While leaving my hostel earlier today, I double-locked my door from the outside with a padlock and thought to myself, “Good thing I carry this padlock with me. It comes in handy.” I've been doing this whole two-bag digital nomad thing for the past few years, and while I've never considered myself an expert (I'm still figuring it all out), I do have some tips and tricks to share.
In today's post I'm going to showcase a few random items that come in handy while I travel. Even though I'm like you and try to carry as little as possible with me, these items have proven to be worth their weight in my bag. For your convenience, and for my affiliate income, I've linked to a good example of each item on Amazon. If you click on one of my links and buy that item (or any item on Amazon within 24 hours), I make a small commission that ads up. Thanks for that. Otherwise you can find these items literally anywhere while you travel.
Master Packlock (Buy This)
I mentioned this above and it's my first suggestion of random things not to forget when you travel. I use my padlock to double-lock my doors when I leave, lock-up cabinets/drawers if I stay in a hostel, and occasionally for lockers in random places that have them. I actually use this exact Master Padlock in the photo because I'm super old school and it gets the job done. Since I usually have an apartment or hotel key, I just slip that key onto my key ring and I'm good to go. If you're more into the keyless lifestyle and have the ability to memorize another password, you may opt for a 4-digit combination lock so that you don't have to keep up with keys.
6 Foot Extension Cord w/ Multiple Outlets (Buy This)
Picture this… You're in a coffee shop working and the most beautiful woman you've ever seen walks in. She's carrying her laptop in one hand, a double espresso in the other, and she's scanning the walls for available outlets. But alas, all of them are taken. “Excuse me miss,” you say with confidence, “I can help you.” You make room on the table for her and offer one of the available outlets on your extension cord. She's grateful of your kind gesture and impressed at your willingness to help a total stranger. A conversation ensues. Drinks later. Your first kiss. An unplanned trip together to Paris. Loves finds you in the most unexpected places. A year long engagement followed by a destination wedding in Bali. Twin boys enter the household a year later. Family. Success. Happiness. True love. All because of your 6 Foot Extension Cord w/ Multiple Outlets! (You're welcome.)
I put off buying an extension cord for so long because I kept saying to myself, “You carry enough cables with you already.” And while that's true, this has been a gift from the electrical gods. It comes in handy when I'm at a coffee shop and the table with the outlet is occupied but the outlet is available, when I've been in hotels with only one outlet but need to charge multiple devices, and during times where my laptop power brick is too big to fit into the tight space where the outlet is. I've even used it as a clothes line to dry my clothes! Since I purchased it, I've used my extension cord almost every day.
Portable Electric Power Bank (Buy This)
After I negotiated a great deal on laptop, Best Buy sent me some free rewards money to spend, but it had an expiration date so I needed to spend it soon. At the time, I didn't really need anything, but I didn't want the rewards money to go to waste. So I browsed through the store looking for anything worthwhile, and it was my mom is who suggested a power bank. This was another one of those items I put off purchasing because I didn't want to carry it around with me. (I'm super minimal and hate extra weight in my bags.) But since I couldn't think of anything else, and it was essentially free, I bought a power bank. It turned out to be one of the most valuable items I carry with me when I travel. I use my power bank almost every single day and it allows me to get more use out of my phone. I now take more photos and videos because I'm no longer concerned with preserving battery life. It's also been a lifesaver at times when I've needed GPS and my phone was dead. Overall a great purchase. They even make solar powered power banks now, which take like 20-30 hours to charge fully by the sun, but could be a lifesaver if your only option for electricity.
Playing Cards (Buy This)
It was a hot lazy day in Guayaquil, Ecuador and I found myself on an afternoon excursion with four people I had just met earlier that day. After a while, we make our way to a local coffee shop and soon we have frozen drinks in our hands sitting around a table cooling off. Conversation hit a lull. It had been a long afternoon and we were hot, exhausted, and tired of sharing stories. I pulled out my playing cards and started dealing everyone five cards. “The name of the game is Go Fish. Ya'll ever play?” No-one had played before so I explained the simple rules. “Try and make sets of 4 by asking each other for cards that complete your set. If they have what you ask for, they have to hand it over. If not they say, ‘Go Fish'. If you get one right, you keep asking until you get a ‘Go Fish'.” Like any card game, it was easiest to learn by playing the first game. After the first game, everyone was an expert and their competitive sides came out. The afternoon was saved. Many afternoons have been saved by my playing cards. People love to play games and it's a fun way to bring together a group of strangers.
