Wednesday, 14 May 2014

How to dress if you're gonna (hitch) hike around the world on no budget

Since the dawn of time packing has been a problem for avid travelers. By this I mean people who like to WALK and sometimes hitch local rides a lot. The key to a happy trek is freedom of burden and yet, if you don’t happen to pack your mommy and daddy’s credit card and can never know what climate will catch up with you, here’s what experience has taught me…
I have been through Europe, from Nordkapp to Ireland, I’ve crossed Nepal and India, I got arrested at least half a dozen times for hitchhiking in Egypt, there is no town in Morocco, Mauritania or Senegal that I haven’t stuck my nose/lens into. Vast majority of these were either entirely free of budget or with a little help from my unfortunate hubby. I say unfortunate, because the poor sod had no idea what he’s getting himself into when I tell him we’ll spend a month in Nepal on 15o bucks. But it grows on you. I guarantee it.
Some people feel better with a little backup budget. Some make good money writing about it during. It’s better if you start with nothing and work your way up from there. Trust me. You’ll never feel at the end of your means.
Freedom and courage go hand in hand. The less freedom you have, the less courage you need. Absolute freedom of choice is a bitch. Nobody is responsible for you, nobody is paid to help you and nobody is trained to pull you out of the mess you put yourself in. Though you will almost always find kind folks, everywhere you go. Normally everywhere in the world people will also be inclined to trade your stories for food and shelter, particularly Muslims, who cherish travelers, so you will never really go hungry there. In truth, nowadays, with a little skill, you wouldn’t go without a shelter or food for a single day in any environment, no matter how rigid towards bums (*hkhm*England*hkhm*) the place may seem.  Of course you have to love waking up in the middle of the field or in a forest. You may suffer needlessly if you miss a civilized bed & breakfast all the time. But if you’re gonna be self-sufficient and plan to travel the globe (I’ll show you how you can cross an ocean for free later), here’s how I'd pack.
*This is for moderate climate. Extreme climates just add layers, no worries. Though avoid places that truly discomfort you, for example if you hate cold or monsoon rain.
First and above all, you need two pairs of shoes. If you’re a walker (the hiking kind, not the undead kind), shoes is always on the top of the list. Sorry, but few of us can walk well without shoes. One is a very sturdy, extremely durable boot, possibly genuine army boots, because they will take you over any terrain and any weather. Or some good hiking shoes. Honestly, you need those. But when circumstances will allow it (flat roads, neat summer climate, mountain cottages or using a public bathhouse), your next best bet are sandals. Sandals are the rage. Make sure you pick ones that fit you and will last a very long time. Not to promote any brands, but I’ve been wearing my Crocks for three summers in a row (and by summer I mean every day, all day) and they still haven’t faltered yet. Whenever you can, wear those. This will put the weight of your luggage up substantially, because good trekking boots weight a ton. Unless you can afford super expensive super weightless mountaineering boots. Then you’re set.
If you’re a girl, one good bra – the kinds that dries very quickly, no pads, and three cotton undies. I don’t recommend G-strings, because sometimes you’ll go a long time without a shower and those are rather filthy to wear a week. Don’t NOT wear undergarments, especially sleeping, because there are things that crawl up in things in this world. On a related subject, I sometimes put cotton balls in my ears when I sleep in creepy crawly locations.
Pants. Here’s the tricky but. You need one good pair of pants, but there is no such good pair as to last you a while. No matter how good, army quality (but be careful how much army clothes you wear, it tends to make some people nervous), you’ll wear them out soon. I would recommend as follows: for a girl, just roll up three black long tights/leggings. Cotton is best. When it gets cold, you can wear one over the other. If it gets hot, just cut one pair short. Otherwise a very light cargo/tactical pants and a thick wooly stocking you can wear underneath when it gets snowy and shorts that are also swimming shorts. Those don’t really weight anything. And can be durable. Sometimes people invest in Mammut outfits just before going vagabonding. This may defeat the purpose. And nobody will take you seriously if you show up all in Gore-Tex.Though, as quality goes, you may want to consider Fissshies.
Three pairs of socks. Don’t go nuts with socks. It’s wise to have an extra wooly pair, but really, socks can carry you away quickly. Max four. You have to wash your clothes (any yourself) every chance you have anyways, no matter how redundant it seems, but be careful, especially when washing by hand, using cheap powders – you’ll wear them out too soon. But then again you can get socks anywhere. You can trade for them, if need be.
I have a tendency to carry with me a handful of buttons. Don’t ask me how I thought of that one. I just do. Buttons are weightless and they make for a really cute currency in third world countries.
Two T-shirts or one T-shirt and a linen long-sleeve blouse or a long-sleeve, ankle-long linen dress. (Though you can always use the scarf as the skirt, like Robyn here..) The dress because sooner or later you’ll get to a place that has flies. And sun. Desert people don’t cover up because they’re modest – they cover up because they don’t want to get fried to a crispy and shat onto by fly larvae.
