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Packing for Southeast Asia

28 Sep

Last time I went backpacking I packed WAY too much. The six weeks I spent in Peru last summer (2010) was my first real travel experience and I didn’t  know what to expect. I brought things that I didn’t end up using, like my blow dryer and straightener. I even brought high heels, which I never wore once. It really depends on where you’re going and how long you’re going for. If I were going to Paris or London for a month I probably would bring high heels and some more high end clothing. If I were going for six months to a year then I definitely would bring heels and hair appliances.

Not to say that you shouldn’t bring those kinds of items. To each their own. I like to bring my makeup and a lot of people disagree with this decision, but I really don’t care. If I’m more than willing to carry the extra weight then why not?

Sometimes you need to make sacrifices though. I have a huge problem packing light, especially when it comes to clothes. After packing way too much clothes last time and having to throw out a lot of things that I liked, I had to force myself to make good choices when it came to packing for 7 weeks of backpacking around Southeast Asia.

So, here is everything and anything that I brought with me to Southeast Asia.

Note: I decided not to post this until after my trip because then I could tell you what I ended up using or not and what I ended up throwing out. This is my ORIGINAL LIST with descriptions. The words written in red are some comments after the trip was done. So, here’s the list:


  • Shorts (4)- Yes, it’s a lot but I get so much use out of all of them.
  • Jeans (1)- This is probably the biggest ‘controversial’ item of clothing in the backpacking world. Yes, it’s going to be hot in SE Asia, but I always get use out of my jeans. If I don’t? Well, they’re an old pair so I can throw them out if need be. If I ever come back to SE Asia these will not be coming with me. Didn’t wear them once!
  • Black leggings (1)- For those possibly not-so-warm nights. Threw out.

  • Tank tops (4)
  • T-shirts (3)- Only needed one.
  • Long sleeve shirt (1)- Surprisingly got use out of this.
  • Nice shirts (3)- These are shirts that I can dress up or wear casually.
  • Hoodie (1) (not pictured)- For those cold A/C bus nights and for a pillow. Tons of use.
  • Cardigans (2) (not pictured)- Didn’t get any use out of these.

  • Bathing suits (2)
  • Underwear (10)- The more underwear the better, I say.
  • Socks (3)- One white, two black
  • Bras (4)- It sucks being a girl. Strapless, black, pink, and sports bra.

Yeah, I know it may seem like a lot of clothes to bring, but I don’t mind carrying the extra weight and, plus, it all fits into these little netted bags easily which makes them much more compact. These bags were my saviour.


  • Running shoes- Didn’t use.
  • Flip flops for shower
  • Sturdy sandals (2)


  • The Green Sombrero (obviously)
  • Straw fedora
  • Sunglasses
  • Bandana


  • HP Mini Netbook (and case and charger)- Best thing I brought.
  • SD memory cards (3 x 2 GB)
  • Canon Powershot (and case and charger)- Lost it’s life in Vang Vieng, Laos. Bought new, crappy, waterproof Olympus in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Olympus Tough is CRAP, by the way. The waterproof-ness was handy, but the quality of the photos was terrible.
  • iPod touch (and charger and headphones)
  • Plug adapter for SE Asia
  • Old phone for alarm (and charger)
  • USB drive (2)
  • Headlamp- SO much use!


  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Razor
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen- If you need a lot like I did, bring a couple bottles because sunscreen is bloody expensive in Asia.
  • Make-up
  • Body spray (for the days I have to go without showering)
  • Brush and comb- Brush broke half way in. Had that brush for 7+ years. R.I.P.
  • Bobby pins/hair ties
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Band-Aids- Probably went through 100+ Band-Aids.
  • Tylenol


  • Journal and pens
  • Guidebook (not pictured)/phrasebook- Didn’t need the phrasebook. Knowing how to say hello, thank you and maybe a few hand gestures can easily get you through SE Asia.
  • Books (2)- So I can exchange at a book exchange- Man, do I love book exchanges.
  • Money belt- Never used this for some reason. Guess I’m a little too trusting.
  • Travel pillowcase
  • Travel towel
  • Padlock (Not pictured)
  • Gum- Can’t live without it!- Ran out 😦
  • Toilet paper- I’m sure this will be my saviour- It was.
  • Passport, insurance info and contact info- Thank God for getting travel insurance because I broke a foot bone and needed a cast!
  • Passport photos for various visas- Most places ask for 2 photos but you only need one.
  • MONEY, debit card and credit card


  • Day bag
  • Dry sack- Came in handy.
  • Shoulder bag

And everything fits into my backpack perfectly!- By the end of my trip, with souvenirs and such, my pack was overly full, especially with clothes being so cheap in SE Asia.