Pocket Umbrella (Buy This)
I think some of you are reading this right now and thinking, “Yeah no shit dude, an umbrella.” But I swear I traveled for years without an umbrella. I just always had the attitude that if it's raining outside, I'm staying inside. That changed for me after a few months in Quito, Ecuador. After getting caught in a few random afternoon showers and spending too much time hiding underneath store canopies for shelter, I bought an umbrella. I store it in one of the bottle holders on the outside of my book bag and it's there when I need it. My umbrella has been one of those items that I now travel with and think, “How did I not carry an umbrella with me before?”
Sharpie Pen (Buy This)
I was in Los Angeles, California when The Dark Knight Rises (2012) came out in theaters. My best friend and business partner Scott and I anticipated this movie's release for months and of course had to see it on opening night. We got to the theater a few hours early knowing that there'd eventually be a long line. When we arrived, there were six other fans starting to congregate. It was too early to form a line but you could tell that everyone was eyeing each other and making note of who got there first. After a few minutes I pulled out my black Sharpie permanent marker and walked up to people who were there ahead of me and said, “Give me your hand.” I wrote a big #1 and #2 across the first couple's hands. Everyone else put their hands out for their numbers and Scott and I became numbers seven and eight. A system had been created. From that point forward, everyone new to arrive was directed to me to get their number. That's one of hundreds of stories I could tell you about how a Sharpie marker came in handy. Write out loud!
Jump Rope (Buy This)
It's a challenge to stay fit while traveling. Constantly being in different places with various or no exercise equipment to work with makes it difficult to keep an exercise routine. A jump rope has been a game changer for me. It's small, lightweight, versatile, and I don't need anything special to jump rope. A few months ago I did a 30 Day Jump Rope Challenge where I did minimum 1000 jumps a day for thirty days. The result was that I lost over 10 pounds and developed a new exercise habit that I love. I've never enjoyed running or jogging very much, so even though I can do that from anywhere in the world, I rarely do. Jumping rope has been a fun way to do interval training and stay in shape no matter where I am. For a while I just used any old jump rope I could find at a local sports store. And then last time I was home I picked up my performance jump rope from my car and have been using that ever since. A better rope makes a difference.
Ziploc Bags (Buy This)
I know I told you that I bought an umbrella, and I also have a water resistant book bag that does a decent job, but things still seem to get wet. I started packing a few Ziplog bags with me when I travel that I always find more than a few uses for. The most classic example is when I go to the beach and want to carry some cash with me. I throw my wallet into a Ziploc bag and I'm set for the day. I also permanently keep my passport and visas in a Ziploc bag in a special compartment in my book bag. Those are the last things I want to get destroyed from moisture. Got some food you want to keep put away so that you don't get ants in your book bag? Afraid your shampoo is going to open up in your bag and get everywhere? There are tons of uses for Ziploc bags and you'll be happy you brought some.
USB Stick (Buy This)
Have you ever tried exchanging photos and videos via the cloud with another traveler on a 1.2mbs Internet connection in a small South American town outside of the Amazon Rainforest? It's literally impossible. I've actually had my Dropbox app say, “Uploading files.. 425 hours remaining.” That's why I never leave home (not that I have one) without a USB stick. Otherwise I would have missed out on hundreds of great photo exchanges over the years. Because we all know that if you don't exchange photos right away, the odds of receiving them in the future are practically zero. I'm still waiting on some photos from a camping trip a few weeks ago, but I know they're not coming. You've got to strike while the iron's hot with photo exchanging. Being the guy with a USB stick helps facilitate that process with your new friends that you may never see again other than in the photos. But you'll always have the memories. The USB stick I featured in the photo above is a 128GB that I found on Amazon, which is an amazing amount of space to be able to carry around on a hard drive that size. You might not need one that big but I had to feature it given the impressive capacity.
Do you see how I delivered on my promise? These are definitely random items and maybe not what you expected to see when you started reading this article. But you've learned how they come in handy for me, and maybe they'll come in handy for you too.
What would you add to this list? What's one random item that you carry with you when you travel that has proven to be worth it's weight in your bag? Leave a comment below and let me know what random items are in your travel bag.
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