Planning for an Unplanned Journey

Thank you to those of you who have taken time to send me notes encouragement and ask questions about this journey. If you happen to be curious about any part of this travel or travel in general, even if it feels like a silly question, please ask! I had to inquire and have conversations which I felt were embarrassing as I was planning. I had questions I thought I should already know the answer to, but did not. I had to research some of the simplest of things to make sure I was prepared. Feel free to email me through this blog or message me on my “Tara’s Treks” Facebook page. I will do my best to answer your question!

Some of the recurring questions I have received have revolved around the physical preparation in planning and packing. I thought I would take the time to answer them.

  • “How did you know what to pack when you did not know where you were going?”
  • “What have been the items you were most glad you brought along?”
  • “Is there anything you wish you would have brought that you did not?”


I started with research. I looked for other travel bloggers with good advice and were on a similar track to what I was planning. Many of them offered _20170210_124003similar thoughts and gave similar recommendations but after browsing enough sites, I landed on a blog site which was extremely thorough and helpful on nearly every question I had. The blogger’s name is Matt Kepnes. If you are interested in looking at his blog site, visit  He was a great resource who has done his research in a wide variety of travel aspects and offers multiple recommendations or suggestions to best suit you and your journey. He also wrote a book called “How to Travel the World on $50 A Day.” I bought the book, pulled out my highlighters and went to town. It is a fantastic resource for anyone who is looking to travel on a budget. No matter the age or type of vacation, you will find something useful in this book.

“How did you know what to pack when you did not know where you were going?”

Early on, I had decided to chase the sun and warm weather. I decided this for a couple of reasons. First, I am tired of the cold. Coming from Wisconsin, I was (and still am) ready for a climate change. Second, cold weather clothes tend to take up more room in a pack. I was not sure how to pack for any and all weather so I decided to only focus on warm weather clothes. My research also stressed planning to dress in layers. Bring a few short sleeve shirts, one or two long sleeve shirts and a jacket. They can be layered for warmth if need be. In planning for pants, I found hiking pants that can roll up to capris and shorts lengths. Leggings were recommended for layering and can be worn for pajamas as well. Versatility is key. So, in the end I left home with three tank tops, three short sleeve shirts, two button up “convertible” hiking shirts, two pairs of “convertible” hiking pants, one pair of shorts, one skort (shorts that look like a skirt), one travel rain jacket, one travel warm jacket and one workout outfit if I actually get the opportunity to workout (it has been more difficult than I imagined to get a workout in). I can mix and match most of the clothing pieces because they are solid colors.

And that is how I packed when I had no idea where I was going. I figured if I really needed something, I could buy it on the road or figure out how to have it sent from the United States. Even here in South Africa, nearly anything I am looking for is accessible. Do not be afraid that you will have to go “without” something. You can find whatever it is, pretty much anywhere.

“What have been the items you were most glad you brought along?”

I think this has probably been the most popular question I have received so far on mimages-9y journey. As I was growing up, my mother instilled in us the importance of permanent markers. In any one of our houses, it is a pretty safe bet that you will find a wide array of sizes and colors of permanent markers. Most likely you will find the brand, Sharpie. You will find them in our purses and our travel bags. And, we always have spares. So, I would highly recommend having a permanent marker or two with you at all times. The images-10standard fine tip and ultra fine tips tend to be the most helpful. They are able to write on nearly any surface and take forever to dry out. You never know when you will need one and this is one item that can be difficult to find in some areas of the world.

The next recommendation I would have is resealable plastic bags…like Ziploc bags. They come in a wide variety of sizes – I prefer quart and gallon sizes. I use them to keep all sorts of items separate and organized. When I found bed bugs in a hostel, I putimages-8 my pajamas (which were my workout clothes) in a gallon size bag to keep them quarantined, then threw away the entire bag. When I hunt for sea glass, I put my treasures in a quart size bag. I keep shampoo or lotion from leaking on to the rest of my belongings. They pack small and light so they do not take up any space or weight which is always a concern in travel.

“Come on Tara, those items are pretty simple and logical. Is there anything else you are glad to have brought with you that I may not thought about?” One item I aimages-5m really glad to have brought with me is a quick-drying towel. They are thin compared to regular bath towels but with a texture similar to a chamois (those little rubber-like towels the Olympic divers always use). They do a great job of drying you off and are quick to dry after use. They also fold up very small which is always helpful for packing. If you are planning to stay in hostels, this is a great item to have in your pack.

I think the last item I would say I have been really happy with is packing cubes. I originally heard about them from a coworker but I did not really take them seriously until this trip. They have been a fantastic way to organize my belongings and keep everything orderly. I bought mine from REI but there are many companies who make different shapes, sizes and colors to meet your needs. At first, I felt like I was playing Tetris to fit them properly in my pack but after a little bit of practice, they fit perfectly. I am still maintaining the same organization process as when I left home.

Because I hate digging for what I need, it has been important for me to stay organized. I color coded my packing cubes. Grey is for everyday clothing, red is for non-everyday clothing (like swim suits and dresses) and the large grey is for dirty laundry. I also have two separate bags for toiletries. Always taking a moment to put items back where they belong is key to maintaining any organizational system. This has been a time saver. You have enough things to worry about when you are traveling, where you placed your clean underwear should not be one of them.

“Is there anything you wish you would have brought that you did not?”

Honestly, I cannot think of a single thing. If I have needed anything, I went and bought it. I have been fortunate to have several friends and family meet up with me along the way so if I needed anything or if I needed to send something back with them, I have.

I also decided if I was not using something in my pack, I had permission to get rid of it. Everything in my bag is replaceable. I left my old running shoes in Italy in September because I had not worn them in a couple of months and had a brand new pair at home. In December, I asked Dawn to bring them to Israel with her since I knew I was heading to warmer weather in South Africa and may want them. After the bed bug incident in Italy, I threw away my workout outfit (thanks to the encouragement of my friend Lisa) and my mom brought another outfit to Armenia for me. It is not necessary to get attached to these items because they are easily replaceable. Knowing this, gives me great mental freedom to move on without getting upset if something gets ruined, lost or stolen.

“When is someone meeting up with you? I want to send a care package.”

Several of you have sent me messages about care packages. First of all, THANK YOU! I love that you are wanting to be involved in this journey. I want you to be involved! From the very beginning, I have said that this journey is so much bigger than me. I am not called to travel alone. You are supposed to come with me in spirit. Some of you are supposed to physically join me…And some of you already have. At this time, I am not sure if or when anyone will be physically joining me.

The earlier photo of the packed bag is actually my packed bag. I do not have any more space to store items, especially since I am not staying in one place like I was in Israel. I am currently on the move with no settlement in sight.

If you are interested in giving to me, I would most appreciate a financial donation. I have added a donation tab to the top of my blog. Through PayPal, you can donate any amount. Any amount is appreciated, even if it is only $5.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about this journey. I apprecate the time you take to join me along the way!