5 Must Have Items for Road Travel

“What Are Your Five Must-Have Items For Van/Airstream/Overland/… Travel?”

Text & Banner Image by Gale Straub

I ask this question of every “Woman on the Road” I interview.

Often the road lifestyle is a quest for simplification.  Turning away from more contemporary incentives – the stability of the 9 to 5, the structure of suburbia, the frustration and comfort of routine. I ask the women to distill their road lives even further to five basic “must have’s.”

It’s fascinating to see what falls when we shake out our figurative pockets. Here are the themes I have noticed in the twenty-plus interviews I have received thus far:

Means to Record the Experience: Camera, iPhone, Journal

We are storytellers by nature – no matter the medium. Alison Turner of Alison Travels takes stellar photos of her “everyday” life with her cell phone. Kelly Shea of Vancrafted pens her experiences in a moleskin. Rachel Goldfarb of Idle Theory Bus jots down cartoons and free-form poems. A mobile life is ephemeral. Snapshots and journal entries slow the rivers running by the van window and freeze the mountains full of frame.

Means of Travel:  Maps, footwear, GPS, National Park passes, Headlamp

Perhaps this goes without saying; to go on a road trip you need to have the ability to get from Point A to Point B with ease. The value of an atlas or GPS goes up exponentially when you are out of cell phone signal. A National Park pass is both economical and transformative; one could spend a lifetime exploring America’s parks. Marlene Lin of Malimish cites her Ergo baby carrier as key – as important as reliable footwear. Getting out of the vehicle and slowing down the pace allows for satisfying travel.

Hints of Home: Jewelry, Favorite books, Gifts from family

Traveling can make us nostalgic for our roots. I missed a true New England autumn this year for the first time in my life. I can call up the brilliant velvet colors on a gray day, even conjure the smell of the first hints of chimney smoke in a small town. If I could keep Autumn in the van, I would.

Madison Perrins of Vanajeros brought with her a book (Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes) that must be held together with a hair tie – it’s so well worn. Kristen Blanton of Hello America named her boyfriend and travel partner.

Caffeine: French Press, Favorite Mug, Coffee

We replace the backdrop, but some routines remain unchanged.

Check out the images below to see detailed photos from previous interviews.


Thanks to the following ladies for contributing images of their “Five Must-Have Items” for road travel:

Marlene Lin, Malimish

Rachel Goldfarb, Idle Theory Bus

Emily King, Where’s My Office Now?

Kelly Shea, Vancrafted

Madison Perrins, Vanajeros

Chelsea Diamond, Lost in Travels

Laura Preston, The Democratic Travelers

Bella, The Expeditioners

Renee Stevenson, Wandrly Magazine

Sara Moran, Sardine Taco

Bee Roper, VdubVanLife

Jessica, The Native Two

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