While I enjoy the freedom and excitement of traveling independently and without a guide book, sometimes you need context to appreciate ancient buildings and sites. And even with context, you still need to use your imagination to make that critical connection to history.
There’s no class or guidebook that can prepare you for your first adventure in a strange land, and each day was another dose of culture shock. I’d been lured out of my safe Kansas suburb by the “learn Chinese in China” promise, and my safe if quirky hobby had suddenly become a full-blown pilgrimage.
The three basic principles are: 1) eliminate any “what if” stuff (you can always buy extra toothpaste etc.), 2) wash your clothes often, if not every day, and 3) be prepared to spend on light, durable, high quality gear. Minimalism, ironically, is not a budget philosophy. Here’s what I packed on two recent trips.