It felt like the whole world had something to say about these books this past year. Maybe it was just me talking them up, which wouldn’t be too far from probable since I talk so much about every new thing I learn.

You’ll be certain to find at least one person everywhere you go who’ll have deep epic conversation with a stranger over something on this list. What do you have to say about…?


  1. Oh The Places You Will Go, Dr. Seuss
  2. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
  3. The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor
  4. All About Love, bell hooks
  5. Women Who Run with Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  6. Blink, Malcolm Gladwell
  7. Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
  8. Freakonomics, Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner
  9. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers
  10. Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill
  11. The 4 Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss
  12. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
  13. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, David Eagleman
  14. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Robin Sharma
  15. The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman


If you’re planning to go on a lengthy excursion about the earth somewhere, do yourself a favor by packing these items in your backpack.

1. Q-tips (for your make-up removal and hygiene needs).When you buy these overseas, not only do you get shafted for buying them in the smaller quantity size, but the quality usually doesn’t meet a q-tip junkie’s standards. I’m just saying…pack some in sandwich bag, and you’ll be most grateful you did.

2. Sunblock.

SPF 30 is sufficient for all shades. Don’t ignore the truth. We need protection too. Some of my hippie dippie homegirls use coconut oil for it’s natural sunblocking properties. A little protection makes all difference on your skin 10 years from now.

3. Good smelling shower gel or soap.

My recommendation is for peppermint or citrus scented soaps. Trust me! There’s nothing like fresh feeling skin when you’ve spent a whole day in transit, between national borders, on public buses or a safari truck.

4. Needle and thread.

If your intention is to not weigh yourself down with more luggage, you probably want to maintain the clothing you have. A single needle and a spool of white and black thread comes in handy in case your hemlines come undone on your trip. And some of us don’t want to waste precious travel time locating a seamstress to mend our clothes for us even though in most developing countries it’s dirt cheap.

5. Sarong that works as a head wrap and scarf.

I’ve lived in sarongs. You can use it to wrap your body, your head, lay it out and take a nap on it at the beach, or throw it over your shoulders or legs in case the AC is suddenly too strong on that border run bus ride.

6. Tupperware of small sizes.

Two firmly sealable containers come in handy, and sometimes in the strangest circumstances. I’ve brought tupperware with me while I was frolicking around street market stalls and to restaurants. Not everywhere does take-away. If you tote around your own container, you can get spring rolls to go, and not worry about grease stains in your purse. Other times, I’ve used my tupperware to store my toiletries in a hostel bathroom, or to store cooked food in a shared kitchen.

7. Ziplock bags (also for storage of food and things).

If lugging a container on an excursion to the markets doesn’t suit you, some good ol’ ziplock bags (go with quality ones) will do the trick. You also want ziplock bags to store your packed away liquids and/or dirty clothes. I usually bring 5 one gallon size. 3 quart and 3 sandwich size.

8. Quick drying microfiber towel .

These towels not only dry quick but they usually come in small totable sizes. Nuf said.

9. Nail clipper. 

10. 1 hair care product.

YOUR 1 ESSENTIAL hair care product that absolutely cannot be found in other places outside of your home country AND that has a very specific purpose. Don’t judge me. I use Ampro Pro Style gel to twist my locs. I bottle this stuff up in smaller tubes (3.4 oz bottles. Thanks TSA!) and bring it with me in proportions that I KNOW will be SUFFICIENT. Too much more, and it weighs my bag down. But hair oils, shampoos, conditioners, aloe vera plants, etc. exist all over the world, and I know that I can find any of it when necessary. Keep your bag light by limiting your hair care products. I know it’s hard black girls. Embrace the adventure and be as basic as you can.

11. A snack size bag of condiments and seasonings.

Look! You may not want to eat out every day you’re traveling. Having a few packs of salt/pepper and ketchup/mayo/hot sauce goes a long long long way on the days you just want to cook for once and don’t want to run out and buy seasoning to flavor your “good enough” meal. If you keep a spork on you, you’re waaaay ahead of the game.

12. Minimal make-up (cuz sometimes you want to live above grundge backpacker status).

I bring an eyeliner, my favorite 2 lipsticks(to support my day and night lip looks), mascara, a small eye shadow panel(something with shimmer), and a Mac Studio Tec compac (maybe). Truth be told, when traveling I rarely put on make-up at all. The beauty of travel is in the freedom to find and be exactly who you are. But just in case you want to glam up your look for an evening out, it’s nice to not have to shop around for your old reliables. Sidebar, quality cosmetics in much of the world is waaaaay more expensive than in the USA.

13. Inspirational electronic books.

Everyone has their own reading preference. But I strongly recommend reading books that give you hope, courage, emotional support, and all that on the happy side of feelings wheel. Consuming positive media keeps me motivated to try new things and to be brave when in a new environment. To know surprise, many of the folks you encounter along your travels may have something to say about these inspirational titles. Use it in friendly conversation with strangers. Some of my favorites are: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Alchemist by Paulo Cuehlo, The Greatest Salesman Who Ever Lived by Og Mandino, 5 Love Language by Gary Chapman. See my list of favorite travel books here:

14. Headlamp.

If you’re traveling to a developing country, it is always good to bring a headlamp with you. I’ve used a headlamp when going for an evening hike, or walking through dim lit (but very safe) street. Using your phone light may not be comfortable if you’re needing to hold on to bike handle bars, for example. Also, in case you’re a back packing G, for real, having a headlamp easily accessible is a peaceful way to not disturb your hostel roommates at night while you read or search through your luggage.

15. Box o’ matches.

Sometimes, a girl needs a light.

16. Medi-Kit.

No matter where I go, I’m sure to have the following:

Alcohol pads (3)

Painkillers of choice (travel size)

Anti diarrheals (travel size)

Dramamine (travel size)

Bandaids (3)

Theraflu (1 packet)

Alkaseltzer (3 packets)–If I’m drinking enough to need one of these, my drinking buddy probably needs one too. And last packet is a back up. =D