round the world backpacking

RTW Packing List #1 Clothes

I spent a long time putting together my travel wardrobe. With so many different cities, countries and climates on the itinerary this wasn’t going to be a “two pairs of combat pants and a few t-shirts” job. It just wouldn’t be practical. Also, I can think of no feasible scenario in which I could be compelled to wear combat pants.

If you are the kind of person who likes to keep things simple, who can get up every day and sling on some practical shorts and a t-shirt and get going, I’m afraid this isn’t going to be the packing list for you. Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for your attitude, I just can’t do it myself. I need to have variety, I need some room for creativity and (re)invention. And, so far at least, the following wardrobe has allowed me to do that.

Most people post their packing lists before they set off. However, in the mad rush that was our final week in the UK, packing up our flat as well as our bags, I didn’t have time. So I’m doing it now – two months in. The benefit of this is that I already have some perspective. At the point of writing I have already ditched some things, lost some things, replaced some things, and had some items fall apart. Unless you dress head-to-toe in Goretex, it’s absurd to think that everything you pack will last an entire year and it’s just as daft to imagine you won’t be tempted by any new items while you’re in the road. But in the interests of transparency and learning from my mistakes I am going to list everything I originally brought. Feel free to judge me.

  • 7 x everyday vests or t-shirts
  • 2 x Uniqlo Heattech vests – perfect for layering in cold conditions, also stupidly comfortable and they hold their shape well after a billion washes
  • 1 x “dressy” top – for when I need to look a bit more fabulous
  • 1 x vintage lace short-sleeved jacket (not pictured) – bought in Bogotá on a whim, makes plain outfits look ace
  • 1 x long-sleeved cotton t-shirt
  • 1 x light long-sleeved man’s shirt
  • 2 x thin knit jumpers
  • 1 x long-sleeved cardigan
  • 1 x thick cashmere jumper
  • 1 x jeans – YES, jeans. I don’t care how many people tell you not to bother with jeans, I  need them in my life
  • 1 x skirt, elasticated waist – can also be worn as a dress
  • 1 x shorts
  • 1 x “action pants” ie hiking trousers – I have Craghoppers Kiwi Pro-Stretch trousers which are slim-fitting and could actually pass as regular black trousers if worn with a nice top and blazer jacket
  • 2 x drawstring trousers – spilt coffee on them and had to throw them out
  • 1 x drawstring trousers
  • 1 x “statement” trousers – much like the dressy top (see above) there are times when you just want to look a little bit more awesome; mine are jungle print and I feel happy whenever I wear them
  • 1 x Uniqlo Heattech leggings – for wearing under drawstring trousers on cold bus rides and for layering up generally
  • 1 x cropped yoga leggings
  • 1 x Uniqlo Ultra Light Down collarless jacket – I’m not sponsored by Uniqlo, I swear!
  • 1 x fold-up rain mac
  • 1 x denim jacket – left it on a bus in Colombia
  • 1 x smart blazer – because we’re trying to work a bit along the way, I do occasionally have to look smart
  • 1 x patterned maxi dress
  • 1 x plain midi dress
  • 2 x beach coverups/short dresses/tunics/nightdresses
  • 10 x knickers – M&S “No VPL Supima cotton with Modal” ones which are probably the comfiest pants I’ve ever worn in my life. Seriously, go and buy some, now.
  • 4 x bras
  • 1 x sports bra
  • 5 x regular socks
  • 1 x thick socks
  • 2 x bikinis
  • 1 x walking shoes
  • 1 x everyday sneakers – threw these away after more or less destroying them in Semuc Champey
  • 1 x “dressy” sandals
  • 1 x everyday sandals
  • 2 x casual boots – WAIT, I can explain!
  • 1 x Crocs slingback flats
  • 1 x plastic flipflops (not pictured)

Ok, I feel I need to stop here and do a little mitigation. First of all, I am FULLY INTENDING to send some of these home as soon as I can get to a working post office. A few of these were emergency purchases. The black boots I bought in San Francisco after the sole on the ones I was wearing came clean off. Then I bought the leather boots in Pastores in Guatemala because… well, I don’t need a reason. But I now need to decide which I’m keeping and which I’m posting home. The Crocs I bought in Guatemala after realising it wasn’t a good idea to wear trainers in water (see above). I have since replaced these with the flipflops but am yet to find a course of action (bin or post home?) for the Crocs. The walking shoes are self-explanatory. The sandals I stand by.


