Southeast Asia Packing List: Everything I Packed for my Six-Month Sabbatical

As you might know, my boyfriend and I are taking a sabbatical from our jobs until spring 2020! During this time, we are going to explore Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia and Cambodia. Of course during six months, we could – in theory – visit dozens of countries for a week at a time, but it’s not our preferred way of travelling. We are choosing to travel slowly in order to gain a deeper understanding of the countries that we visit, learn more about their culture and customs, see beyond the main tourist sights and experience more of what each country has to offer.

As we won’t have an income during the sabbatical (gulp!), we have to be sensible with our spending and budget as best we can. One way we’re doing this is by only travelling with our 40 litre backpacks and a day bag. Yep, that’s right, we’re going very minimalist on our trip! We’re doing this to avoid paying airline charges for checked luggage and to save our spines from carrying heavy bags from place to place!

Now, I’d like to share everything I’ve brought with me on my six-month sabbatical. If you’re interested, I can also ask my boyfriend to share his packing list – he’s even more of a minimalist than I am! 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. It means that I may receive a small percentage in commission if a purchase is made.

Clothes, shoes and accessories

  • My waterproof, hooded jacket
  • Three pairs of shorts 
  • Four t-shirts
  • Four vest tops 
  • Two long-sleeved tops. For colder climates and air-conditioned planes!
  • Two cardigans 
  • A hoodie
  • One pair of black leggings
  • One pair of jeans
  • Three thin, summery dresses. Two are sleeveless and they are all above the knee.
  • One pair of dark grey hiking trousers. With an incredible number of pockets!
  • A tankini swimming costume with two bikini bottoms. To add a little variety to my swimwear!
  • A long sarong. Which also functions as a scarf and cover-up for when I visit temples and other religious sites.
  • Underwear and socks. 
  • One pair of trainers
  • One pair of flip flops
  • One pair of red ballet pumps
  • One pair of water shoes. Useful for rainy days and slippy surfaces, like near waterfalls and rivers.
  • Prescription sunglasses
  • Regular sunglasses.
  • Two months’ worth of contact lenses.
  • Spare glasses.


  • My phone. For navigation, taking photos and booking taxis using the Grab app.
  • My camera. A Canon G7X Mark II, my latest purchase which I’m really happy with. It takes great photos and videos.
  • A power bank. To give my electronics an extra boost on long bus and train journeys. It gives me peace of mind because, as a millennial, the thought of my batteries draining fills me with dread!
  • Chargers for my phone and camera.
  • Worldwide travel adapterWith four USB ports and the ability to charge all my devices, even if they have a UK or EU plug, this was a great purchase.
  • My selfie stick. Yes, I have a selfie stick! People may mock them, but they help to take good photos (at flattering angles!).
  • My kindle. Such a wonderful piece of technology!
  • My 1TB external hard drive I use this to backup my photos and videos, just in case.
  • My ASUS VivoBook S14 laptop. For writing blog posts, researching, making reservations and of course, Netflix.
  • A laptop case

Health & Toiletries

  • Medicine. We brought a small selection, including painkillers, Imodium and plasters (as we always do lots of walking during our travels!).
  • Hand sanitizer. An absolute essential! We’ve noticed that around half the restaurant and cafe toilets we’ve been to don’t have paper and/or hand soap.
  • Suncream. I travel with factor 30 and factor 50.
  • Mosquito-repellent Deet spray. Mozzies love me so I have come armed with three bottles of bug spray!
  • Anti-mozzie zapper. I first discovered these zappers a few years ago and have brought two with me on the trip. They really help reduce the itching and swelling. They are most effective if you put them against an insect bite immediately after being bitten.
  • Lush soap bars. We’ve used these for our last few holidays and they’re a great low-waste, eco-friendly alternative. They are solid bars, so don’t count towards your liquid allowance when flying, and each bar is equivalent to 80 hair washes.
  • Makeup. A small selection including an eyebrow pencil, concealer, some lipsticks and vaseline.
  • Our electric toothbrush. We have one by Fairywell and it’s quite impressive; a four-hour charge lasts for 30 days at a time. We’ve also brought one tube of toothpaste and will buy more here when it runs out (as with the other toiletries in this list).
  • Razor. I’ve brought two spare razor heads with me.
  • Tide-to-go sticks. These are great for getting out marks and stains on clothes, if you can’t immediately put something in the wash. I’m a messy eater, after all!
  • Glasses spray.
  • Hairbrush
  • Nail file.
  • Floss.
  • Deodorant. 
  • Some hair ties.