Once again, I wish I brought less clothes. One day I’ll learn.

And there you have it. Agree or disagree with anything?


Top 5 Things To Do In Huaraz, Peru (Other Than Trekking)

4 Jul

The beautiful Cordillera Blanca is what pulls people toward the city of Huaraz, Peru.

Trekking, climbing, basically anything to do with seeing this gigantic mountain range is what appeals to a lot of adventurous travellers.

The Cordillera Blanca

Huaraz was a last minute trip planned for a weekend during the period I spent working on an archaeological dig so I didn’t get a chance to book any treks. I also was only able to go for 3 nights and it seemed as if there were no treks offered that were for less than 4 full days. Then there were the factors of acclimatizing and not being in great shape. So I was content with just exploring the city for a few days.

I ended up LOVING Huaraz.

I found that there were so many things to do other than trekking.

Here are what I believe are the top 5 things to do in Huaraz (other than trekking):

1) Market Hopping

You can find markets everywhere in South America. In Peru, Cuzco definitely takes the cake with its markets. Any backpacker who has been to Peru can recognize other backpackers based off of items specific to the markets (i.e. winter hats with llamas on it, comfy drawstring pyjama pants in various colours, loose shoulder bags with llamas on it,…). Cuzco has it all. But so does Huaraz. Not only does Huaraz have the exact same Peruvian souvenirs and such as Cuzco does, but it is WAY cheaper and it is WAY easier to haggle prices. I got all of my souvenirs in Huaraz for half the price I would have paid in Cuzco.

Modelling my market purchases while I take a nap

2) Eating

Huaraz is home to many really great restaurants. I didn’t have a singe meal there that didn’t fully satisfy me in every way. My recommendations? I’ll narrow it down to two, both of which you can find in pretty much any guide book. Cafe Andino. It had such a cool feel to it. Classic rock decor covered the walls. It had a comforting feel to it, almost as if I were back home. It also serves as an adventure travel company, which can be convenient. Cafe Andino is located on an upper level, which means that they had a balcony overlooking the Cordillera Blanca which was amazing! The quesadillas with guacamole was unreal. Surprisingly, I didn’t love the breakfast or desserts. Stick to the lunch and dinner items. All-in-all though, I enjoyed this place. I think I ate there 2 or 3 times in 3 days.

View of Huaraz from Cafe Andino

California Cafe. This place was awesome. It was such a chill backpacker hang out. The food was great. They had a book exchange. They even put together activities like frisbee games which was cool. Plus: All day breakfast!

Coca tea from California Cafe. The cure for altitude sickness.

There were so many other great restaurants in Huaraz, many of which had real authentic Peruvian dishes, if only I could remember the names…

3) Hot Springs

Hot springs are essential to Huaraz with all the trekking and hiking going on. I went to two. One of them I didn’t like at all while I did like the second one. The Thermal Baths of Chancos, was more for locals. Part of the problem could’ve been that we went on a weekend and so there were tons of pushy families fighting to use the baths. It was crowded and kind of gross to be honest. We ended up leaving before we even got a chance to test out the baths. The worst part was that it was impossible to find a taxi or collectivo and we spent a good hour trying to find a way back into town.

Walking up to Monterrey hot springs. As you can see, the altitude was absolutely killer!

The Monterrey hot springs was much better. It was not nearly as crowded. There was a great view of the mountains. You had the option to pay for the public hot springs that were filled with iron which made the bath appear brown or you could pay for a room where you had a private tub. We chose the former. The bath wasn’t very hot at all, but it was a relaxing and unique experience. If we had trekked for a week or so we probably would have chosen the latter option. How to get there: taxi or collectivo. We took a taxi there which was expensive. The collectivo back was 3 soles which is about a dollar US.

Iron baths at Monterrey

4) Carhuaz, Caraz, and Yungay

There are many tours that run to places outside Huaraz. The two most popular run to Chavín de Huantar and Huascarán National Park. Due to limited time, we could only do one and chose the latter. I usually don’t do tours, but since Huascarán National Park wasn’t super close to Huaraz I thought that booking a tour would be my best option. My friends and I found a random place on the main street in Huaraz and booked a tour that would take us through Carhuaz, Caraz, Yungay as well as Huascarán National Park. I was a little skeptical because it was only around 30 soles which is super cheap for a full day of touring, but it turned out to be completely legit (aside from the fact that the tour was only in Spanish which was probably why it was so cheap!). Carhuaz, Caraz and Yungay were really unique little places. Carhuaz was small, but it some great little shops including an ice cream place that was good, cheap, and served beer flavoured ice cream (!!!).

