The following post was written by Gap Year Fellow Viktoria Alston.
The three essential things everyone needs for their gap year (besides their passport) are as follows: a towel, an adaptor, and a phrase book. These items can often be overlooked as you focus on the bigger aspects of your year ahead – the travel, the food, the experiences to come – but remembering these three items will make your life on the road a hell of a lot easier.
Imagine this, you finally arrive at your hostel after an 18-hour bus ride. You’re covered in sweat, vomit, and a thick layer of dirt and desperation. You check in at the front desk and trudge to your dorm, looking forward to a nice hot shower. You turn the water on. It’s cold. You wait for it to warm up. It doesn’t. You sigh and brace yourself for the cold stream to hit your filthy skin. After a short yet highly disappointing shower, you reach for your towel to dry off. It’s not there. You forgot your towel. Oh wait, you don’t even have a towel and neither does the hostel. Why would they?
According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a towel is the most important item an interstellar hitchhiker (or in this case terrestrial traveler) can bring. Not only can a towel make your hostel showers less disappointing, it can serve as a pillow, blanket, and in those moments of true desperation, toilet paper. Be a good traveler, never forget a towel.
After the cold shower left you feeling worse than before, you notice your phone is almost dead. You haven’t charged it since you left the last hostel. You dig through your bag to find your charger and go to plug it in. It’s not fitting. Why? Because this isn’t the United States anymore. You got lucky with your last hostel, you didn’t need an adaptor then. You do now.
A phrase book
Since your phone is, at this point, dead, you need to buy an adaptor. You’re also hungry. You have a lot of issues right now. You walk to a local store, hoping that they’ll have an adaptor. You can’t find one. You attempt to use your minimal language skills to communicate with the store workers. They don’t understand you. You start to pull out your phone as a last ditch attempt to tell them what you need. Did you forget? It’s dead. In a situation like this, a phrase book would’ve replaced your now worthless phone. Welp, off to the next store.
Did I forget any of these items? No. Did I not even think to bring them in the first place? Yes.
A friend gave me the adaptor and phrasebook the day before I left, subsequently saving me a lot of stress and frustration. I “borrowed” a towel from home, a last minute addition to my bag as I was literally leaving to go to the airport, and only because I saw my copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide laying out and remembered. Don’t be like me and not even think of bringing these things. You may not even think of bringing them, but they’ll probably save your life.