The art of getting lost

Posts for Tag: travel

Asia Overland, probably the best travel guide book ever

While preparing for a course on information design, I remembered a travel book called Asia Overland. This book has been out of print since 2002, but it is still my favourite. This book approached destinations from the point of someone who likes to discover a place in contrast to Lonely Planet that tried to give you detailed information. The maps were all hand drawn. There were hacks on how to hitchhike in Japan, how to enter North Korea and Iraq and several of the new countries that appeared after the break up of the Soviet Union. While the internet and apps have made travelling easy and more predictable, I miss those days when you had more random encounters and chance discoveries.

The art of traveling light

Look at my bag (the one on the left) as I enter China sometimes in the late 1990s. I used to get carried away and pack half the house.

Over the years, as I discover new fabrics, technology etc., and as I learn to live with less and less stuff, I have been trimming what to carry. Shown below is my current travel bag arrangement.

Most important is the bag. The brand doesn't matter as long as it is somewhat waterproof and sturdy. Mine is made by a small workshop in Japan called Hinomoto Hanpu. 

I use mesh cases for organising stuff as some airport security wants to visually inspect carry-ons. Mesh material is also suitable for packing razors, toothbrush and wet swimwear helping them dry.

  • One case for the charger and cables
  • One case for keys, stamps, currencies, transport cards, debit/credit cards, SIM cards for the destinations I frequent
  • One case for toiletries
  • One case for swimwear
  • The larger case packs one or two change of clothes
  • An iPad for writing, presentations and some work stuff
  • A noise cancellation headphone set 
  • A small camera that goes into the front pocket of the bag
A phone and a small wallet go into my pocket. I usually get an inner pocket stitched on my trousers for safekeeping the passport, some currency bills and a spare bank card. 
Light, quick-drying clothes are my favorites. Uniqlo's easy pants and Muji's Indian cotton shirts complete the sartorial department. The maximum I carry is two changes of clothes (in addition to what I am wearing). I experimented a lot with different fabrics and brands finally settled on these for their easy availability across East Asia, and the fact that they dry in a couple of hours. 

The bag with all the stuff inside weights less than 5 kilograms. 
Carrying a small bag makes me more mobile, I can get in and out of the flights and trains faster. The small footprint of the bag allows me to store it under the seat in front of me. If I need anything beyond the things I have packed, I usually buy them locally at a supermarket. 

(photo by Anirudh)

Some folks asked me about the wallet. It is made by Nomatic and I happily recommend it. 

Visiting Todoroki, a forest in the middle of the city

Tokyo often throws up surprises. In the middle of the busy Setagaya ward there is a kilometre long stretch of dense forest that runs along a small river. Walking along the river you could easily pretend that you are in another prefecture or perhaps another world. The Todoroki valley is just ten minutes walk from Todoroki station. Pack some Onigiri or a small bento and you can have a nice picnic by the water.

Soap, shampoo and shaving gel alternatives

Often on the road, I ended up spending a lot of time looking for small bottles of soaps and shampoos. The airport security will get you to dispose bigger bottles and tubes. I wasn’t happy making more mess in this world of ours. For some time I have been looking for natural replacement.

At Fernloft Hostel, Singapore.

I am using lime juice as soap and shampoo. I have found that lime juice substitutes well as a deodorant too. Coconut oil is great for shaving, no need of shaving gel or foam. And you don’t need moisturizer after the shave.I am experimenting using eucalyptus oil as a replacement for chemical mosquito repellent.