Inside India: travelling light
India. Just the word conjures up thoughts of exotic foods, colours, smells and sensations. I'd love to visit, but until I do, I have to satisfy myself with other people's travel tales. I recently interviewed a friend and colleague, a true Indophile. Not only has he visited India many times, he's also a light traveller. This is what he has to say:
Q: I believe you travel annually to India. What prompted you to go there in the first instance?
A: India is my favourite destination. It's hard to say why but the people, history and architecture is so interesting, everywhere from the south to the north. And the food! I've been seven times and keep thinking about my next one.
Q: I believe you travel lightly. Can you tell us about that?
A: I do travel lightly, but my trips are usually weeks rather than months. The longest trip I've done is 6 1/2 weeks.
Q: Would you mind sharing your packing list with our readers? What do you take with you?
A: My philosophy in packing is based on a simple rule: travel with 3 sets of clothing: one to wear, one to wash, and one clean.
In India I wear casual clothing which for me is long pants & long sleeved shirts and walking shoes. This might seem strange, especially as India can be very hot, but I prefer protection from the sun, weather and insects. I have learnt that you can't always find a tree or shop awning when you want one, and the sun is a constant in many parts of India. As long as the clothes are cotton or a breathable fabric I generally feel comfortable. I always pack a cloth hat and two or three cotton scarves (these are very common for men to wear especially in southern india, and can be used to protect your neck from the sun, or mop up sweat from your face, or keep your neck warm in winter). Easy to wash and dries quickly.
I take one pair of shorts and a couple of t-shirts, more for sleeping at night or wearing when I get back to my accommodation after a day of sightseeing. I can change into them and wash the day's clothes.
Footwear is one pair of sturdy walking shoes and one pair of sandals. The sandals double as foot protection in share accommodation showers. A few places over the years I have been thankful for having them. And, like the shorts and t-shirts, I can wear them after a day of walking while my shoes air.
I take three or four undies, three pairs of socks and three handkerchiefs. Some people think of handkerchiefs as old fashioned but they are useful when eating street food or if you've caught a cold etc. I also pack a sarong; it can double as a towel, and gives you something simple to wear in your hotel room.
For trips to colder areas like northern India, I take one light weight pullover and one puffer jacket. The jacket rolls up surprisingly compact. And if it's the rainy season I bring a compact umbrella.
Q: As a man, what are the essential travel items you cannot do without?
Non clothing items are: toiletries (soap, wash cloth, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste), microfibre compact towel, laundry soap, pocket knife, small plastic travelling bowl and cutlery, and a travel clothes line (very handy).
And an essential is a small medicine kit. I always go to the travel doctor before every trip to have the kit checked, and any injections/tablets as needed. I also take my phone, charger and country adapter.
Q: I believe you travel with a backpack only, but that you check it into the hold. Why is that?
A: I'm a backpacker at heart. I enjoy having my luggage on my back - I feel I can go anywhere at a moment's notice. A backpack strapped to my back makes it easy to travel - walking, or when I catch autorickshaw or train. And a backpack doubles up as 'pillow' against concrete walls or benches at railway stations!
Backpacks vary in size and I have a medium sized one. It's battered but I love it. It has side and back straps so I can vary the way I hold it. For flying, I like to check-in my backpack: firstly it's a little too large for carry on (although I'm always amazed at what other passengers take on board) but another reason is that it gives me an opportunity when I land and wait at the luggage carousel, to look around. Noticing one's surroundings is important.
Q: What is your top light travelling tip?
Best travel tips: travel insurance and dark coloured clothing. Indian curries stain!