Travellers are difficult people to buy for. We’re not normally materialistic and therefore love to collect memories rather than things. The few ornaments I have were purchased from various corners of the globe, as momentums of my time there. I have a traditional alms bowl that I watched being made in Thailand, a colourful and intricately detailed Chinese emperor and empress made out of Fimo from an amazing little store in Beijing’s Hutongs and a carved wooden Buddha statue from Laos.
The artwork that adorns my walls consists of a beautiful textured oil painting of a Buddha’s face that I fell in love with in Hanoi, Vietnam, a handwoven Boilivian wall hanging, a portrait of a Whirling Dervish created solely from interwoven calligraphy strokes that I haggled hard for at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and a number of carefully selected photographs that I’ve captured over the years and subsequently framed, and which are a constant reminder of all the incredible places I’ve been lucky enough to experience first-hand.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the few ‘things’ I choose to surround myself with are to me memories of my travels, so that when I’m not on the road (which is actually a large chunk of my life now that I’ve returned from South America and am working a 9-5 job once again), I can still look around me and smile. I can still take great comfort and happiness from the feelings those objects awaken in me.
So, what do you buy a traveller like this?
There are a number of items that I take on the road with me that, having travelled a lot, I would now never be without. They might not be the most exciting presents in the world to you, but the traveller in your life will be eternally grateful for them.
Solid Shampoo from Lush (£5.95)
If you haven’t yet discovered Lush, I thoroughly recommend that you rectify that! The company, born in Poole, England (where my mum was born and grew up) produce handmade beauty products that are made from natural ingredients and are 100% vegetarian. Lush never test their products on animals, use minimal, biodegradable packaging, and are well-known for being an ethical company with excellent customer service.
All of their products are amazing and smell gorgeous, but the one item I couldn’t be without is their solid shampoo bar – which, incidentally comes in a variety of different colours and scents. You can also purchase a neat little metal tin to keep it in.
Compared to ordinary shampoo, Lush’s solid shampoo bars take up next to no room in your backpack, and, due to them being solid, you can take as many as you like in your hand luggage.
Buy here at Lush
Packing Cubes (from £9.26)
I honestly don’t know how I did without these for so long. The zip-up fabric compartments – or ‘cubes’ – help me to keep the contents of my backpack (or suitcase) organised, tidy, and easily accessible. Packing cubes are such a simple concept but practical, intelligent and innovative at the same time!
They come in different sizes (small, medium, and large) and it’s possible to buy them as a set of all three sizes or individually if you want more than one in the same size. I use one to keep trousers, jeans, and shorts in, a slightly smaller one to keep lightweight tops in, and then the smallest size for my underwear and socks.
PacSafe Walletsafe (from £20)
I love Pacsafe products (I also have their Venturesafe 25, which I use for trips where I’m only taking hand luggage) due to their functionality, durability, and innovative technology and design.
I have the Pacsafe Walletsafe 50, which has just one main zipped compartment with an internal pocket (where I keep my cards), however if you need something a little larger with more compartments (and if you can’t get hold of the Walletsafe 50; for some reason it’s no longer available on Amazon) then the Walletsafe 100 might be a better bet.
The chain is snatchproof and slashproof and the turn and lock security hoop fits easily to a belt, bag or backpack. If you’re anything like me when you travel, you’ve probably already got your hands full trying to juggle a mobile phone and a guidebook or map, that having your money and cards in a wallet that’s attached to you via a chain is one less thing to worry about.
DRYU Waterproof Dry Bag (from £12.99)
If, like me, you’re someone who enjoys outdoor adventures when you travel, a dry bag is an absolute must. Having your clothes, shoes and valuables stowed away in one of these ensures that they stay protected from water, snow, sand, dirt and dust. So you can hike the Inca Trail, mountain bike down Death Road, wander the rainy streets of old Porto, or ski the slopes of the Sierra Nevadas with complete confidence.
DRYU bags come in four fantastic colours, and three different sizes (5, 10 or 20 litre capacity), so you can choose the one that suits you best, depending on what you want to store in them and which activities you have planned.
Weigh up the amount of space they take up in your backpack, and the total value of your camera, mobile phone, and kindle e-reader, and it’s a no-brainer.
Buy here from DRYU
RAVPower Portable Battery Back (now £20, normally £49.99)
With all the functions that mobile phones perform these days, their batteries won’t last more than a few days on a single charge – at best.
This is all very well if you’re staying somewhere that you can return to a charging point every night, but if you’re in the middle of a jungle adventure in the Amazon or staying with a hill tribe in northern Thailand then charging your mobile phone becomes a little more tricky (read: impossible).
I’ve found that this RAVPower portable battery pack (when fully charged) will provide my Sony Xperia Z1 with somewhere between four and six charges. I wouldn’t be without it now.
Buy here on Amazon.
Titanium Spork (£12.27)
I first started off with the plastic version, but it sadly died a death in Peru when I was trying to slice through a particularly tough avocado skin, so I’ve now upgraded to the titanium version, which is much, much better.
Sporks are fantastic items to carry around if you’re a budget traveller and you tend to buy a lot of foods from local markets, as you don’t generally get provided with eating irons to go with your fresh produce purchase. There’s a spoon on one end and a fork with a serrated edge on the other, so it’s basically all your three essential items of cutlery in one tidy metal object.
Buy here on Amazon.
Tieks Ballet Flats ($175, only available from the US)
I was a little bit reticent about including these on here because they ARE expensive, but I love them and they are SO good for travel!
Made from soft Italian leather in a huge variety of colours, and with non-skid split rubber soles that fold up small enough to fit in your handbag, Tieks are the ideal travel shoe. They’re versatile enough to look fantastic both with jeans or a dress, and comfy enough to wear both day and night.
Buy here from Tieks.
Amazon Kindle (from £59.99)
I love books. I love the feel of the pages as I thumb through them, and I love admiring the spines of all my favourite novels and travel guides as they adorn my bookcase at home. But let’s face it, actually physical books just aren’t practical for travel. They’re bulky and heavy and all too easy to damage.
I still buy guidebooks in physical form as I find them a lot easier from a reference point of view, but when it comes to reading novels, I’m completely sold on the Kindle. I’ve had mine years and it still holds its charge for weeks.
Microfibre Travel Towel (£14.99)
Anyone who has used these will know they they do not compare to the comfort and absorbancy of a normal towel, BUT they are great for travellers. They’re super lightweight, quick-drying, and pack down to almost nothing. They also come in a variety of colours and their own little travel pouch.
Buy here on Amazon.
Kathmandu Head Torch (£19.99)
A torch is an essential item for any traveller, but this one comes with the added benefit of being able to wear it on your head, which leaves both hands free to perform any activity you need to in the dark.
Mine has been invaluable for finding my way to campsite bathrooms in the middle of the night, trekking over uneven terrain, or locating my belongings in a dorm room without waking my fellow room mates.
Buy here on Amazon.
Tiger Balm (£3.07)
This little jar of wonder can be used to ease mosquito bites, to relieve congestion (if you suffer from hay fever or catch a cold), or to heal aches and pains.
Buy here on Amazon.
So there are my 11 gifts the traveller in your life would never be without.
Aside from cameras (which are a very personal choice and also cost more than a lot of people can afford to spend on a Christmas gift), are there any other products you would add to the list? Any essential item that you wouldn’t be without?
**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. All this means is that if you buy one of the products I have recommended in this post, through the links I have provided, I will earn a small commission as a result but the cost to you will remain exactly the same**
**I received a complimentary 10 litre dry bag from DRYU, but I would never recommend a product that I do not use myself**