Instead of going to college right out of high school, I joined a mission agency and spent my late teens and early 20’s traveling all over South America, Central America, and Eastern and Western Europe. In just three years, I ministered in over 20 countries with very little money and no one to carry my bag (that’s changed now with my house full of boys).
In those days, the “essential” travel items were Twizzlers, a hockey bag, and a fanny pack. Times have changed, but missionaries are still the most traveled people I know. They are experienced in packing only what is essential. So, I thought I’d poll our missionary friends to compile a list of their “go to” travel essentials for the modern age of 2015 and add a few of our staff picks.
(Missionary-recommended) TOP TEN TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
An unlocked smart phone – Being able to stay in touch with people and arrange things from a mobile device is, for many missionaries, the item they wouldn’t leave home without. Unlocked phones are not tied to any particular carrier and can be used with any service provider by simply swapping out the SIM card. North American phone plans are expensive (especially when you are on international plans) and third world countries often have better internet access than the USA. Being able to purchase a plan in the country you are visiting is really smart.
An electronic reader (like a Kindle) – Hours spent in airports, on trains, and waking up at 3:00 am with jet lag are great reasons to have something amusing or productive close at hand. Electronic readers store the Bible, commentaries, novels, games, movies, and language-learning in one small portable package.
Portable music – When everything is unfamiliar around you, being able to shut the world out for a short time can be re-energizing and peaceful. Late-night or early morning noises are typical in foreign places (think roosters, fireworks, and loud horns) and portable music or “white noise” can offer a place of escape and a better night’s sleep.
A sense of humor – Travel can come with delays, misunderstandings, and challenges. The ability to laugh in those moments can transform your experience.
A travel journal – Besides tracking memories and God-moments along the way, journals are useful for noting places, people, and experiences you want to return to or recommend to others.
A friend – Sharing an experience with a friend can help ease the challenges of travel and the transition home (and who else will keep an eye on your luggage while you go to the bathroom?).
Duct tape – Where in the world would duct tape not be useful?
Peanut Butter (or Nutella) –Bread is a staple that can be found all around the world in various forms. Adding your favorite spread can make you feel right at home.
Wet wipes – These handy sheets of disinfectant are great for everything from cleaning your dinner fork to substituting as a portable shower.
NITEO STAFF PICKS
A pashmina (wool and cashmere) scarf – “I never travel without one of the Pashmina scarves I received as a gift from a friend in Azerbaijan. Over the years, it has served as a blanket on the airplane, a waterproof umbrella, and the perfect accessory to dress up an outfit. I’ve even used it to cover my face when traveling along dusty and smelly roads. You can find Pashmina scarves everywhere in a variety of weights and colors.” Amy
An international travel plug adapter – “There’s nothing like sitting in an international airport, outlets everywhere, but no way to plug in your laptop. An adapter is a must.” Carol
A credit card (and a back up) – “Theft in other countries is rampant on trains, in airports, and even in your hotel room. The guaranteed protections that come with a credit card have bailed us out of losses in the thousands of dollars. Our card information was stolen at a place of business in India and in just a few hours $13,000 was charged in Dubai to our account before the purchases were halted. We were not held responsible for even a penny. Having a back-up credit card was also essential, so we could access funds after the compromised card was shut down.” John
Lightweight travel shirts – “I have a couple of outdoor shirts by Kuhl (Kuhl Renegade Shirt) that I love to travel with. They don’t wrinkle, are comfortable in hot weather, provide UV protection, and can pack up into a space the size of my fist. They are also really versatile in style, equally suitable for everything from hiking to an evening meal out with friends.” Kjell
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