Other Essentials

  • Passport. My most crucial item!
  • My backpack. My boyfriend and I both bought Osprey 40 litre backpacks after extensive research. Mine is in ‘rainforest green’ (a really nice shade) and it’s very comfortable as it’s specifically made for women’s bodies. There are lot of zips, compartments, padding and good back support. It complies with the normal carry-on luggage restrictions so I could take it on as hand luggage.
  • A day backpackMine is from Decathlon and it was an absolute bargain! It fits 20 litres, has two bottle holders, comfortable straps, a padded back, lots of zipped compartments and a plastic rain cover.
  • A backpack cover for my Osprey 40 litre bag.
  • A money belt. I haven’t used my money belt yet because Hanoi seems very safe, but I’ve brought it in case we end up somewhere dodgy during our sabbatical. As a general rule, I don’t travel around with my passport or a large amount of money. I take one debit card out with me and leave the others at my accommodation. If your hotel or hostel has a lockable safe, make use of it and leave the majority of your cash and cards inside.
  • A thin travel purse. 
  • A reusable water bottle. Unfortunately the tap water isn’t drinkable in many of the places we’ll be visiting so I’ve bought a 700 ml one from Water Well with an in-built filter, with the capacity of 1000 litres (equivalent to 2000 plastic water bottles!).
  • A portable safe by Pacsafe. It can fit my laptop and my boyfriend’s iPad, along with our passports and important papers folder. It has a padlock and a stainless steel cable, so it can be looped around heavy objects like bedposts or pipes.
  • Important papers file. Ours contains a copy of our travel insurance policy, copies of our passport photo pages, evidence of our Yellow Fever vaccinations, our JR train passes for Japan and some passport photos which we might need for visas.
  • Padlocks. Ideal for keeping your luggage secure while using public transport or leaving it unattended while you’re out exploring. We’ve brought four with us on this trip (two for each large backpack)
  • Packing cubes. Another great buy! Not only do they help you organize your luggage better by grouping clothes by category (such as putting all tops into the same cube), you can fit more in by compressing the cubes and squeezing the extra air out.
  • A lightweight towel. Most of the place we’ve stayed so far have provided towels, but that won’t be the case everywhere. These towels don’t take up a lot of space and dry very quickly. I have the purple one, in case you’re wondering!
  • Headphones
  • An umbrella.
  • A small notebook where I write down our expenses and any notes and ideas for future blog posts.
  • Three pens.
  • An eye mask and ear plugs. I bought this eye mask specifically for the trip and it’s seriously the best one I’ve ever had! If you’re a light-sensitive sleeper like me, you need to get one. Hardly any light gets passed it and it’s very silky and comfortable.
  • A tiny selection of jewellery. Specifically two necklaces and a pair of earrings! I am hoping to buy some new items during the sabbatical.
  • Travel pillow. Another essential for long journeys.

I hope you’ve found this list interesting! What are some of your travel essentials that you couldn’t leave home without? If you’re travelling at the moment, have you brought anything with you that’s missing from my list? 



Ciao for now!

The Curious Sparrow


  1. Great blog, and I am already planning to buy the Tide sticks and the eyemask – I always have eye masks but these look bigger than usual and I like the fact they are silk as the ones I currently have can be sweaty.
    One point about a money belt – I always wear one when on a long-haul trip for the airports and flights. We often have a lot of cash such as US dollars when travelling outside Europe as well as cards, and passports of course and big international airports are prime places for pick-pockets and thieves as they know travellers have money and passports on them and especially arriving in a strange airport, are usually distracted, looking around for the exit, for their driver or taxi, for the way to the airport bus etc. London Heathrow wasn’t called locally “Thief-row” for nothing!


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