10 Absolutely Vital Things To Put In Your Backpack When You Travel The World Alone

Painting by Igor Skaletzky

Painting by Igor Skaletzky

I have this strong urge to start the list with my laptop so that I can keep watching Season 4 of The Good Wife (not even Game of Thrones like all you cool kids out there) but I’ll let it go. Travelling the world alone… Sounds great. I’m up for it. But I’m afraid my bank balance isn’t. (See the The Art of Quitting article to better understand why).

I am turning 26 in less than 2 days and there are still 4 continents I haven’t set foot on. Hundreds of cities I haven’t even heard of. And there are all these backpackers who spend years on the road. They look pretty broke too, so how do they do it? Most of them are white men who don’t need visas and they can do heavy jobs in shady places easier than I could, but there are also people like me who push things and cross borders somehow… So why have I still not tried to do it?

Maybe it’s time. I don’t have a job. I won’t have a flat after next month. I don’t have a boyfriend. It is time. But how do I do it? Where do I start? What do I take with me?

Whenever I get bored at work, in class, or on a date, I take everything in my bag out and reorganize it. If I am really bored, I reorganize my wallet too. So I guess this is how it should start: first in my head, then in Word, and, who knows, maybe next month in a real backpack.


Of course. A light notebook with good quality paper. The kind that turns into soft magic when your pen touches it. A Moleskine maybe. Yes, it’s a good start until I see something unique and authentic in a small village in Italy or Portugal.


A pen is absolutely vital. My favorite pen is oddly the pen I have been using since last summer. It has the logo of one of the worst companies I ever worked for on it and looks hideous. But it feels so good when it touches the paper. Any paper! It’s hard to explain… But it’s my favourite pen. You gotta have your favourite pen close to you at all times. You never know when the muse comes.


A fancy marker, like the ones the graffiti people carry and write down their names or tag the toilets of bars and clubs, so that I can write “patriarchy sucks” and “women rock” and maybe some William Blake quotes or the anthem of my hometown’s soccer team all around the world.


Camping is not my thing. I tried it twice and ended up spending the night in the car both times. So if I want to travel the world alone, I need something comfy to sleep and write in. Good thing it’s summer. I can already see myself taking a nap in my hammock somewhere in Greece.


Well, everyone needs a pretty dress on their holidays, everyone who is into pretty dresses anyway. What if a really hot Brazilian guy asks you out on a date or you meet a group of hip girls going out and they ask you to join. Are you going to go with the outfit you’ve been wearing for weeks with wine and grass stains on it? I don’t think so.


Ok, if this is really going to happen then let’s be real. I can’t do it without some sort of a technological device. I need maps, music, Facebook, Couchsurfing, and ArtParasites. My millennial brain is not even able to comprehend the time on an old fashioned clock in less than a minute. I don’t know which way is South or North even in the city I live in. I need to listen to the same album at least once every time I write. I have no money to stay at a hostel at every stop and I am kind of addicted to this website. I really should not take a smartphone with me considering my bad track record of having my phones stolen, so if any of my friends read this before my birthday… I feel like it should be harder to get an iPad stolen, right?


Headphones are of course absolutely essential. Too bad I don’t have a pair at the moment. But if I could, I would get the same ones I had a couple of years back. Adidas Sennheisers. Not too big, not too small, just the perfect size, colours, and sound. It was the first thing I bought out of my first salary and I had them when I discovered most of the songs that are my favourites now.


I know I can download books and read them on my new iPad, yes. But I need a paperback book with me for the times when my battery dies out and/or when I eventually get the iPad stolen. I read the Notes from the Underground several times, and this is exactly why I should take it with me. It’s life changing, Russian, and lightweight (literally). I should read it over and over again while travelling in Russia and take tiny notes between the lines. Then I should go to Dostoevsky’s grave and read it there one more time. If you have a book that is this special to you, you should take that one with you too.


I would take a disposable camera, firstly because I don’t trust myself with an expensive one, and secondly because I am weak. I can’t carry something big and heavy all the time. I love disposable cameras because they are light, it’s okay to lose them, and you have to wait till you get the film developed to see the photos. It adds something special to the photos you get at the end.


It’s not my favourite type of sweet. That’s KitKat by far. But a plain Milka Bar goes well with everything and every mood. It’s perfect with coffee, wine, and after a break up or a bad meeting with the boss. So I should definitely put one in my backpack for the first time I feel like coming back home and getting under my duvet. A Milka Bar should be enough to keep me going until another city and another moment of fascination will make me thank myself for actually doing it.

Nazli Koca is a writer and dreamer based in Berlin. It’s very likely that you will run into her while she is writing in the train or reading at Spoken Word events around Rathaus Neukölln. If you live in a city far far away, you can read more of her stuff at rhnk.tumblr.com