Roud the world packing list

  • 1 x everyday rucksack
  • 1 x handbag
  • 1 x thin black belt
  • 1 x sun hat
  • 1 x wool hat
  • 1 x light scarf
  • 1 x warmer scarf
  • 2 x thin headbands/scarves/hat bands
  • 1 x cheap watch
  • 1 x cheap sunglasses
  • 2 x necklaces – one long, one short
  • A gazillion pairs of earrings*
  • 1 x crocodile hair clip – threw it away when I got my hair cut
  • A handful of hair grips
  • 1 x elasticated headband

* I adore earrings and have already bought two more pairs since I’ve been on the road. Storing them while travelling can be a pain and I didn’t want to fork out for a “jewellery roll” so I made my own out of a simple piece of fabric. Easy!

So what do you think? Have I packed too much? What would you have left out? What might you have brought instead? In terms of what gadgets, kit, and cosmetics I packed… I’ll cover these in separate posts and publish them here soon!

La Candelaria Bogota

How to be a hipster in Bogotá

The once dangerous capital is now the trendiest place to hang out in Colombia. Despite a history of violence and conflict, the city is now a hotspot of urban cool that regularly appears in Hip Cities of Latin America lists.

Everywhere in Colombia has seen dark days. The country’s second-largest city, Medellin, has emerged blingy and triumphant with a stereotypically Latin American appetite for tackiness. Meanwhile Bogota has taken the last decade of relative peace and order to nurture its vibrant cultural scene and international outlook. The result is a buzzing, arty city full of alternative places to eat, drink, shop, and party.

In short: Bogotá is hipster. And if you’re in town you’ll no doubt want to try to channel some that Colombian cool. Here’s how:

 Instagram some street art

Like any hipster city worth its salt, Bogota has a thriving street art tradition. You can even do a graffiti tour which takes in some of the best work and provides some introduction to the most prolific artists . If you don’t want to fork out for the 20-30,000 pesos (around $8-12/£5-8) “donation” it’s easy enough simply to walk around and spot your own favourites.


(NB Do exercise a little caution before waving your camera or iPhone around. Bogota is not the danger zone it once was but like any big city, there are opportunists who will gladly relieve you of your valuables if you give them a chance.)

Eat quinoa

I’m not sure it still counts as hipster to consume a food in the country of its origin but seeing as quinoa – along with its cousin amaranth – is only recently making a comeback in Colombian agriculture, I think we can include it. Unlike neighbouring Peru which produces and consumes the so-called superfood by the bucketload, quinoa was barely seen in Colombia for decades, doubtless due in part to the vast swathes of farmland and countryside taken over by guerillas.

Quinua y amaranto bogota

Thanks to various farming initiatives, quinoa is back and gaining popularity in Colombia, as in the rest of the world, on account of its high nutritional value and versatility. In Bogotá you can try it at veggie cafe Quinua y Amaranto on Calle 11 #2. It’s open from 8am to 4pm and has a set menu, including a soup, a delicious plate of grains and greens and a pudding for around 14,000 pesos (£3.70/$5.80).

Drink coffee in a cafe housed in decommissioned transport

Taking a piece of public transport and turning it into a coffee shop is apparently THE thing to do in Bogotá. At Cafe de la Estacion on Calle 14 #5-14 you can go for coffee and cake in a charming old-fashioned train carriage.

Cafe de l'Estacion Bogota

And in the Parque El Chico there’s even a converted London Routemaster doubledecker bus. The 159 to Streatham Hill, to be precise – a bus I know well from home! What Tfl fuck-up caused to divert to Colombia? I don’t know. But I do know you can sit on its upper deck and drink coffee.

parque el chico london bus bogota

Wander around La Macarena

The bohemian, arty area of Bogota, this tiny hillside neighbourhood has boutiques, quirky cafes, restaurants and bars as well as some of the most developable property in the city. Forget loft conversions, how do you fancy refurbing one of these:

La Macarena Bogota

Chuck in a patched-up sofa and some salvaged door knobs and you’re away!

