As someone who's on the road a lot, I don't own much. I have two small boxes stored in Canada, and the stuff that I travel with fits into one 28" suitcase and a carry-on duffle bag. If I sold everything tomorrow, I'd be lucky to get $1000.
And half of that would be the value of my computer.
No matter. That's how I like it.
However, in spite of my predilection for a minimal lifestyle, there are still some strange and undeniably superfluous things that I never travel without.
I'm happy to share some of those things with you today:
10 Strange Items I Take to Latin America
1) Shavette w/ Razor Blades
I'm currently using this shavette and these blades. I've been shaving like this for years now and I will never go back. It is by far the cheapest and best way to shave (aside from a proper straight razor, of course). They also take up much less space in my luggage than a bulky electric razor. These things are tough to find in Latin America (I am always shocked by the fact that I can NEVER find decent razor blades...I must not be looking hard enough). Before I head out on a trip, I make sure that I have enough blades to last. Both of these things can be found cheap on Amazon. You can also get yourself a nice badger hair shaving brush and some soap to class things up a bit - women seem to like that.
But I've found that simply shaving with coconut oil works just fine.
2) Vitamin D, Fish Oil, Magnesium and Zinc
It's a little-known fact that almost all of us are Vitamin D and/or Magnesium deficient. For the most part, our bodies get sufficient sources of other vitamins so long as we are eating a balanced diet. However, the D remains elusive and difficult to get enough of. This stuff can be prohibitively expensive in Latin America and sometimes difficult to find. I recommend you hit a Costco stateside and stock up before your next trip. Personally, I pack Fish Oil and Zinc as well - the Fish Oil is apparently good for cardiovascular health and the Zinc...well, I don't really know what it does but I take it anyway.
3) Talcum Powder
I'm the only one I know who uses it, but I swear by this stuff. It has so many uses. I use it after I shave for nice smooth skin, put it in my shoes to prevent odour, and slap it on my nuts if it's humid outside or if I don't have time to shower before hitting a club. Also works great as a dry shampoo to soak up excess oil (again, showers are better but sometimes we're pressed for time). Also seems to miraculously treat most skin rashes that are all too commonly picked up in hostels or while trekking through Latin American jungles (if that's your thing). I order the above brand because I enjoy the scent and it looks elegant as fuck, but luckily you can pick this stuff up in virtually any pharmacy in any LATAM nation if you don't feel like packing it.
4) Clubman Virgin Island Bay Rum Aftershave/Cologne
Another item from Pinaud Clubman. This is my go-to aftershave/cologne while travelling because it's insanely cheap so I don't care if I leave it somewhere. Plus, the scent is very unique: masculine (woody, hints of clove) but not overbearing. Goes well in hot weather. Unfortunately, the aroma doesn't hang around too long on your skin, but if you mix it with a bit of jojoba or coconut oil it usually will last for a few hours.
Worth noting that this product contains alcohol, so it's not for everyone. If you are prone to dry or sensitive skin, stay away from this one.
If I'm actually living somewhere longterm I'll get a nicer scent.
In fact, by using this, I'm breaking the cardinal rule of cologne: never buy anything with a ship on the bottle.
Here's another strange one. I like to travel with an Ab-Wheel. It can be taken apart so it won't take up much room in your suitcase, and it's a great way to strengthen your core if you don't have access to a gym. Not really sure what else I can say about item number 5...
6) Espresso Pot and Coffee
I use the 3-cup espresso pot above with finely ground, Cubita brand coffee. Why do I bring coffee to a region of the world famous for its coffee? Well, you might be surprised to know that good coffee in Latin America is not always easy to find. They export all of the good stuff and fill the grocery store shelves with low quality nonsense. Canada has a pretty good trade relationship with Cuba so I stock up with several 250 gram packages of high quality Cuban coffee for about $2.50 USD a pop before leaving. This espresso pot comes in handy when staying in hostels or apartments without a coffee maker. Also makes for better tasting coffee in my opinion.
7) Soundproof Earmuffs
I hate working with distractions. One particular contract job that I do requires me to be detailed and precise, and I can't manage if there is excessive background noise. I use these guys above. They are meant for people who work with loud machinery, but are surprisingly effective at cutting out television noise, street noise and obnoxious conversations.
Soundproof audio headphones will do the trick as well, but for about $12 USD these are hard to beat.
8) Portable Battery Charger
Something you didn't know: when I lived in Mexico City, I planned to do some work as a freelance journalist. I picked up the portable battery charger above to keep my phone and charger going if I was out all day at a demonstration or in an town that lacked amenities. I quickly realized two things.
One, the pay for a freelance journalist is ghastly.
Two, I am far too right-wing to be a journalist in contemporary times.
Still, the charger works great for long bus rides or flights where you might not have access to an electrical outlet. Fully juiced, this thing can handle about 4 full charges of my phone. I highly recommend.
9) Bluetooth Speaker
I didn't start packing a speaker with me until recently. Now, I can't go without one. This ANKER Bluetooth Speaker is extremely compact, reasonably priced and produces surprising impressive sound (ANKER makes great products). Obviously great for music, but also great for watching movies. Put the speaker beside your bed and leave the computer on your desk. That way, you won't have a laptop taking up space between you and your girl.
Probably one of my most cherished items. Way more convenient than hauling books around in your luggage, and provides you with one of life's greatest gifts: the gift of knowledge :). Also, e-books are generally cheaper than paperbacks and pretty much all titles are available (also, there are many websites to download free e-books from but I don't endorse this - it's hard enough to make a living as an author). I use an older version of the above Kobo. It can store all the books I'd ever need but it runs a bit slow. I'd recommend a Kindle instead. One of these can be had for about $100 and its value is tenfold.
That's about it. Admittedly, some items are weirder than others, but this is basically what I roll with when I'm travelling or living in another country. Of course, I also carry with me all of the more obvious things (laptop, multi-tool, flash drives, camera, chargers, etc).
Let me know in the comments about some of the odd shit you can't leave home without.
Until next time,
Want more information on Latin America? Check out my City Guides!