A rain-proof jacket/softshell. Maybe a wooly sweater, though if you opt for a blankie, no need. But a jacket is a must. Especially if you’ll be crossing mountain ridges that you don’t necessarily want to cross. Just wear anything you have underneath and a blankie around you over it (unless it’s raining), and you’ll be fine. If it’s gonna rain a lot where you’re going, consider dragging with you a large plastic cape.
Extra: a buff or a scarf. Or both. You’ll need a turban in the desert, trust me, and a scarf is really multi-purposeful. A leather belt. If you have a flask, wear it on the belt. You can put a lot of weight on your belt, to spare your shoulders. A large, thick garbage bag. This came very handy when I was on a sinking boat, to cover my backpack and protect it from salty water. It also made for an excellent buoy.
Anything else is just extra weight. I don’t favor sunglasses, because your eyes get addicted to them and if you lose them, daylight will be hell on you (also they make you look like a tourist), I rarely like caps or hats, though wooly cap doesn’t weight much. Or gloves. I just put socks on my hands if it gets really cold.
I carry some medicine – an army compression wrap, few bandages, some antibiotics and a handful of needles, just in case. Needles are important. You may wanna have those. I also always carry a Swiss knife. If you’re a guy, planning on adventure, a small handy axe is the shit. You can build anything with that. And nobody fucks around with a guy with an axe.
I mentioned a blankie earlier – what you also need is a sleeping bag and a mat – mat seems like an obvious tourist giveaway, but I have slept in a lot of ruins and old amphitheaters and those tend to be a bit sewery. And always bend the mat first, then roll it, so that one side is always clean. There’s no way you’ll ever be able to wash your sleeping bang without hurting it, so keep it clean. A small umbrella and a mosquito net is also an almost must. Not just for mosquitos. I make this odd tent with it, when I am in unfamiliar groups, using umbrella on one end and the backpack on the other, so that nothing odd can crawl onto me and nobody can pickpocket me without ripping the net. Which, when you travel, you kind of hear. You never sleep that soundly.
Have two bags. Like a quality little backpack that sits well on your hips, not your shoulders, and a sporty, waterproof purse. I call the smaller a satellite bag. That’s the one that can detach from the main bag at any given moment, as it has your most valuable possessions and is what you need when going for a walk around a new town. As for any money you may have or your passport – use an elastic medical bandage to wrap that around your calf, just not directly on skin. Nobody will think to look for it there. And you’ll get used to it.
What I DO add, and this is just because I travel for fun, not because I am forced to, is: my camera gear (don’t ask how much that weights), an iPad or an old-fashioned pad for a journal, a teeny tiny set of watercolors and a postcard blank pad – because I tend to draw local scenes and sell them to buy tickets for museums or ferries.
If you are like me, addicted to libraries, museum, sites, castles, odd mountains, caves, anything really, that might haunt with a story – but there’s an entrance fee and they’re not letting you in out of sheer niceness – I just sit outside and beg for money. Sooner or later the change will sum up and you’ll be set to go. Same goes for ocean-liners. If you need 200 bucks, make 200 bucks. Draw on pavements, dance, play an instrument, whatever. It may not be a day or a week, but you’ll get there. You shouldn’t be in a hurry when exercising absolute freedom. You’ve got all the time in the world and if one locating doesn’t do it for you, just friggin’ change it.
Don’t think it’s the end of the world if you’re having a bad day. You’ll have bad days. Lonely, shitty, hurtful, humiliating, sick, desperate, lost days. Cry it out. It’ll pass. Just don’t carry around you a whiny attitude. You probably shouldn’t be traveling on no budget if you don’t enjoy it.
And one last whim of the wise: it may seem like a total bummer when you’re hitchhiking penniless and someone drops you off in the middle of a very large city (trust me, I once had to walk OUT of Paris and AROUND Manchester to get a ride to the country), but cities have their own underground railroad: loads of cool kids know great squatting places, there’s a whole cultural movement lurking around dark corners, and they can be, if you’re a social type, really cool people to meet. The local police likes to help lost travelers, so just make up some bullshit story you got separated from your group who is arriving in two days and need a place to cot this storm out – they will probably set you up with a local halfway house or monastery. Just don’t expect or demand hospitality on command.
PS A word of warning: Please, though, don’t give us, hitchhikers, a bad name, wherever you go. Don’t steal from people who show you kindness, don’t get yourself in weird sexual situations, don’t be noisy and filthy and stoned all the time. You’ll find plenty of each – the good and the bad – on all the travels. Don’t be an idiot, in way over your head. Everyone gets scared sometimes.  Just make sure you’ll have a great story to bring home, once you get bored and return. 



Anonymous said...

wooow, a tisto je tvoj sin? Kako pa je on doživel in preživel to pustolovščino?? :)

Pix said...

Možev sin :) Z nama je šel samo enkrat, na Nordkapp. Malo smo se kregali, ker ni bil navajen, da ima vsak svoje obveznosti in da se stalno nekaj dogaja, sicer pa ga je kr navdušilo. Drug način potovanja je, kot za deset dni na morje.