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About Me

About Me

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Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I’ve also lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for the past 4.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York back in 2013 when I landed an international role at a media company that sent me all over the world to work. You can read my full story here

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I’m currently freelance writing, coaching professionals through career transitions, and working on a few small business ideas while splitting my time between Berlin, the US, and India. 

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding REAL jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living more purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’m not a full-time digital nomad and I’m not a full-time corporate professional: I’ve done things a bit differently and I think it’s feasible for more people to live “off the beaten path” this way. I hope my blog lets you see that it’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Read on or get in touch to set up a 1:1 session with me: elaina@lifebefore30.com.

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Backpacking India and Southeast Asia: What’s Always in My Bag

Posted on May 18th, 2016

There are tons of articles about what to pack for major backpacking trips, but if you’re anything like me, half the time what I bring traveling doesn’t make it into my purse or daypack so it’s actually available when I really need it.


And so I find myself sweaty, sticky, dirty, or lost in the dark thinking, “The flashlight and hand sanitizer are back in the hostel, aren’t they?”


After 8 months spent making my way from Singapore to Nepal, here are the key items that were — and always are —  on my person.

 

…Or if they weren’t, I learned the hard way.
 

1. Toilet paper.


A budget traveler is going to see very few bathrooms that provide toilet paper almost anywhere in Asia. I was surprised when even "decent" guesthouses (think $10/night private room vs. the $3 dorm bed) in India and Nepal didn't provide TP. So I literally carried a whole roll in my purse for the whole 8 months, just so I could feel more at home wherever I was. Wiping with tissues or baby wipes just doesn't feel right if you have to do it all the time, right? 


2. Baby wipes.


But baby wipes do have their place in my heart for their multi-purpose power. I used them to take off makeup, wipe my hands off after meals if there's no sink, wipe off after sticky snacks on a long-distance bus, and wipe sweat off my skin to prevent breakouts when lugging my backpack around south India in the summer. 


3. Stain remover.

 

I'm messy, and I'd always wind up with mutter paneer on my white blouse in India. I buy Shout! brand at home in the US, pour a fraction of the large bottle into a 3-ounce travel size container, and refill before every trip. Shout! literally takes out curry, blood, make-up, pomegranate juice, nailpolish, chai…you name it. 


4. Soap.


Almost every restaurant (even street food stalls) in South Asia will have a sink for washing before you eat, since Indians and Nepalese eat with their hands, BUT not all of them will have soap at the sink. To prevent getting sick, I traveled with a small bottle of liquid soap and washed my hands thoroughly before and after every meal. Used it every day, but it took me a few weeks of experience to figure out how necessary this actually was.


5. Notebook.


I'm a writer, so I'm constantly jotting down notes and inspiration, but I see travelers of all inclinations making use of old fashioned pen and paper on the road. For example, if a local wants to suggest somewhere good to eat, paper is easier for titles and address that aren't in English and subject to frustrating autocorrect. 

 

It's also fun to have everyone you meet write down their name and contact information at the back — some travelers I met would even ask you to write a little message in there and it makes for great memories.


6. Pens.


A notebook is useless without a pen, but you'd be surprised how often other travelers have paper OR a pen, but not both. I carry a couple since they tend to disappear.

 

And I ALWAYS have one in easy reach when I'm on long international flights — for filling out visa forms on the plane! Nobody ever has one and you'll make friends with everyone in your aisle.


7. Refillable water bottle.
 

If you're traveling India and Nepal, a Nalgene-type bottle is great to have since many hostels and guesthouses have water filters and you can fill up for free or really cheap. You also refrain from using plastic in countries without dependable recycling systems.


8. Kindle.


I'm shocked by the number of backpackers traveling with traditional books. I get it, there's nothing like the feel of a book in your hands, but come on people, let's be practical! I carry 100 books with me at all times on my $70 Kindle and read non-stop. I love having it in my purse so I'm never frustrated by delayed buses, trains, and planes or hour-long waits at rural restaurants who go out to find and kill the chicken when you order — it's all just more time to read. 

 

I also use the e-book version of my travel guides, so no more lugging around a huge Lonely Planet, you have a lightweight, searchable(!), digital version at your fingertips. 


