The One Thing I’ll Never Travel Without

There are a few things I never travel without: hiking shoes (for obvious reasons), a silk sleeping-bag liner (bed bugs can’t bite through them) and a stack of nutritional bars—because you never know when you’re going to turn into an angry, no-filter hunger monster hell-bent on finding something to fill your giblet.

This nearly happened to us several times during this trip. Without overstating things, I’m really happy we had some healthy snacks to keep us sane.

I was reminded a few times during our trip of a conversation I had with Tara Dell, the head nutritionist at CLIF Bar. “I’ve had someone ask me, ‘Would you eat a CLIF Bar on a plane? You’re just sitting there,’” she told me. “And I say, ‘Well, of course I’m going to eat a CLIF Bar on a plane,’ because you have to think forward. If you’re doing something active the next day, you’re not going to be just sitting there. The plane cookies and beer aren’t going to do me any good. You want something that’s good and healthy and satisfying.”

Good food, she added, is imperative to decision-making—which is what the actual act of travel is almost entirely about.

clif bar nutrition

What’s better for a jungle hike? (Photo: Outpost/John Price)

Take, for example, the time the Tan Your Mind team missed our train to Kanchanaburi.

We’d woken up at 5:30 a.m.—plenty of time to have a quick body wash, mow down a piece of toast and tuk-tuk our butt-butts to catch the first train. The first train was essential for us; time was of the essence. Naturally, we set four alarms, packed our bags the night before, and prepped accordingly. But when 5:30 rolled around, we found ourselves rushed, and scarfed down a breakfast of black coffee and an untoasted piece of bread.

Not nutritious. Not nutritious at all.

clif bar adventure

Taking a break from the action. (Photo: Outpost/John Price)

We wound up missing our train, clown-carring ourselves into a cab. To make matters worse, we were getting emotionally hungry—Sue gets hangry, and I habitually submit to what some call hangxiety.

From under the pile of bags on her lap, Sue uttered the fateful words: “I’m hungry.” Our photographer grumbled in agreement. The taxi ride was going to be long; we needed something, quick.

“Not to fear!” I said from somewhere underneath the makeshift desk I’d produced in the middle-back seat. Closing one eye, and probably sticking out my tongue, I reached into the dregs of my backpack, feeling my way past pens, paper, receipts, hand cream and head lamps, trying to identify the feel of the emergency CLIF Bar I’d stashed for just such an emergency. When I finally felt the glossy wrapper, I pulled it out with a EUREKA!

I can’t say this for sure, but later, when we’d face a second so-called triccup—who could have known there are three hotels by the same name in a 50-kilometre mountainous radius?—it was my decision-making, fed by a CLIF earlier that day, that alerted me to a feeling that we were headed in the wrong direction.

Luck, or CLIF Bars? We may never know.