Nom nom nom

Yungay — made famous by the landslide that wiped out the town in the 70s — is home to Mount Huascarán! We stopped at Campo Santo Yungay where we could see a lot of the damage the landslide did to the town. I loved Yungay the most of the three cities.

The remnants of a bus that was hit by the landslide

On our way back to Huaraz we stopped in Caraz where we got to try manjar blanco (almost exactly like dulce de leche, nom nom nom) which is like caramel, milky, buttery goodness which I HAD to buy. These pitstops on the way to Huascarán are really what made the day so great. I got to see a lot more of Huaraz and the surrounding area than I thought I would and I was sure glad I got the chance to.

5) Huascarán National Park

I don’t even know what to say about Huascarán National Park other than that you HAVE TO GO! This UNESCO World Heritage Site was just breathtaking, particularly the Lagunas Llanganuco. The water was so incredibly blue and the snow-capped Mount Huascarán in the background was amazing. Seeing the lakes was one of those moments in life where I was truly speechless. It’s hard to describe the beauty of the lakes. The weather was perfect that day too which made it even better.

Nuff said

Honourable Mention: Region of Ancash festival. This was awesome. Definitely one of my favourite things to experience in Huaraz. The reason why it’s not included in the top 5 is because it just so happened that the festival was occurring during the weekend I was there. If I went the next weekend or the previous weekend then I wouldn’t have seen it, so it isn’t something that you can experience any day of the year. I’ll probably write about this fully in another post.

Huaraz was one of my favourite cities in Peru. It was fun, adventure-filled, relaxing, and just a place where I could feel comfortable. I wish I could have stayed longer.

Do you agree with my list? Any better suggestions?

Six Ways To Make Your Parents Happy While Traveling

24 Jun

If your parents are anything like mine, then I’m sure you deal with the many questions and concerns that come along with traveling.

I’m sure a part of it is because I’m only 21 years old. Although my parents will always have their doubts and concerns since I’m young, I’m grateful that they are understanding enough to allow me to live my life the way I want to.

And for me, that is seeing as much of the world as I possibly can. Meaning, I pretty much work to travel. All my money goes towards traveling. While my friends are buying $100 Coach wristlets (and there is nothing wrong with doing so), I’m thinking that that same $100 will get me 5 days of food and accommodation in Cambodia.

When it comes to backpacking, I know that my parents really are truly happy for me, but they’re always going to worry about me.

A lot of people associate hostels and the like with the horror stories they’ve heard so I try to keep my parents calm and at ease about me traveling through a foreign land. I owe it to them.

So, here are a few things that I do to keep my parents happy while I’m traveling.

1) Make an itinerary.

Every backpacker knows that it is very hard to stick to an itinerary. For me, honestly, it changes based off the relationships I make. If I meet a group of awesome people who are leaving for Luang Prabang a day later than I planned, I’m going to wait the extra day, no question. The people I meet are what really makes or breaks a place for me. Making itinerary for my parents seems like a good way for them to know where I am each day and if I change my plans I tell them. This is beneficial for every party involved. It’s always a good idea to have at least one person know where you are at all times. When I arrive in a new city or switch hostels, I always tell my parents, which definitely makes them (as well as myself) feel more at ease.

2) Create a budget.

Obviously you aren’t going to know about each and every dollar that you’ll be spending, but if you do research beforehand you should have a basic idea of what you’ll be spending each day (food, accommodations, alcohol, activities, etc). I send my parents my budget so they know that I’m financially capable of even going on a trip. It will also make them happy to know that I likely won’t be calling in the middle of the night asking them to wire me money.

3) Photocopy EVERYTHING.

I photocopy all important documents (passport, plane itineraries, contact information, etc) and I make sure that I scan and send them to my own email and my parent’s email. I have a few copies of my medical insurance, emergencies numbers (like the Canadian embassy in each country I’m visiting). I show them the address of the first hostel I’m staying at. This makes them feel a little more comfortable about the whole idea of traveling, especially if I’m backpacking solo. If my mom wants me to give her information that I think is unnecessary, I give it to her without a fuss.