While you’re in the area, stop in at Tapas Macarena or its sister restaurant, tapas-Indian fusion cafe El Mat where the spicy satay dip with flatbread is delicious and the creations listed on the menu are as vibrant as the cafe’s interior.

El Mat Bogota

Have a drink in a cafe/bar/art space/gig venue/boutique

No hipster day out is complete without a stop at a multi-purpose venue. Step right up A Seis Manos. It has everything you need for the perfect experience: random objects hanging from the ceiling, tables decoupaged with vintage magazines, a chalk board of upcoming music and art events, an area inexplicably lit in red, and an annex with a vintage clothing boutique.

A seis manos bogota

They have a fairly full menu of food (think steak sandwiches), a variety of beers (see below) and their coffee is pretty decent too.

A seis manos bogota

Yes, I did give in to temptation in the vintage shop. Of course I did.

Hang out in Chapinero Alto

If you’re a trendy young thing living in Bogotá, mark my words this is where you’ll be renting an apartment. A residential neighbourhood with pockets of groovy bars, restaurants and clubs, Chapinero also offers plenty to amuse the trendy young visitor.

Salvo Patria Bogota

Bars and restaurants abound, with our favourite being Salvo Patria (have the lamb neck) which serves craft ales and brings you miniature plastic animals with your bill. What’s not to like?

Salvo Patria bogota

LGBTQ-friendly Chapinero is also home to Theatron, the biggest gay club in the city and many nearby hotels market themselves as “gay hotels”.

Day to day you can drink loose-leaf tea at the Taller de Té, watch independent films at In Vitro and realign your chakras at the bikram yoga studio.

Drink craft beer

Chelarte cerveza beer

According to Wikipedia, Colombia is opening microbreweries at a rate that outstrips regional demand. There is no source for this “fact” so I think we can safely assume it’s at least a mild exaggeration. It is, however, true to say that craft beer is on the up in Colombia, as it is in every part of the world that deems itself even remotely ‘with it’. The foremost player is the Bogota Beer Company, founded in 1997, which churns out a reasonable offering of ales, lagers and one porter all named after areas of the capital city. You’ll find them on draft and in bottles.

To be perfectly honest, they aren’t fantastic but they’re a welcome effort. In fact we preferred the  offerings from local cervecerías Chelarte and Moonshine. The American Pale Ale-style Raquel was just about crisp enough for me while Rob liked Moonshine’s Amber Ale.

And they all come with suitably artsy labels.

Get your hair cut by hairdressing assassins

La Peluqueria hair salon, in Bogotá’s historical La Candelaria neighbourhood, describes itself as a “contemporary cultural art center” which offers not just a hair design service but an artistic experience and social event rolled into one.

La Peluqueria Bogota

The concept of the “hairdressing assassin” was created by founder Melissa Paerez who, after a period living in London’s uber-hipster Hackney, decided Bogotá needed a more radical approach to hairdressing. At La Peluqueria both male and female clients put themselves entirely into the hands of the stylist.

A brief chat on the kind of vibe you are going for is all that’s needed before they come at you with their scissors and razors. There are no mirrors and as you sit on your vintage salon stool in the middle of the mosaic floor, metal blades clicking around your ears, all you can do is pray that your requests didn’t accidentally get translated as “a number one all over”.

Never one to pass up on an opportunity to revamp my look, I let the lovely (English-speaking) Julia loose on my barnet. Here’s what she came up with:

Francesca Cookney

I gotta say I’m pretty chuffed and, if I’m honest, rather relieved! Cuts cost 40,000 pesos (£10/$16) and colour starts at 57,000 (£15 /$23) with top tend treatments such as highlights coming in at around 135,000 (£36/$56).

Oh and it’s a cafe and vintage shop as well – obvs.

La Peluqueria Bogota