If you’re curious what things I keep with me while spending months on the road, here’s a list of a few special things I just can’t live (or travel!) without.
I spent five months last year backpacking with an awful backpack that I had ordered on Ebay for $50. Big mistake! When I returned from Central Asia with my pack literally duct taped together, I knew it was time to upgrade. After tons of research I totally fell in love with my Deuter Act Lite 65 + 10 Liter backpack. It fits like a glove and I swear makes my haul feel lighter.
Camera: All of my photos up until May 2016 were taken with an old Canon Rebel T3 that I inherited from my dad. It’s inexpensive for a DSLR, surprisingly light, and I’ve found it to be a great starter camera.
Now I use a Canon EOS 5d Mark II, which is the most magical camera that ever was. It’s a full frame professional camera and definitely an investment, but oh so worth it. I opted to get the Mark II instead of the newer Mark III, since it was so much cheaper yet still the perfect travel camera.
It is a bit on the heavy side, but to be honest, I don’t really notice such a great difference between it and other DSLR cameras – they’re all a bit heavy, and the weight is always worth it for the amazing travel photos.
Lenses: Before getting the Mark II I upgraded the kit lens (which I hated) to Canon’s amazing 24-105mm f/4 L lens, which I still use now with my new camera. I can’t believe I went for so long without upgrading my lens – a quality lens makes worlds of difference in photos. Seriously, this lens is AMAZING! The colors come out bright and photos are always tack sharp. I also love Canon’s 50 mm f/1.8 lens, which is tiny (making my camera really light) and perfect for low light situations and portraits. This is the lens that most fashion and lifestyle bloggers use, because it captures really crisp subjects with a soft, creamy background.
Tripod: I’m obsessed with my Joby tripod. It’s small and super light, and its adjustable legs mean that I can set it up in awkward locations, like wrapping it around a railing or tree branch. As someone who travels solo a lot, having a tripod is key to setting up shots of myself (because who wants to be the person always asking strangers to take their photos? Not me).
Remote: My camera remote is definitely my favorite camera accessory. It’s especially handy when I’m traveling solo and am taking a lot of selfies, though I’ve used it for a lot of group shots with my friends as well. Firstly, using a remote means I don’t have to wait for my camera’s self-timer to count down, and I can take a bunch of shots at once.
But more importantly, the remote allows the camera to focus on me before taking the photo, whereas when I try to use the self-timer the camera focuses on the background before I run into the shot, meaning I end up out of focus.
Editing: For serious editing I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, which has powerful editing tools but is still really easy to use. It seems like all the serious photographers out there use Lightroom and/or Photoshop, so if you want your photos to look equally amazing this is the way to go. The best deal out there is the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which gives you Lightroom and Photoshop for a subscription of $9.99/month. The best part is that it includes updates!
Hotels and Hostels: My secret weapon for finding the best value accommodation is Booking.com. Okay, maybe it’s not such a secret, but I have learned time and again that not all booking sites are as trustworthy as this one. Use it!
Airbnb: I’m a new convert to Airbnb but I suddenly get what the fuss is all about. It’s so nice to be able to self cater in your own apartment, and it’s often a way cheaper option that staying at a hotel. (You can get a huge discount off your first stay if you sign up for Airbnb here!)
Couchsurfing: I love being able to meet up with locals and have a truly unique experience in their city, and Couchsurfing.org helps me do just that!
Hosting: I used to host my site through GoDaddy, but their customer service was terrible. I’ve now switched to HostGator, which offers much better support, and after I made the switch my site load time was cut in half. Highly recommended! Another alternative I’ve heard high praise for is SiteGround. They have awesome support and are more reliable than the big hosting sites – in fact the only reason I didn’t go with them was that HostGator was a bit cheaper at the time I signed up.
Travel Blog Success: To be honest I have mixed feelings about Travel Blog Success, and think a large reason so many travel bloggers promote them is that the affiliate payout is huge (I’ll make $100 if you buy it through my link). It was also significantly cheaper when I bought it than it is now. The lessons might be helpful for beginner bloggers, but they’ve also become a little stale – you might be better taking advice from lifestyle blogging communities instead, which tend to be more up to date.
BUT the secret Travel Blog Success Facebook group has been beyond helpful. Once your blog has grown enough you’ll start getting sponsored post and ad requests where you will be expected to name your own rates. I would have been totally lost without guidance from the group, and probably would have way undersold myself. It also seems like many of the “biggest” travel bloggers are in the group, and incredibly active, so if you want to be in the know with the travel blogging world, you probably want to be part of this.
And finally, because I didn’t feel like there was any blogging course out there I could 100% recommend, I went ahead and made my own!
It focuses on Pinterest, which I believe is the best platform for newer bloggers to grow their page views and find their ideal audience without spending too much time on it (and it works even if your brand new to blogging), but in this course I also talk a lot about building a successful blog from the ground up. Basically it’s everything I wish I had known about blogging when I first started. Check out Pinterest for Bloggers here! It also happens to be a fraction of the price of any other similar course I’ve seen.
Last but definitely not least (in fact this really should have gone first), I use World Nomads for travel insurance. Their support line was incredibly helpful when I needed to go to a hospital in Beijing, and the claims process could not have been easier. I mailed them my receipts four months later when I had returned home, and a few weeks later I had a check from them in the mail. One of the best things about World Nomads is that you can apply from abroad, whereas a lot of insurance programs require you to sign up while you’re still in your home country (a huge pain for longterm travelers).
Big lesson learned from my experience getting sick on the road: have travel insurance! Choose whatever insurance fits best with your needs, but I highly recommend World Nomads.