4) Prove their assumptions wrong.

Last year, I went to Peru for six weeks. This was around the time that there was a man (Vandersloot, I think) who had murdered a young American woman who was studying in Peru. Of course, my parents were freaking out about me going. They also started to have all these assumptions about South America and Peru. I did everything I could to prove those assumptions wrong. Now, I’m backpacking throughout Southeast Asia, and these assumptions are starting to arise again. My mom talked to a Vietnamese woman at work who said that I cannot go to Cambodia because it’s way too dangerous. So, I did everything I could to show my mom that there are going to be some aspects of danger anywhere that I go (and that Canada probably has just as much danger as Southeast Asia does) and that just because I’m going to these countries, it doesn’t mean I’ll be traveling through the more dangerous cities and towns. I’ll also be traveling with another person and I will have a network of other travellers I’ll meet that are in the same boat as I am.

5) Contact them.

Call them once or twice a week (or as often or not as you’d like). Or if calling is too expensive, email them. Use the social network to your advantage. Tell your family and friends about your blog (if you have one), twitter, facebook, skype, etc, and update as often as you can! Figure out the time difference before you leave so you know the best times to call them. I’m bringing a netbook with me on this trip so I will use skype as often as I can. If I know that I will be unplugged for a few days, I make sure that I let them know. I know you’re going to be having the time of your life traveling, but try to think about the people who love you at home.

And lastly,

6) Leave some details out.

They don’t need to know EVERYTHING that I’m up to. Like drinking until the sun rises or how I was lost (by myself) for 4 hours or… I’ll leave it at that since my parents actually read my blog. Sometimes it’s better to leave a few things to the imagination to avoid more worrying.

A bar in Trujillo, Peru. You can't see it in this picture, but there is someone's PUKE all over the stairs!

And there you have it. Six ways to make your parents happy (or happier) about you traveling.

Do you have any other tips?

What NOT to pack

29 Mar

My first post!

I’d like to start off by saying that I am currently NOT in South America, but I will be writing about my travels there. I have a journal full of stories—the good, the bad, and the ugly—that I’ve wanted to share ever since I returned from my trip.

So I thought, why not start a blog?

This was my first travel experience outside of the Canada and the United States, so I assure you that there will be A LOT of travel advice in this blog. This was also my first backpacking experience and let me tell you, there are SO many things I would’ve done differently. But hey, that’s what experiences are all about. You live and you learn. You make mistakes and you grow from them.

So I thought I’d start off with a post about packing. When I first left for Peru my backpack was completely full. I didn’t realize how big of a mistake this was especially since I loved everything item in my backpack and wasn’t really willing to throw out anything to make room. I ended up having to throw out a lot of things I brought for these reasons:

1)   My backpack was way too heavy.
2)   I needed room for souvenirs I was bringing home for myself and for others.
3)   I didn’t pack right for the weather so I had to buy some more weather-appropriate clothes and throw away my 100 pairs of shorts.

I still have the packing list I made, so I will give you an inventory of every single thing that I packed and then I will tell you where I went extremely wrong. Hopefully this can help first-time backpackers with their packing.

But first, I will talk about the backpack I used and why it is very wise to research before you buy anything. I, stupidly, did not do this.

My backpack:

Type: MEC Brio 60L

Weight: 2.5 kg

Pros: Looks nice, front-loading, comfortable, good quality

Cons: Heavy, too big

Worth it? Definitely. $99 Canadian, which is about the same in USD. Such a steal.

Will I continue using it? YES. For now, that is. Eventually I will invest in a better backpack. This was my first backpack and I had no idea what I was doing. I really should’ve done my homework when it came to something as big as this, but it’s okay to make mistakes. Shop around, read reviews, and more importantly, read travel blogs!

If I could choose all over again would I choose this pack? Probably not. I would’ve gone for a 40L and one that was a little less wide. When I had this bad boy all packed up I could barely lift it.

Did I see anyone with the same pack? I saw one person. A guy. For whatever that’s worth.

Keep in mind that everyone packs differently. Everyone has specific things they need to bring that others would never bring with them. Also, packing is completely destination dependent. You’re not going to pack the same clothes on a trip to Antarctica as you are to the Caribbean. You might not agree with everything I brought and I would love to hear your comments. To each their own, though.

