Again, as posted earlier, here are some learnings I had on my long adventure abroad. Perhaps it’ll give you a leg up as you head out on your vacation. (Wherever you’re going, I’m jealous). Be sure to let us know if you have any gear tips from your travel experiences too – we’d love to know for our next trip!

Delights:
Headlamp: I will never use another flashlight by choice again. Headlamps are the only way to go. Saves a hand, and the light automatically points where your eyes are going. Brilliant!

Surprisingly useless:
Guide books: Now I’m not saying I would do without, but I was disappointed in our guide books for China and Australia. They were wrong more times than not. We finally got smart and started calling ahead before venturing too far out of the way. Frommer’s and Rough Guide are not on my good side.

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Surprisingly useful:
Hiking Poles: I was skeptical about purchasing hiking poles, but Erin insisted before our Tongariro disaster. These telescoping sticks, resembling ski poles, were probably the one bright spot of that experience. They saved my knees and back for another day, while keeping me balanced trudging through the flooded trails. 6’4″, and a little clumbsy – I need all the help I can get. Most hiking companies rent them. Unless you are going on a series of hikes or can transfer them easily, it may not make sense to buy them.

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Other items of note:

Compass – really handy, especially when hiking or traveling streets with no identifiable marks.

Plastic Ziploc bags – you can’t bring enough. Always carry two with you in case the weather changes: one for your passport; the other for your camera. I could have used this advice on the Tongariro, which soaked us and our passports to the core.

Digital camera (duh!) with video camera option (ahh) – I wish ours had better resolution. The little 30 second videos are priceless to us. Wish we had recorded more like the one above.

Extra camera battery – essential, so you’ll never run out of juice just as a crazy sheep head-butts a child at Sheep World! Uploading pictures to your trusty website is a battery drain in itself. Always have one battery charging.

USB camera cord – don’t risk losing the memory card (and your pictures) in suspect internet cafe readers. Also related: If traveling for a long period of time, upload your photos to an online site like Flickr. That way you can share them so people know you’re alive, and they’re safe from suspect CDs and camera thieves.

Camera case with belt loop – ready to fire and always where you need it. The first case ripped after Xiamen, so we bought the one pictured here in the Hong Kong women’s market. Took us home.

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International SIM card for your cell phone – made everything in New Zealand and Australia so much easier. Simply walk in the one of many vodaphone phone stores, even stationed in major airports, and grab a SIM card kit. You can buy rechargeable minutes at almost any gas station or grocery store! Obviously, we didn’t use it in China, where we wouldn’t understand the voice on the other end. NOTE: You have to unlock your phone with your carrier – takes a super-secret special code, and once entered, you can never go back. Erin swears it ruined her phone’s effectiveness upon returning, but I think all cell phones stink anyway.

iPod – I never regretted my decision to leave it at home for this trek. On foreign excursions, I feel my eyes and ears should be absorbing as much as possible. Save the white ear buds for your normal life back home. If you must have music, bring a walkman (portable tape player) with radio and absorb some local tunes from the places you travel.

Journal and pen – other than blogging, it’s the best way to recollect what you’re brain will inevitably omit with time. It always seems a pain at the time, but it’s a great thing to have later.

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