On my bike tour across Europe, there were several things that we brought that we thought would make life easier on the road, but it turned out that wasn’t the case. In fact, the items just took up space because we didn’t use it at all or only used it a few times. In an effort to identify what those things are, so that they can help you decide whether or not you will need them on your own trips, I present to you my list of things we brought along for the ride, but ended up not needing.
1. An Unlocked Cellphone
One of my biggest fear before the trip was to be stranded and having no way to communicate to the rest of the world. That’s why I went ahead and purchased an unlocked dual-SIM cellphone to be used in Europe. We purchased 2 SIM cards (both from France) and used it a handful of times – once to call hotels in Bordeaux and another time for Harry (theadventuresofcrazyharry.com) to call his personal bank to unfreeze his account as they mistaken his foreign transactions to be fraudulent.
Once we crossed borders into Switzerland and Germany, the phone was stowed away in my handlebar bag never to be seen until the end of the trip. We did get text messages from our British friends, but couldn’t respond to them because our phones ran out of minutes. I suppose the practical use was to have it around in case we needed to call local emergency services. Fortunately, that was never needed.
Recommendation: Because wi-fi was available almost everywhere we went, having a Skype number or account to use would have been more useful than carrying around an extra cellphone.
2. Notebook & Pen
I’ve always had this romantic idea that whenever I bike tour, I would have time to sit back in my tent and ponder about the awesome day I just had and eloquently describe it in my notebook by hand. That’s why my Moleskine journal and a pen were packed with the rest of my possessions for the trip as I convinced myself that this trip was different from the rest. The reality is I was just too tired each night and my brain was fried from the helter skelter of the day to even think I was able to compose something meaningful. With whatever energy I had, I used it to compose my weekly updates that I posted on this blog. I did make about 2 entries in my journal, but that isn’t enough to warrant having to carry the notebook and pen for 1900 miles.
Recommendation: If you’re like me and keep a blog about your travels, that’s all you should be worrying about. I highly doubt you’ll want to write for your blog and write a journal about the same thing again. Leave your journal at home and just focus on providing content digitally.
3. A Laptop
One of the things that we thought we would need was an extra laptop for us to back up our photos and videos to edit on the fly, so Harry decided to haul the computer for us. While we did back up some of our media to the laptop, we soon found out that the laptop lacked software needed to edit our media and lacked storage space on the hard drive. After maximizing the storage of his Apple Macbook Air, we had a terrible time figuring out what to move over to his removable hard drive and what to keep on the laptop. We ended up never using it after the first half of our trip.
The laptop ended up being scratched up while it sat idle in Harry’s pannier. Harry did use it for some business reasons, but it still didn’t make it worthy on the trip.
Recommendation: What really worked well for me when I needed to produce content was my iPad Mini Retina combined with a Bluetooth keyboard from Amazon (Amazon.com). This combo with a stand (which comes with the keyboard) really allowed me to use my iPad for both consuming (reading my books) and for blogging. I am quite happy with this solution and don’t have any reasons to swap it out for a laptop.
4. Two Camping Stoves
Originally, I was suppose to bring the sole Jetboil stove, but at the last-minute, Harry bought a Jetboil system (Amazon.com) for the trip. So we now had 2 of them. These were great when we needed to make coffee in the morning and couldn’t find a place for it. They came in handy when we had to cook dinner for the 5 times on this trip. Other than that, they just took up valuable space and weight in our panniers. We only had one canister of fuel all through Spain and France. It wasn’t until Switzerland where Harry picked up his own little canisters of fuel so that he could help boil water for coffee. We ended up leaving about a quarter of my larger canister and one and half canister of butane mixed fuel at our hotel in Bucharest before we left.
Recommendation: We should have just stuck with the plan of bringing one stove. My assumption was that we were going to be cooking more, so bringing a stove was suppose to help us save some cash. As it turned out, we ate out a lot more than we had expected. Even for boiling just water, a smaller stove and pot would have worked great.
5. Extra Camera & Accessories
I should have taken my own advice [link to article] when it comes to documenting a trip that you either are just doing video or just photo. Having to do both will not result in having good quality photos or videos. This rule was true for this trip as I juggled between shooting on my NEX-7 (Amazon.com) for photos and videos with my point and shoot Canon Powershot Elph 110 HS camera (Amazon.com). I ended up shooting under 500 photos and recording a few hours of videos on my point and shoot camera. What I should have done was just focus on doing one thing and not both. I would have had more pictures or even a full collection of useful clips to help produce a wonderful short video. Harry did a better job with his iPhone when he recorded his famous, “I’m looking pretty good” videos everywhere we went. They were funny and consistent. I’ll link to them as soon as he has time to produce them.
Recommendation: I should have taken my own advice and focused on shooting photos, leaving the point and shoot camera at home. Things would have been simpler and I wouldn’t need to stress myself out on figuring out when to shoot a photo or video for a particular moment.
If you are reading this, pick one and just do it. You’ll make things easier on yourself and the quality of your end products will benefit tremendously as a result. I’m going to try to follow my own rule in the future.
There you have it, my top 5 things that I regret bringing with me on the trip. If only I knew it sooner, I would have saved us the trouble of hauling them all around Europe. I suppose that’s just part of the fun, to figure it out from experience. Live and learn!
We could have sent these items home, but doing so would not have been cost-effective, so we were forced to keep them until the end of our trip. This makes more sense when you’re touring closer to your home or within your own country. Do you have things that you’ve brought on your bike tour that you later found out weren’t necessary? I would love to know, so leave comments below and let me know what those things are.
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