I've been a very lucky person to have the time and opportunity to travel and live abroad. If any out there is looking for advice of what to pack, here are my top three must-have items.
1. MoonCup. It's an alternative to pads and tampons. It's a reusable "cup" made from silicone. Buy it once, use it for years. It's major selling points are that it is healthier, cleaner, and more eco-friendly because you aren't throwing away tons of paper and plastic. You keep it in a small cotton pouch in your bag, and it's always ready when you need it. You put it in at the start of your period and check it (dump, rinse, and put it back) in the morning and at night--that's it! It's by far the most convenient way I've ever dealt with a period. A friend introduced it to me in Turkey, and it has solved several problems for me, including (a) trying to buy tampons and pads abroad, (b) always needing a place to dispose of used pads and tampons (not always available abroad or on adventures in the wilderness), and (c) the discomfort of pads and tampons. It also saves me money, probably at least $10 a month. It's important to me that I not be too embarrassed or grossed out by writing this. In general, our society assigns a lot of shame to menstruation, and I disagree with that. Most women experience this totally natural phenomenon every month, and it's ok to talk about it. Even better, organizations like Femme International provide menstrual cups to girls in rural Africa so that they don't have to miss school during their periods. I strongly recommend that all women try this product, even if you aren't abroad.
2. Undersummers. If you have thighs and you wear skirts, you've probably experienced thigh rub or sweaty and uncomfortable thighs. With the slogan "Thigh Love," the Undersummers' creator developed what are called "slip-shorts;" essentially, the material of a traditional slip, but made into shorts. These aren't your granny's bloomers, and they are definitely NOT Spanx, a product I do not like because they are uncomfortable and in my opinion, body-shaming. On the other hand, Undersummers don't squeeze or pinch your legs, but instead skim over them lightly. They stay where they are supposed to be all day, and they keep your thighs from rubbing together. They are easy to wash, and they are surprisingly durable considering the feminine lace detailing. I won't wear a skirt without them.
3. iPad. I have raved about my iPad Mini before, and I'm still raving about it. It's the right size and light enough to be easy tucked into your bag. It's super functional as an internet accessing device and e-reader. However, the function I get the most use from is definitely the camera. I carry my iPad everywhere, and when I need to take a photo, I just whip out the iPad, snap, and carry on with my life. It's been a handy teaching tool, for taking pictures of my whiteboard notes and posting them online when necessary. Admittedly, the quality of the photos isn't as good as a "real" camera, but then again, I'm not a "real" photographer, so that's ok. Quick editing apps and internet access make it really easy for me to post photos to Facebook or Instagram on the spot. I love that. None of these features are new or extraordinary, but they are super useful as a traveler. Speaking of traveling, my iPad also functions as a GPS, language dictionary, calculator, and--on occasion--flashlight. Note: make sure you've got a sturdy case with a cover. If you use your iPad as often as I do, you'll have lots of chances to drop, spill on, or otherwise damage your iPad. My case from Targus is resistant to the mold that grows on absolutely everything in Thailand, which is a huge plus.
Well travelers, I hope that these three items make it into your suitcase, and bon voyage to you!