List of what I packed


  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • 2 pairs of jeans (threw one out)
  • 1 zip up hoodie (bought another one when I was in Peru)
  • 1 black cardigan
  • 1 light jacket
  • 10 pairs of underwear, 6 pairs of sock, 3 bras (one strapless)
  • 1 black dress, 1 colourful dress, and one black/purple dress (only needed 1 or 2)
  • 1 skirt
  • 7 t-shirts (threw out 3 of them)
  • 5 tank tops (only needed 3)
  • 3 nice shirts (only needed 1, maybe 2)
  • 1 long sleeve shirt (bought 1 more while in Peru)
  • 1 pair of black sports pants
  • 1 pair of capri pants
  • 5 pairs of shorts (only really needed 2 or 3)
  • 1 bathing suit


  • 1 sunhat
  • 1 pair of running shoes
  • 1 pair of heels (see below!)
  • 2 pairs of flip flops (threw one pair out)- only one pair is pictured
  • Bandana
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses


Toiletries (not pictured individually)

My toiletry bag compared to my friend Chris's!

  • 1 bottle of shampoo/1 bottle of conditioner
  • Bar of soap
  • Sunscreen
  • Women’s products
  • Tweezers, Nail clippers
  • 3 Disposable shavers
  • Makeup
  • Blow dryer
  • Hair straightener
  • Hair spray
  • Vaseline
  • Mini first aid kit
  • Hair ties, bobby pins, hair brush, comb



  • iPod, headphones, and charger
  • iPod speakers (broke a week before my trip ended)- these actually got a lot of use
  • Canon Powershot, case and charger
  • Two 4 GB memory cards (should’ve brought 3 or 4)
  • USB drive


  • Journal and Pens
  • Guidebook
  • Spanish phrasebook
  • 1 Book
  • Frisbee- not pictured
  • JanSport backpack for my daypack
  • 1 small shoulder bag
  • 1 roll of toilet paper (best thing I brought!)
  • Deck of cards- not pictured
  • Passport, insurance info, contact info, money, etc.


Note: ALL of this fit into my backpack, but it was filled right to the top.

Where I went wrong:

1) What I would reconsider for my next trip:

Straightener- I’m one of those girls who straightens her hair at least 5 out of 7 days a week. In Peru, I used it twice and only because I felt like I had to justify bringing it since it was too expensive to throw out. One reason why I love backpacking – no one cares about looks.

Hair dryer- To be fair, mine broke on Day 2 of my trip when I was using it to dry my flip flops. DON’T bring a hair dryer. You will NEVER use it.

High heels- WOW, I know. I’m a little embarrassed to put this one up here. I don’t feel like I need to explain my reasoning on this one.

Makeup- I’m not gonna lie, I did wear makeup. BUT I did bring way too much. Stick to the basics if you want to bring makeup (eyeliner, mascara, an eyeshadow). There’s nothing wrong with wearing makeup, even when you’re backpacking around South America.

Frisbee/Deck of cards- Threw both out.

Nice clothes- Brought way too much. Next time I’ll stick to a skirt, one or two nice tops, and one dress. You can always buy things in the places you visit if you need new clothes.

2) What I should’ve brought:

Money belt- Got to be safe!

Tape- So simple, yet always overlooked.

Scissors-You’d be surprised how many times you would kick yourself for not bringing scissors.

Some sort of organizer for my clothes (like a packing cube)- I just stuffed all my clothes in my bag and it was a pain-in-the-ass trying to find things.

Netbook (Now, this depends on how long my next trip will be. If it’s 2 months or less I probably won’t bring it because I can’t afford it, but if it’s for more than 2 months, I will definitely invest in one- Any suggestions?)

A clock (or a watch that has an alarm)- How did I forget this?!

Some kind of small pillow or pillow case (to stuff with clothes)- overnight buses can be killer without a pillow.

Travel Towel- I bought 2 very small towels in Peru, but they were still so bulky.

Button up shirt- everyone needs a button up.

Bottle opener- I needed one of these so many times. A corkscrew would be good too, so I’ll probably just get a Swiss Army knife next time

Head lamp- good for the obvious reasons, but also really good in hostels. There were so many times that I wanted something from my bag really late at night or early in the morning, but I felt too bad to turn on the lights. This would’ve been perfect.

More memory cards- you can never have enough.

Gum- I really wish I brought gum because it was impossible to find in Peru and gum would have been a lifesaver.


Also, be prepared to lose things. I swear I lost something every other day, including my credit card. Losing things while backpacking is like losing socks in the washing machine (which clearly end up in Narnia).