Walk Sew Good Share Their Light Packing Tips When Walking Through South East Asia

Walk Sew Good Gab and Meg

My name is Gabrielle, I am from Trentham Cliffs originally but at the moment I am living in between Melbourne and Mornington. My passions are reading and travelling although I have to work intermittently to fund the latter.

My personality would be best described as adventurous and chaotic, I wish I were more organised, but alas it is not in my fate. Megan is very organised, and super creative. She never allows her fears to stop her from doing something, she never holds herself back and I really admire that. Every day she would push herself to face things that she wasn’t always comfortable with, like aggressive dogs, or questionable food.

Walk Sew Good Gab and Meg

How and why did you get into adventuring and walking?

Megan read an article about Satish Kumar a peaceful pilgrim who walked from India to Europe to stand for nuclear disarmament and she was inspired to take up her own walk. I was invited to join and I said yes with little hesitation. I’ve always enjoyed walking and going on adventures, when I was growing up my friends and I would always go bushwalking down by the billabong or the river and climb trees, or crawl through fox holes in the reeds.

My best friend’s mum Anne would make us take snake bandages and then we’d just run off into the wilderness for the weekend, it was a very free childhood, so I guess that’s how it all started for me. I didn’t really get in shape at all for the Walk Sew Good journey because I know my fitness levels increase rapidly once I start, so I just put on as much weight as possible because I knew I’d be shedding a lot of it and I didn’t want to become too weak.

I can’t think of any gear that I would recommend, but Megan brought along a SteriPEN to purify water, previously I have only used tablets or iodine crystals, but the SteriPEN was amazing, I highly recommend it. In terms of planning adventures generally I don’t have anything set in stone because often you’ll find that things change very rapidly on the ground (road closures, extreme weather, political upheaval).

For walking across South East Asia, I mapped out several different routes and then came to a conclusion on our last one based on major capital centres, and the seasons/times of year each place would be most walkable at which time. Obviously, we didn’t want to be walking through snow in Sapa, Vietnam, in winter. Most of the time you just need to be really adaptable, Google Maps helped us immensely (it also hindered us a lot when it was incorrect), as well as talking to locals and just using intuition.

Walk Sew Good Gab and Meg

How do you finance your adventures?

We raised $10,000 through crowdfunding before we started our walk from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi (via Bangkok and Chiang Mai) which went towards flights, insurance and some accommodation. We were generously given some clothes from Patagonia. The rest of our funding came from our own savings, we each had a few jobs and we saved for over a year to fund the rest of our trip.

Essentially, our budget was around $30 a day, so $15 per person. It doesn’t sound like much in Australia, but in Asia it was more than sufficient, it covered food and accommodation and we often were under budget. In bigger cities like Bangkok, obviously that was far more expensive. In total I think we ended up spending around $27,000 for 10.5 months of travel for two people, including flights and visas. So really it was cheaper than the cost of living in Australia. We didn’t have any income whilst travelling though, it would have been great to work remotely, but the Walk Sew Good project took up all of our time. Besides after 10 hours of walking a day, you don’t really have the energy to do a few more hours of work.

Walk Sew Good Gab and Meg

How do you eat and sleep on the road?

Well, we don’t eat or sleep on the road because we’d get run over, haha oh lord somebody please stop me. We would generally buy food from roadside vendors or small family restaurants. Obviously, at times our food choice was very limited. There was a lot of morning glory, rice and egg. Megan is vegetarian so things were even more limited for her.

We stayed in a lot of cheap motels, or “love motels” where people went for their intimate times and usually paid by the hour. People were really freaked out when we wanted to stay the night, but usually there were no other options. We also stayed at a few temples and camped a few times, but that was rare. We had kind strangers offer us their homes which was beyond generous. Sometimes we would organise to stay with people in advance using couchsurfing, otherwise some people would kindly offer us their floor when we just showed up in their town.

When we were camping, the tent we used was an Anaconda Denali three person tent, I definitely plan on keeping it for the future, finding “ethically made” camping gear was difficult in Australia, as a lot of it comes from overseas and I really needed to be able to check the tent first. So I made a compromise and bought it, on the condition that I will keep it for longer than 10 years, repair it and use it often. I didn’t have a sleeping bag or cooking gear as it would have been too heavy. As we weren’t spending long periods in the wilderness, we would just pack snacks or eat at villages when we could. We didn’t have any vehicles, it was just the two of us walking on the entire route, so no bicycle or support van/car haha, just feet.

Walk Sew Good Gab and Meg

How do you bring your things with you?

We carried everything in a backpack, I think they were both around 65 Litre packs. Then I had a smaller backpack that I could use for day adventures/filming. My pack is from Mountain Designs, I got it when I was 15 and have used it for travel and hiking ever since. Hubert (my bag) has not let me down for the 11 years I’ve had him, I don’t know the name of the model, but to be honest I think it’s no longer made. I’d pick a bag that fits all the things you need, but I could have easily taken a smaller pack. Bigger isn’t always better. Megan’s bag was called Jane, but I forgot the maker and model of her bag.

