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Savvy Travels: The Journey so Far (Part 2)

The first blog in our ‘The Journey so Far’ series focussed on the initial experiences that would go on to inform the creation of Savvy Travels. These were the early grumblings of an idea that was not yet fully formed. But over time, this small spark would become and an all-encompassing obsession that would go on to shape the next two years of my life.

If my first journey around the world showed me I needed to be more prepared, the second really showed me how I could go about it. Though I had collected a few things on my first trip, (and threw out the junk my parents had given me!) I didn’t get a chance to perfect my own travel kit until I went away again. This gave me the perfect opportunity to collect, trial and whittle down my items to a point where I had everything I needed, and nothing I didn’t.

At this stage, I had absolutely no intention of creating a business. I was simply searching for the perfect combination of travel essentials to make my journey easier, more stress free, and ultimately, to ensure I came home in one piece. 

The beauty of backpacking over several countries is that you get to experience multiple environments, cultures and ways of life. However, this also means that your travel essentials must cover a broad range of potential scenarios that could take place in all manner of conditions.

On beach talking about travelling in Mexico

Of course, this introduces the issue of what you choose to include and what you don’t. Often, the only way to learn that your kit doesn’t have everything it needs, is to find yourself in a situation that isn’t going perfectly. Cold, wet and tired you’ll suddenly think of an item that would be great to have right now, except you don’t. I would take all of these moments, scribble them down and when I returned to civilisation, purchase the item and add it to my kit. It wasn’t the most efficient way of making a selection, but it was effective.

As my pack started to fill more of my headspace, I found myself talking to fellow travellers about it. They were often going through the laborious process of creating their own set of travel essentials. I realised that if we worked together, we could learn from each other’s experiences and make the process easier. As a backpacker surrounded by other travellers, I was in the company of the ideal focus group.

Post climbing Volcano Acatenango in Guatemala Group Shot

I began asking people what they would want in a travel kit if they were me. Soon, everyone was contributing their own ideas and suggestions. As you might imagine, if I included all of them, I’d have ended up with a pack of essentials larger than a suitcase!

Importantly though, I kept finding the same items popping up over and over again. For example, practically everyone I spoke to told me they would need a battery bank, a first aid kit and earplugs. By picking out these common denominators over countless conversations, I settled upon a fundamental list of essentials that almost every backpacker needs.

Group in the Semuc Champey, Guatemala

However, I also began to realise that there are unique things, that depending on the traveller and destination, might need to be included too. For instance, an Australian backpacker in India spoke about how water purifiers would be a necessity for him, so I started carrying a few around. Three months went by and I hadn’t touched a single one; they had just taken up precious space. It dawned on me that relative to most backpackers he was spending much more time in remote areas where easy access to water purifiers is a must.

That’s when I realised for any kit to truly be useful, it had to have a decent sized spare pocket for items that might be required depending on a backpacker’s own unique travel requirements. This was really nailed home when I spoke to a girl in my hostel that suffered from asthma. Carrying her inhaler at all times could truly be the difference between life and death.

Chatting on San Blas Island

After months of these conversations with my fellow backpackers, alongside with my own experiences, I felt like I had something close to the perfect travel pack. Without realising it, I had managed to crowdsource a community driven selection of items that could see me through almost any situation.

However, I soon ran into an issue. Though I had started to store all of my essentials together in a wash bag, there were times when I was filling my daypack so tightly that I had to leave it behind. What good are items that might get you out of trouble if they’re all in your hostel?

I needed to come up with a better solution. Then one day, I was on a coach getting ready to set off and I spotted it. One of my fellow passengers had tied their shoes to the outside of their backpack to save space. If I could replicate this with my kit, not only would it free up room in my daypack, all of my items would be immediately accessible whenever I needed.

Now that I was using a carabiner to attach my wash bag to the outside of my rucksack, it was always on full view. Everywhere I went, people would constantly always ask me what it was and when I explained, they’d often tell me it was a great idea. Soon, whenever someone wanted to open a bottle or needed a plaster, they’d turn to me and my trusty kit.

That’s when it clicked. Other people were seeing the value in having a dedicated travel kit just like mine! Throughout the process of building my own travel pack, it hadn’t occurred to me how much it might help other travellers.

Talking with friends about travel essentials

My second backpacking adventure would soon be coming to an end, but what about my next trip? More importantly, what about the thousands, if not millions, of other backpackers embarking on their very own journeys?

I started to see my humble little wash bag as something far greater than just a personal travel pack. My trusty kit had helped me successfully travel the world, perhaps it could help others do the same. I’d been forced to spend hundreds of hours putting it all together because there was no off-the-shelf alternative. Maybe I could save others the same arduous process and create one.

So with a bit of trepidation, I set about drawing up what the perfect travel kit should look like. I knew it had to have:

  • The fundamental travel essentials that I and my fellow travellers had decided upon over a year of testing.
  • A spare pocket to allow travellers to include their own items depending on their unique requirements.
  • A way to attach it to the outside of a daypack so everything was easily accessible and could be taken everywhere.
  • Features to make it as backpacker friendly as possible – waterproof, durable and TSA compliant.

With these core principles in mind, it was time for me to design the first ever Savvy Travel Pack.

By some strange turn of events, I had gone travelling and come back with a business idea. I was going to make a product: the ultimate backpacking companion. Quite by accident, I had found the perfect focus group, done months of market research, slimlining, brainstorming and iterating. I had all the information I needed. Now I just had to make it.

To find out exactly how a starry-eyed twenty something with hair down to his nipples set about doing that, tune into the next instalment of The Savvy Travels Journey.

Talking about travel essentials over some beers

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