safety precaution.
In addition to having access to money, many cards will provide travel insurance and other perks that will help you when traveling. Some even will provide concierge service and will help you find places to stay and things to do.
When you begin to break things down in to their essential parts, you realize how little you really need to travel. Most it comes down to having the desire to travel and having some money to fall back on. That’s it.
What are the three essential things you think you need to travel?