2018 Tian Shan travel: Part 2

2018 Tian Shan

August-September 2018 travel to Kazakhstan reviewed in 2020

Commentary from 2020

This second post of the original travel blog in 2018 reflected my state of mind just before embarking on a three weeks solitary journey that I had been dreaming of for entire six years. A travel to Kazakhstan. How does one pack for a trip like that? That post specifically touched that point.

All life I packed with absolutely minimal luggage. I mostly travelled to countries with lower prices than my home country, so I would just take a typical school-size backpack and buy things like clothes on the way. But you can’t do it on an intercontinental journey, as you will go on a plane where you cannot take it all to the cabin, and not on a lone trip, where otherwise you would share things like medical pack with another person.

I took a large suitcase, a school backpack, and another backpack, small Celestron’s one that came with a small 70mm telescope that I had with me. Trick was this: until airport, I put all that I can into the suitcase and the rest into the normal backpack. Small backpack was folded and put into the suitcase. On the airport, before flight, I would take out costly things like camera or fragile like the telescope, put them into the small backpack, and the large one I would fold and put into the suitcase. Upon landing, I would repack again. This allowed me to pass boarding control with right-sized backpack, while the rest was sent with registered luggage.

2018, Almaty, Tian-Shan. SNeG hotel. Photo never released before.

My things usually are divided into the following:

  1. Travel documents (especially passport, which is your life when you’re abroad) and most of the money you keep with yourself, in a place that can’t be snatched or stolen. You can use a wallet in tight trousers or a belly pouch or something similar. Get some basic cash with you if you can, if you can’t buy currency of the destination country, get either euros or dollars.
  2. Payment cards (debit/credit). I have four, in the following currencies: PLN, EUR, USD and GBP. I took them all. If one is lost, I will pay out of ATMs with another one, just losing on conversion rate. Whether you take many pay cards or a lot of cash, rule is: split it and put around different places, so if something is lost, not all is lost. Split into four and put one in the backpack, one in the pouch, one in your trousers, and one even give to a travelling companion if you can. Even in one suitcase, put some into easily reachable place, and some that’s hard to get.
  3. Clothes. Hardest part because they take so much space. You can’t skip taking enough underwear and socks, you need an extra pair of trousers, an extra blouse, and an extra jacket even if you are in summer. What can be skimped on are shirts. You really ought to research if anywhere you’re going will allow you to use the washing machine. Remember you will be taking dirty clothes with you, so get a plastic (not fibre/ecological bags!) bag to carry them so they do not smell onto the other clothes until they get washed.
  4. Electronics and optics. Oh, brother, half my luggage is usually that. Camera, telescope, phone accessories, laptop/netbook, portable gaming consoles, kilometres of cables and charging bricks that come with it… up to you if you still have storage space for it. I thankfully had.
  5. Documents. Get a semi-rigid or rigid folder to store them in. For instance, your tickets, booking confirmations or copy of passport/visa scans or medical insurance. This is important.
  6. Cosmetics. What you shouldn’t take is a toothpaste and liquid soaps, unless your “travel-to” path is very long. If you are just taking the plane, don’t bother. Those things are available in any city or village, but count as fluids on a plane. What you must take is your own towel (get a tourist-type if you can to conserve space) and toothbrush at bare minimum. And take some toiler paper, will you? You might not use it, but if need comes, you will thank me for advice.
  7. Medical stuff. Well, you never know. Obviously I am not going to the middle of the steppe, but even the same medicines abroad usually has completely different names in there. When you’re having a fever, you are not going to be in the mood of researching your medicines. Take a pack, but it is you who must evaluate the risks. Make sure you take a bigger supply of whatever you absolutely have to take. Most common diseases abroad are:
    1. Flu-like diseases (usually started by those pesky air conditioners or mountain weather). These things should be easy to buy anywhere, but if there is one you like and trust, take it.
    2. Stomach upsets, incl. diarrhea – obviously take medicines against it.

This way you will be able to meet most needs that come on the way. You will be buying some stuff anyways – who doesn’t like a new t-shirt that came from a faraway country.

Original blog link: https://2018tianshan.tumblr.com/post/177118738336/things-to-take
Original post from 18.08.2018 is copied below.

Things to take

Luggage prepared. How does one pack for three weeks?

I always hated suitcases and preferred backpacks. Since it was the crispy clean starry sky over Siberia that inspired me to return to north Asia, I got myself a number of optical devices. This includes 1.5 kg Nikon binoculars that I had from previous travels, but this time also a Celestron 70mm telescope/spotter scope which is a much larger device. Carrying those in a backpack on a plane means a high risk of damage. Suitcase won this round over a backpack.

I divided it into two parts, basically one being clothes and documents, and the other part being optics and electronics. The important part is not to take too much, as on a plane, every kilogram matters. A lot of things you need to replace anyway and can be bought cheaper abroad.

I’m taking a suitcase and my “large small backpack” which is basically a school backpack, but with as much as 40 litres of available space in it. This will enforce two configs: railway configuration, in which most fragile devices are in the suitcase greatly increasing its weight, and airplane configuration, where most fragile and expensive devices (as well as power banks) go into the backpack, leaving more clothes in the suitcase.

There are two key things without which you’re in a lot of trouble abroad. First and most important one is your passport. Without your passport, you have a huge problem. Second one is money. If you lose your credit card and therefore the ability to withdraw from ATMs, there’s always the possibility to transfer funds to a family member then take out the same cash from Western Union, so that one is a huge inconvenience, but not a disaster. Passport is your heart and your soul, and you protect it like it was one of your body parts. Anything else you can theoretically survive without, especially in digital era.

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