I have read so many packing lists. Like at least 184625. But I somehow always end up bringing something "just in case" that I'll never use and I can guarantee you I forget at least one thing overtime I go somewhere, and I usually bring significantly less than other people would feel comfortable with. But honestly, that is because I just don't care. I can't really be bothered to give a rat's ass about what I bring on my voyages as long as I'm not naked and I'm dressed at least moderately appropriately for the climate. Since I usually just take a carry-on anyway, I don't bother packing shampoo and conditioner since I can just buy a 2-in-1 when I'm at my destination.
There is, however, one list of travel essentials I will always carry with me, no matter what material items I brought or forgot.
1. A realistic budget, with room for error.
Even if I can somehow pull it together enough to remember everything I need for a trip, I will 100% leave something at my destination. I can (usually) handle myself well enough to keep my passport and wallet, but the other stuff seems to disappear into a black hole. That is why I find it extremely important to make sure I am prepared to blow some money something menial, like an umbrella or socks or ibuprofen. Not only is it likely setting yourself up for failure to plan on not losing a single thing or only spending money on the fun stuff, but it's also going to create an unnecessary sense of stress around your trip. We are only human, after all, and it is unfair to ask your future self to sacrifice the unique enjoyment that comes with being a bit carefree in return for the guarantee of returning with your material possessions, almost all of which are replaceable.
So, when you forget to bring your toothpaste or favorite teddy bear, don't allow your mind to make you feel guilty for spending the few bucks and rest assured that your special teddy will be waiting for you at home. Similarly, if you lose some diamond earrings in the ocean in some amazing tropical place, there is no need to throw hysterics because the money to buy these material objects will return, but these experiences will not.
2. Your health.
No one wants to get sick while they're trying to be busy adventuring. And of course, the occasional cold or food poisoning will get all of us during some trip, but thankfully there are a lot of things you can do to prevent any health issues before hand. First of all, do a quick Google search to see if you will need any vaccinations or malaria medications for wherever your going so that you don't get stopped at the border, or worse, get a serious disease. This takes about 1 minute to do, and if you do need something, I promise you it is worth the investment to go to the doctor and get medically prepared for your voyage.
Next, I would highly recommend is making sure you are in shape enough to handle walking 10,000 + steps per day. I am a very active person, but I always make sure to move a bit extra the few weeks before a trip so that I am better prepped to handle jet lag and the travel fatigue that plagues us all.
I also tend to pump myself up on vitamins, especially vitamin C and magnesium, which help with energy and boost your immune system. A good way to get all that shit in you before traveling, and even during, is to buy some effervescent tablets and put them in your water. This keeps you hydrated too, which is essential for combatting any fatigue or new bugs you might experience.
Finally, there is always the obvious one, which is to eat well and be well-rested. This also means eating enough calories for your body, because under-eating can ruin a trip really fast.
3. Simple, feasible goals that if accomplished, will allow you to feel satisfied with with your travels and proud of yourself.
I have had experiences traveling where I felt frustrated with myself and unsatisfied after returning home, and often resented either myself or the place for my personal lack of fulfillment. This is, of course, quite unreasonable and causes unnecessary self-doubt. That is why I now create a few simple goals I have for myself that will allow me to feel satisfied after a trip.
For example, I recently took a trip to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France with a close friend of mine. Our tourist-related goals for this trip were to see each city from a height, eat one famous, local meal, and go to at least one museum. This way, whenever we got overwhelmed by the immense pressure to squeeze as much out of every city as we possibly could, we could allow ourselves to relax and remember our goals, giving us the opportunities to savor each city for what they were.
My personal goals for this specific trip were to cherish the time I had with my close friend that I do not get to see very often, and also to have patience with both myself and her. These thoughts helped me to avoid conflict during our trip and gave me fulfillment when I knew I was doing my best to uphold these goals for myself.
While these goals can just be something you roll around in your head, I have found it immensely helpful to write it down in my travel journal before the start of each trip. Not only are the positive affects of journaling on memory and self-accountability incredibly high, but reading back on your travel journal with the mention of your personal goals for each past trip will lend you a direct portal to the feelings, emotions, and gratitude you then felt.
4. A sense of humor.
I know this seems really obvious, but I frequently catch myself taking everything way too seriously when I am supposed to be making mistakes and having fun. After all, the purpose of traveling is not to travel perfectly. What would that even look like anyway?
Everyone experiences travelers constipation, everyone gets lost, everyone goes over their budget, everyone gets tired and grumpy... the list could go on forever. The good news is, that is all part of the experience!
There is no growth without mistakes, and no fun without accidental adventure. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, please travel with a light-heart and an open-mind. I promise you can handle whatever this voyage will throw at you, and I wish you the ability to laugh at it too.