In my twenties, I worked for biotech firms, and I had the privilege of enjoying travel as a part of work. Through these experiences, I met a lot of people from various cultures, all walks of life and each with stories that amazed and moved me.
Traveling and exposure to people (who are all very different from me) drastically changed my perspective on life. I questioned the way I was living, the relationships I built, the purpose of life, and began to increasingly feel that life is incredibly short and needs to be curated based on the individual, not the masses. Of course, all this is only possible if one is lucky enough to have the resources, environment, support.
One of my Instagram friends, Sarah (shoutout @tartan.and.tealeaves), messaged me a few weeks ago with a quote from Twain “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the earth all one’s lifetime”. It stuck with me because many of us grow up in the same country and don’t often have the opportunity to travel abroad to see that they have options beyond what they already know, to marvel at the long history of other peoples, to admire some of the social programs other countries have that we lack in the US, and just to see that happiness can be achieved in so many ways, as long as you know yourself and what you want.
Determined to follow in the footsteps of mentors who gave me opportunity when they really didn’t have any obligation to, I told myself years ago that I would use Borderlands Bakery as a way to save money and go on an epic trip at some point with friends who haven’t been, and find a way to document the whole experience so we can share it with others, contributing to the chain reaction of encouraging travel as a way of expanding one’s perspectives on life.
Afterall, exposure to different perspectives and lifestyles is one of the best ways to build compassion and empathy – and I think many of us would agree that we need that now more than ever. To see that life is far from binary, and that operating in the grey is what makes us human. Life is messy, and beautiful.
Professionally and amongst friends, our 3-week European adventure was one of the most amazing experiences I’d had in my life.
But before we get down to the details of what we did, let’s talk prep.
When I’d saved enough money for the trip in 2021, I tasked Britany (who manages the Borderlands Bakery shop) with coming up with an itinerary for us. Our deal was that she would come on the trip with us, and her role would be to plan/organize the trip.
I’d also be taking Todd (partnerships/collabs/biz dev), Clay (videographer + some photography), and James (photographer + some videography) on the trip with me to experience the awesomeness and document the adventure.
It’s all of these guys first time in Europe, which will make for an exciting experience across the board.
Britany had created an itinerary where we’d begin in Paris, go to Saint Malo (France) > Gruyere (Switzerland) > Florence (Italy) > Budapest (Hungary) and Vienna (Austria). In the following 2 months, I’ll be highlighting some of our epic adventures in the EU.
BUT FIRST, I thought it’d be helpful to share some of my must- have items for international travel, with am emphasis on minimizing how much stuff to bring:
- International Power Adaptors: I know there are a ton of options out there, and my criteria was fast charging, compact size, decent price and midline quality. Something that will last a few years, but because technology move so quickly, spending less than $20/adaptor was important to me. I ended up purchasing this 3-pack for a great price AND the quality is top notch- comes with a USB C port for fast charging. The adaptor I had purchased 3 years ago for travel is pretty obsolete and clunky compared to these. You can also Shop All Adaptors.
- Power Banks: phones are absolutely crucial now. Our phones are our lifelines, giving us access to money, helping us navigate and communicate when we’re lost or if there’s a language barrier. I like both the version that plugs directly into your phone (also serving as a case), or the external ones that can be used to charge any device so long as you have the right cables. You don’t need anything super expensive – find one with good reviews and priced around $25-$30, and chances are, it’ll be solid. I like the INIU one here:
- Pill Organizers: for your pepto (absolutely crucial IMO), ibuprofen and any other medication or supplements you might have. Yes, using a zip lock or airtight zip pouch is also adequate, but I was feeling aesthetic and wanted something cute, durable, and easy to find in all my stuff. Depending on your needs, there are various sizes you can explore. You can get these cute ones HERE.
- Packing Cubes: for 3 weeks away, keeping your outfits organized, easy to find and clean vs. dirty clothes separated was really helpful. This also gives you the ability to compress your clothes a bit more than you normally can just rolling them up, giving you a bit more space, especially if you’re only doing carry-on travel. I really like the ones that are a bit more see-through so you can easily locate your stuff.
- Good Luggage: Now, I’m partial to Monos luggage and own the Terrazo carry-on Pro, which is the smaller of the carry-on sizes, allowing it to fit in more smaller planes so I don’t have to check my bag for those short flights. I did purchase this impulsively, but I absolutely have ZERO regrets.. seriously, so aesthetic, robust, high quality and worth every single penny and I’d buy it over and over again.. in fact why didn’t I buy it sooner??. Take $20 off with our referral link HERE. I love that it comes with a hardshell pocket for my laptop. Make sure you double check dimensions before purchasing to ensure it suits your needs.
- Windbreaker or UV protection clothing: I know it seems silly to call this out specifically but windbreakers are light and can help keep you warm without taking up a lot of space, especially for summer/spring travel when it’s not too cold. The white one I’m wearing is HERE. I also added UV clothing here because for summer travel, it gets HOT in a lot of areas and this can dramatically help reduce sun damage.
- Compact Travel Blanket OR Blanket Scarf: I have a blanket from some previous travels that’s sentimental to me and I can’t part with: but can’t say how convenient it is to have a travel blanket that’s super compact. Helps keep you comfortable when you’re at a cold airport or sitting under the AC in a restaurant or air BNB. Might be my age talking, but I don’t want to be cold or uncomfortable anymore!
- Wipes: the alcoholic kind. It really doesn’t matter what kind you get, but these come in handy. I like to carry small portable packs with me, replenish along the way as I need them.
- Fanny Pack: people are either going to love or hate me for this one but having a fanny pack vs. carrying a purse or backpack has been LIFECHANGING and I will avoid anything else moving forward. Your hands are free you constantly have an eye on your stuff, it’s comfortable. Is it fashionable? I mean, I guess it can be, but I literally spent under $20 and am *very* happy with my purchase. It’s going to be visible (yet also kinda subtle) in 99% of the photos I’ll be posting.
- Toiletry set: honestly, please just get yourself a decent set of toiletry containers. I’m going to link my favorites here. I searched high and low for little tiny jars for my retinol, moisturizer and skin tone corrector (yes, only 3 things for skincare), and try to use little sample size products for things like cleaner, shower gel, shampoo, keeping it as minimal as possible and replenishing when I get to my destination if necessary.
If you’d like to check out the rest of my Travel must-haves from Amazon, CLICK HERE
Please note: many of these are affiliate links, where I make a commission at no cost to you if you decide to make a purchase – this is a great way to support us while purchasing things as normal.
If you have any questions about any of the things I’ve shared above, I encourage you to drop a comment or question below- would be happy to answer!