Backpacking: Europe and Asia Checklist and Gear Guide

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So you’re considering backpacking through Europe, Asia or other parts of the world? You can spend a lot of time preparing by researching, finding the right gear and asking hundreds of questions. Read on for a quick start.

Think small and light. You’re only bringing the essentials. If you can’t fit it on your back comfortably or on-board as carry-on then you aren’t going to take it with you. Set a goal for a maximum of 15 to 16 pounds: just under the carry-on weight rules for most airlines.

Size does matter.

You’re allowed one bag and a personal item on the aircraft. This can be your backpack and a day bag (such as the Patagonia Atom Sling). The backpack and day bag should count as separate weighted items, so move heavier items into the day bag when checking in. Split up the weight between your bags to avoid exceeding weight guidelines.

You should opt to pack minimal clothing to save space and weight for carry-on. Additional clothing can be purchased later if required. Use travel size items such as deodorant, toothpaste, first aid kits and the smallest versions you can find of items such as: travel towels, water bottle (try the Platypus), electronics organizer, packing cubes, etc.

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First time abroad: Kharkiv, Ukraine

In the past year I spent a total of six months in Kharkiv, Ukraine. This was my first time traveling internationally.

Kharkiv is a great place to visit. American’s have seen the negative media (especially the political problems and riots in Kiev in 2013) and heard about the warring in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. As most travelers will tell you the reality is always much different from the stories. Kharkiv is far from any of these problems.

The city center is beautiful. There are multiple parks to visit and Gorky Park is massive with attractions, rides, restaurants, a skate park, rentals, tennis courts, a Ferris wheel and more. Ukrainians are friendly and many can speak English or want to learn. English schools exist all over the place and this is a good opportunity if you want to volunteer or make a little bit of money.

Ukraine is one of the cheapest destinations in Europe for an American. During my time in Ukraine the US dollars to Ukrainian grivnas conversion averaged around 1:25. One dollar is almost enough for a sub sandwich at Freshline or half a dozen bus fares. At one point prior to my arrival the ratio was 1:30. Locals regularly convert their money to USD.

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