9. Phone charger.


My iPhone can't keep a charge to save it's life. Plus I abuse it to death taking pictures and mapping everything on Maps.me (see below), so it's perpetually running on that menacing red bar and I'm on the go, unable to get back to the hostel to charge it until the very end of my action-packed day. 

 

Solution? Carry the darn charger with me! This took awhile for me to catch on to this, but I realized almost any restaurant or cafe would charge my phone for me if I gave them the charger and asked nicely.

 

10. Maps.me.
 

Ok, this isn't an item per se, but it's an app I always have on my iPhone and I use it constantly. You just download the map of a country, so it works flawlessly offline. It knows every tiny little street in every tiny little town — it even worked when I was trekking at 17,000 feet in Nepal and could tell me the exact milage to the next teahouse! I used it when I was hitchhiking long distances through Laos and Myanmar so we could ask rides for the nearest village and I'd drop a pin when I found hidden gem spots. 


11. Flashlight.


Especially if you go trekking, visit rural areas, or travel Nepal in general, you'll need a flashlight.

 

Why not your phone's flashlight? Because if you have to use it to visit the "bathroom"/squat potty in the middle of the night, you don't want to risk dropping your phone into the black hole of no-return.


12. Emergency upset stomach meds. (And worst case, I have plenty of item #1 on-hand.)

 

You never know when illness is going to strike. While I'm sort of proud in a weird way of having thrown up on the street in Calcutta, I'd rather have had something to ease my pain until I got to a more comfortable place to be sick. 
 

After several episodes of severe, sudden food poisoning in countries like India and Burma, I always carry some in my wallet (so even if I change between my purse and my daypack, I won't forget it). 


13. Passport photos.
 

Other things that stay in my wallet are several copies of my passport photo. I was surprised at how often and how randomly I needed them, whether it was for visa-on-arrival at the Thai border or purchasing a SIM card in India or applying for trekking permits in Nepal. They are a must-have item for travelers, so just take a bunch before you leave and keep them safe in a tiny envelope in your wallet so they are always on your person.

 

14. Spare contact lenses.

 

The last thing besides money that sneaks its way into my wallet is a pair of spare contact lenses. With the amount of dust, dirt, and pollution in many of these places, I often had to do emergency lens swap in the middle of Old Delhi's spice market or after going tubing in Laos. 

 

15. Sunscreen.
 

I'm a health nut, and I aggressively protect my body's largest organ. I always apply a matte-finish, organic SPF 50+ sunscreen to my face every day before I go out (I don't want wrinkles, thankyouverymuch!), but inevitably I sweat off a good portion of it as the day goes on.

 

Besides reapplication purposes, you never know when you might find a nice swimming spot or randomly decide to lay outside and read for awhile, so having sunscreen on hand insures you never risk burning under hot, tropical rays.

 


Hope this list helps you pack for your next trip and serves as a reminder that it doesn't matter what you bring in your suitcase or backpack if it doesn't wind up being carried out of your room to be used on your day-to-day adventures!

 

Happy trails, fellow travelers!

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About Me

About Me

IMG_5937

Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I’ve also lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for the past 4.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York back in 2013 when I landed an international role at a media company that sent me all over the world to work. You can read my full story here

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I’m currently freelance writing, coaching professionals through career transitions, and working on a few small business ideas while splitting my time between Berlin, the US, and India. 

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding REAL jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living more purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’m not a full-time digital nomad and I’m not a full-time corporate professional: I’ve done things a bit differently and I think it’s feasible for more people to live “off the beaten path” this way. I hope my blog lets you see that it’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Read on or get in touch to set up a 1:1 session with me: elaina@lifebefore30.com.

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Currently in: Malawi

 

 

Previously in: Berlin

 

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What’s Hot

Recent Posts

Coaching

Coaching

Step into my office!

 

Five years ago, I changed my whole life in 30 days. I scored the job of my dreams, quit my job in New York, sold everything I owned, moved to West Africa, and never looked back. Read about it here.

 

Now I use Office Hours to help my clients do the same.

 

Do you want to travel but are scared to quit your job?

Do you want to find a job overseas but don’t know where to start?

Do you wake up in the morning dreading what’s ahead?

Read more

Like Me on Facebook

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