Walk Sew Good Gab and Meg

How do you organize things in your bags?

We were both different in our packing situation. I would generally throw everything in if I was in a rush, but if I had time I liked to place the heavier things that I used least at the bottom and then use the stuff I needed access to the most near the top, usually a change of clothes and soap so I could shower straight after our walk was done for the day.

I had a big waterproof liner that I would line my entire pack with and then just fill from there. I also had an extra waterproof bag for the laptop because obviously that would be a disaster if it got wet. Having waterproof stuff was definitely important, we were quite vigilant so we didn’t have too many problems which was great. I think if we had been in deep jungle without clean facilities we would have had more problems with damp weather and fungi, but we were all okay apart from smelling a bit funky.

Megan had several little waterproof bags instead of one large one, and she packed according to: clothes (grey sleeping bag pack), toiletries (blood orange), electronics (yellowy), snack food (greenie) and a few others. She was all about the packing in order, and it really worked well. I could always find stuff in her bag, I think she was too overwhelmed to even attempt mine haha. Once she changed a few of the items in her coloured bags around for a week and it really threw me, I was freaking out so I think she changed it back.

Walk Sew Good Gab and Meg

How do your bags and gear hold up?

I think they held up really well, considering mine was already 11 years old that was quite impressive. We also weren’t super gentle with all of our things, we were walking, sweating and under beating hot sun for 300 days. I wouldn’t have changed my gear, but then again I was just using what I had available for most of the time, if anything I’d buy a more sustainable tent. We didn’t have to repair too much on the road, although I was wearing second hand shoes at the start of the journey and I had to glue the soles back on a few times. I was soleless. Shoes don’t last very long when you walk thousands of kilometres. The most durable pair of shoes I wore were Salomons, no idea the style, they were just the only hiking shoes that fit in Phnom Penh.

Walk Sew Good Gab and Meg

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

There’s nothing that I wish I had bought from the beginning. I think we had everything, in fact I probably had too much. I sent a lot home and it was much easier to walk with less weight, it was easier to go without than to carry it everywhere and use an item infrequently. One thing that everyone should take with them is a SteriPEN, that thing was magic. Purified all our water, stopped us from buying plastic water bottles and was fully rechargeable and lightweight. Honestly, I loved that little fluorescent magic wand.

Walk Sew Good Gab and Meg

What has been your best adventuring purchase below $100?

Long lasting water bottles, and a good broad-brimmed hat. Not sexy, but super practical and saves you from sunburn and heatstroke with is quite dangerous. Water bottles obviously help store water, and having metal ones or ones with hard plastic are far more durable than flexible ones and less likely to collapse. The hat for obvious reasons, to protect you from the sun. Patagonia very generously gave us a hat each to protect our noggins, unfortunately I left mine on some back roads in Cambodia. I picked up a Cambodian hat and wore that for the rest of the trip instead, it had a huge brim at the front and material at the back that you could then clip up in front of your face to protect your nose and mouth. Tres chic. But as I mentioned before, easily the best thing you can get is a SteriPEN and I think they start at $150. But it will get you thousands of litres of clean water, so way cheaper than buying bottled water and saves the environment.

Walk Sew Good Gab and Meg

What is your best advice for other adventurers?

Best advice is just to get out there and do it, I guess that’s easier said than done. I’d say, save up money, stick to a budget before you leave and that will make it a lot easier to stick to a budget whilst travelling. Book tickets and go. Obviously that can be scary, but sit down and honestly ask yourself: What am I doing with my life right now? Am I happy with it? Will I look back on this time and be joyful? What do I want to see before I die and if I don’t do it now, then when?

Adventurers should always respect the environment and the people who they come across. I think a lot of people are always looking for a bargain and that can be devastating. For a lot of people from more developed countries, bartering over a few dollars may just seem like harmless fun, but often the person selling may be so desperate for food that week they are already underpricing themselves by a lot to start. At what cost are you really “bargaining” for? Advice for new adventurers would be to have fun, but don’t feel pressured to be enjoying yourself ALL the time, things go wrong, you don’t have to feel guilty for being homesick and don’t panic when in a tough situation, it could be a great story to look back on. For expert adventurers, I guess I would say, try and give back as much as you get out of it and stay humble.

Walk Sew Good Gab and Meg

What will the future bring?

We have no idea what the future will bring. We don’t know what will happen to Walk Sew Good, we just want to share the stories we have collected so far. I would love to walk through South America, and I can’t think of any “gear” I dream about, I’m not really a gadget person, I can go without a lot of material things so I don’t crave them really.

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