Travellin’ Bob’s Travel Kit

I watch a lot YouTube videos for my entertainment. Along with all the political stuff, the documentaries about UFOs, vintage cars and aeroplanes, tech stuff about different hard- and soft-ware, and British prog rock bands, is an abundance of travel content.  This stuff is by a variety of Creators whose living is to travel all over the place, catch trains and boats, buses and planes to popular and obscure destinations – and make mostly entertaining videos about their journeys.  It’s something I would love to do myself if a) I was technically competent enough to operate a GoPro or even mobile phone camera without getting the shakes, and/or b) be financially solvent enough to pay my way.  Since neither of those criteria is in place (and never likely to be, unless my numbers come up on the Euromillions lottery) I will remain content watching other people’s Content.  At least I can interact with the Creators, either in a (mostly) positive or (rarely) negative way via the embedded Comments facilities and usually get a response – even if only a one-word “thanks”.  It’s more than I get for these scribblings!

But anyway, pretty much all of these film-makers (to use the old fashioned term for what they do) mention, on a fairly regular basis, their “travel arsenal” and why this or that product is part of it.  Leaving aside for a moment the possibly questionable term that could, I fear, cause distress for those of a more sensitive disposition, I’m sure that the manufacturer of that product or service being the sponsor of the particular video is purely coincidental, of course….  And to be clear, no-one is discussing offensive weapons either on You Tube or in this piece.

Anyway, I’ve seen a whole range of such must-have’s, from AdBlocker and VPN software through suitcases, skin creams and branded clothing, to on-line apps with which you can quickly and easily learn new languages while being bored shitless on yet another Business Class inter-continental flight while sipping champagne and feasting on Michelin-quality food while the IFE plays your selection from several hundred movies, tv shows and music channels (but especially the Moving Map that tells you in real-time which war zone is closest to your current location).  

It all seems very complicated to my increasingly addled 70 year old brain.  


Some of the stuff I really can’t see the need for, except as a means of making a bit of extra dosh (a caveat here: I have no idea how much these guys earn either in sponsorship or their Channel’s monetization – Godawful word, that) when you’re travelling.  I can see the need for a decent phone and camera and a top-end laptop with video editing software if you’re making movies – I get that.  But skin-cream (especially when being praised to the rafters by some bloke of middle years sporting a beer-belly and a full beard and moustache)?  Does it really make a difference if you’re travelling in a pair of Timberland hiking boots (nice though they undoubtedly are) and a NASA hoodie, tee-shirt and track-pants combo rather than a selection of George At Asda’s finest? Can’t see it does, really.  

An app to teach a language quickly and easily?  Please!  As someone who has spent twenty-odd years struggling to master Polish (hearing it every single day from My Beloved and my kids and the telly, not to mention spending hours poring over phrasebooks and Teach Yourself Polish text books from Berlitz, and yet still unable to manage a rational conversation with our neighbour’s four year old (Polish native) daughter, I’m firmly of the opinion that mechanical aids aren’t always much help.  You either have an aptitude for languages, or you don’t.   If the former then you won’t need the app because you will master the language anyway, if the latter ditto: it will be a waste of both your time and money.

A decent suitcase I’ll grant you – but again you can buy some really good ones for a quite reasonable price in any half-way decent shop or chain store without spending a fortune on the Latest Big Thing advertised by your friendly neighbourhood YouTuber: even a crappy canvas backpack or sports bag from Tesco’s Home ‘n’ Wear section will work just as well for those short long weekend hops.

Software…..again, it rather depends.  Do you even want to lug your laptop and all the cabling that goes with it unless you’re going to be away a couple of weeks?  If you’re a pro, then I suppose yes: that way you can work on the plane, scripting, editing footage or whatever else Content Creators get up to, and thus endlessly impress fellow passengers and cabin crew alike…..might even get the odd selfie request (since selfies have replaced the autograph in the Look Who I Bumped Into The Other Day stakes).  If you’re going to those lengths then I can certainly see the need for a VPN to spoof your location (watching porn in a Teheran hotel room without one might not be the brightest idea you ever had…).


Anyway, I hope you get the picture.  This mythical “essential travel arsenal”, probably like your choice of airline (Emirates or Ryanair) or seat (window or aisle: no-one wants the middle!) in the end comes down to your personal choice.  And probably budget.  Oh, and level of gullibility.  And this is of course perfectly fine.

