Advice from the Wild Hearts: What to Pack

Whenever I meet someone who's traveled in the same places as I have, I love swapping stories and unraveling the many similarities and differences between our adventures. There's something fascinating to me about the space-time continuum, and how a certain geographical place can both change and remain the same over a matter of minutes, or years. 

With each new Wild Hearts interview, I relish the opportunity to connect with strong women from around the globe, and learn about their unique perspectives, their personal take on "life on the road", and stories of the crazy adventures they've gotten into. But I also LOVE seeing the similarities among so many women's experiences.

It reminds me of one of the many valuable lesson learned while traveling: Despite war, religion, appearance, and lifestyle, we, the people of the world, have far more in common than we have difference.

One of the questions every traveler must answer with every departure is what to pack. There's a million different philosophies out there, but ultimately I think each traveler just has to learn what works for her. So I was interested to see the patterns that would emerge when I asked the Wild Hearts what to pack.

I wrote (or more accurately, I compiled) a similar post cataloging the advice Wild Hearts gave for overcoming, or moving through fear. That post is chock-full of powerful quotes and encouragement, and I highly recommend bookmarking it, as I have, for when you need a hit of courage. This post is a bit less philosophical, but I hope equally as valuable.

When asked, "What's always on your packing list?", here's what the Wild Hearts said:

The Staples

There seemed to be a few standard items just about every woman mentioned. These are thing things you'd expect...things you probably already have stashed close at hand in your purse, desk drawer, or glovebox. Things so obvious, and yet so easily forgotten:

  • lip balm

  • reusable water bottle (I like the pack-flat kind)

  • eyemask / earplugs

  • toilet paper

  • sunglasses

  • headlamp (This one is awesome because it's rechargable by USB, or takes batteries)

  • snacks (Trader Joe's truffled marcona almonds. 'Nuff said.)

However, the #1 most mentioned must-pack item was not a hard-core survival necessity. Though it's something I personally consider vital to any trip — and clearly I'm not alone.

The #1 Must Pack Item: a Journal

Women listed a journal on their "what to bring" list more than any other item — including a cell phone!

I wish I could say my own collection of travel journals were as beautifully decorated as @virginiaillustration's but truth be told I can barely read my own writing half the time. But man, is that untidy scroll fun to revisit. I love that feeling, months after a trip, when I pull out my journal and re-read the entires for the first time. There are so many fine details I'd already forgotten tucked into these pages, and re-reading these stories and musings can feel like experiencing it for the first time all over again.

Everything I need.

A photo posted by Kat (@katlilj) on

I'm partial to a specific style of Moleskine journals. I like the large, black, hardcover variety, with unlined pages. This is the exact style I use on Amazon — if you use this link a fraction of the sale will support this site (without charging you anything more). 

Not only do they fit my needs well, but there's something oddly satisfying to my OCD side about seeing them all neatly lined up on a shelf — uniform and sleek.

Not only do they fit my needs well, but there's something oddly satisfying to my OCD side about seeing them all neatly lined up on a shelf — uniform and sleek.

A built-in conversation starter

"...a toy of some kind (hula hoop, guitar, juggling balls, etc)"

 Aya Kristina Engel, 27

It's common to pack a book, or load up your phone with podcasts before heading out on a trip. Even the most exciting destinations can include downtime at bus stations and airports — or just a lazy afternoon. But what's so great about this suggestion is that it's not just a way to entertain yourself — it's a way to meet and connect with those around you. 

I once spent 6 hours waiting at the bus stop for a supply truck in Indonesia. The first few hours were tedious — until a pack of flimsy paper playing cards entered the mix, and suddenly a German backpacker and I are teaching the local English-teacher how to play "Asshole". An hour later his wife and adorable daughter appear, and we're invited to abandon our plans and join them in their home for dinner!

Here's some ideas of what to bring:

Most "Ooo, I didn't think of that!" suggestions:

"I use my phone as my only camera and I was able to find a waterproof case for it on Amazon for $9. I've taken my phone white water rafting, swimming in waterfalls and splashing in the Caribbean so I'd say that was $9 well spent."

— Maggie Abernathy, 30


"My #1 medicine savior; Hung Lian Su. It's a Chinese herbal formula that saves your stomach from everything you could encounter over seas. It definitely saved me in India."

— Aya Kristina Engel, 27


"...earrings weirdly enough. I always like to switch them up when I travel. They add some glamour to my repetitive outfits. Plus, they don't weigh very much!"

— Carrie Pritchard, 25


"Bikinis (there is always a hot tub or a swimming pool somewhere, even in Alaska!)"

— Chiara Chiarello, 40

And the most important thing to bring wherever you go:

"A smile."

 Sufey Chen, 22

Life motto. 👌🏼

A photo posted by Sufey Chen (@sufeychen) on