Every traveller has a secret item, especially those who travel light or, like me, for long periods of time. Something which, when tucked into a corner of your backpack, brings something else along with it. A sense of home or comfort. One of my greatest vices is asking people about their travel secrets, usually after a beer or two to soften them up. After all, your luggage is a personal place.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that people would reel off a list of luxury things and dedicated travel accessories. But the truth is far more strange and interesting than the leather passport cover, or the dinky cufflink box.
Secret items that I have so far heard about include:
English teabags, a plug, a travel iron. Boiled sweets. Assorted medication, just in case. A special mug. Candles. Baked beans. Drug paraphernalia. A rubber duck named Francis Drake.
These things are all well and good (Francis Drake especially), but fall short of the magic of my own secret item: the robe.
The robe is useful, of course, whether you’ll be sharing a bathroom or wandering down to the pool. It can be used as a towel, a jacket or a laundry bag. A blanket or a curtain.
However, the robe can be much more than merely practical. There’s something inexplicably lush about wafting around your hotel room in a kimono, even if you are drinking instant coffee and powdered milk. Once, I saw a particularly lovely bath robe (red, silk) worn to the opera.
Choosing a robe is not easy, though, and you need to find the right one for your packing list. Silk and cotton are thin, light and quick-drying – ideal if you have limited space in your backpack, and if visiting warmer countries – but expensive.
The best advice is probably to buy one you love, whether it’s a gentlemanly paisley or a vintage Japanese kimono. After all, once you start, you won’t want to travel without it.