As a dedicated proponent of the wonderful KISS Principal (er….Keep It Simple, Stupid…) I always err on the side of – well, not very much.  My “essential travel arsenal” is vanishingly small (as in, I tend to take less each time I go anywhere). This is mainly because as I get older and more feeble I can’t be arsed to lug about loads of junk that some bloke on YouTube insists I simply Must Have every time I step outside my front door to go anywhere other than the local shops.  

Here it is (note: subject to how I feel on any given journey):

  • My mobile phone (and charger).  My Beloved would never forgive me if I went anywhere, including the local shops, without it as she wouldn’t be able to check up on me every half an hour in case Something Bad Has Happened;
  • A decent book.  Or two.  I need to read, every day: whether fiction (the good stuff anyway), biographies, history books, current affairs…..anything that catches my eye.  I would be lost without at least one book within arm’s reach, more if possible.  An e-reader (another Essential according to some YouTubers) is of no interest to me – I’m old fashioned and much prefer the feel and smell of paper, a real book, in my hands. And I much prefer a book to magazines and newspapers;
  • My Bluetooth headphones.  To listen to the music library, currently 162 albums by 120 artists, totalling God knows how many tracks but the best part of a week’s listening, 24/7, held on the SD card in my mobile.  Who needs an IFE with that lot (to go with the book of course)?;  
  • A bag to hold it all in.  Apart from the headphones (that of course hang around my neck when not in use), all of those items fit into a tatty old Tommy Hilfigger man-satchel I bought in a discount store for peanuts a good ten years ago – with room to spare for my wallet, passport and travel documents (including boarding passes and reservation confirmations);

That does it for a short day trip, say a walk in the forest, a trip into the city sightseeing or a train or bus ride to another town (just for something to do).  For longer sojourns I will add:

  • A note book and pen.  If I’m going anywhere, especially somewhere new, I like to jot down notes of stuff that I’ve seen or heard, plus pop off some pics on the phone, that may end up in an essay for my blogs.  Or not – it doesn’t matter: the memories will still be there for me to look at when I’m old and want to get all weepy and sentimental;
  • Toiletries.  Typically, this will be a toothbrush, toothpaste, an underarm, and perhaps a razor (this depends on the time I will be away: more than four days and I will definitely be getting itchy and scratchy);
  •  A few clothes. A fresh pair of socks and pants for each day I’m away, plus a few extra tees and maybe a sweater.  And an alternative cap;
  • My laptop.  OK, it’s an old Lenovo and with the cabling and a mouse weighs a ton (or at least it feels that way) so unless I intend to be away for five or more days I’ll leave it at home and make do with my notebook and pen.  If it’s with me I’ll maybe watch stuff and check the news and football scores in my room in the evenings so I do have a free VPN installed to help (ExpressVPN rather than the de riguer YouTube choice SurfShark).  But no porn: I’m too old for that;
  • A small suitcase. Cabin baggage sized to fit in the overhead bins, or if possible just another backpack if I can cram everything in and stuff it under the seat in front.  It reduces travel costs (no – or at least reduced – baggage charges, now you have to pay for pretty much everything on flights) and means I don’t have to hang around in Reclaim for an hour or so waiting for my luggage to find me – assuming it hasn’t been lost!

And, that my friends, is it.  

Oh, apart from the most important tool of them all – an open and enquiring mind

If you travel, you are bound to experience different cultures, foreign languages, weird food and drink, surly officials and receptionists having bad days or PMT, Calls to Prayer at unsocial hours….the list is endless.  And that is all part of the fun – getting wound up about any of it just wastes time and energy.  Embrace it all. Learn from it – an understanding of cultural differences and faiths is probably more important now than ever before. 

Stay safe.  Smile and try to talk to people in bars and cafes.  Where there is some kind of conflict or political dispute happening (regrettably that is often the case these days) – no matter how major or hopefully minor) – try to talk to people from both sides of the argument and understand their individual feelings and concerns. It will give you a far better understanding than anything you’re likely to see on the media, mainstream or otherwise.

Above all, be happy and try to enjoy the travel experience (even when it’s difficult).  And if you can’t do any of that, then you’d best stay at home and stare at the walls – you miserable old sod!

Happy travellin’.


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