August means, for a lot of theater artists, the end of summer stock and the time to start thinking about an upcoming tour. Whether you are an actor, a musician, or you simply do a lot of traveling, here are some of the things I’ve acquired over the last five years that make being on the road a little more enjoyable. (Full disclosure: I have no endorsements from any of these companies, although if they want to pay me to use their products, I suppose I’d be open to that.)
- LaCie 1TB Rugged Triple Interface USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive – This little guy has been dropped, kicked, and stepped on, and still it keeps all of my files safe. The only gripe is that the USB connection can sometimes come loose. Maybe they’ll fix that on newer models.
- Korg nanoKEY2 Slim-Line USB keyboard – As an MD who needs to make quick changes to music in Sibelius or Finale, this travel-sized MIDI keyboard is perfect. It’s light-weight and fits next to my laptop in my backpack.
- Palomino Blackwing Pencils – A total guilty pleasure, these pencils are real objects of beauty. To me they are the Bentley of the writing utensil world. There’s a reason Steinbeck, Sondheim, and Bernstein loved using them. Who am I to argue?
- GoPro HERO3+ – This little camera, originally created to capture extreme sports, is useful to record my conducting for study and reference. It’s small, discreet, and has a crazy-wide angle lens. The sound is not fantastic, and the camera struggles a little bit under low-light conditions (most of theater conditions), but it does the trick.
- The Pocket Dept. Notebooks: The Shirt Pocket – Find me during the day, and I’ll most likely have one of these notebooks on me, filled with notes like “more diction from the altos,” “why can’t I hear the celeste???” and “call Mom.”
- MUJI Pencil Sharpener – Somehow MUJI, a Japanese-based store, continues making some of my favorite objects. This is the tiniest, sharpest pencil sharpener I’ve ever come across, and as a traveller who’s continually looking for travel-size goods, this is the bees-knees.
- JH13 Pro Custom In-Ear Monitors – Musical pits can get loud. Very. Loud. Aside from protecting my ears from ungodly decibel levels, these monitors are crisp, clean, balanced, and give me a clear and inspired image of the sound coming from the pit. Hands-down one of the best investments I’ve ever made.
- “7 Minutes to Fit” by Brett Klika – After 9 hours on a bus in the dead of February, pulling into a hotel that has one broken stair-master, you need to be creative with how you get your exercise. These routines are quick and can be combined for a longer workout, especially after stopping at that Arby’s for dinner.
- MUJI Hair Scissors – I’ve been cutting my own hair since college, and once again, MUJI makes some sharp travel scissors.
- Alfred Lane Solid Cologne: Bravado – Chicago-based company Alfred Lane created this ingenious cologne in solid form. I know. As a traveler, I don’t have to worry about my cologne spilling and making my luggage smell like a high-school dance. This also comes in a few other scents with mysterious names like “Brio,” “Enigma,” and “Vanguard.”
- Pacific Shaving Company: All Natural Shaving Oil – A small bottle of this (are you starting to sense a trend?) will easily last me 8 months. Plus the essential oils smell nice.
- Shelves to Go – This was a game-changer for me. These cloth/plastic/mesh/metal shelves squish down and pack perfectly into any suitcase. All I have to do is open my suitcase, take out the shelves, and my clothes are all there, organized, right in front of me. It saves a ton of time when you have 15 minutes before bus-call.
- Manduka eKO SuperLite Travel Travel Mat – Weighing just about 2 lbs., this yoga mat folds up and fits just about anywhere. And it’s sticky enough for all of those warrior poses.
- KeepCup – This is a brilliant, reusable, sustainably-made coffee cup that is microwaveable, dishwasher-safe, and just plain adorable. I use it for tea, coffee, soup, and basically anything else I need to heat up. Essentially it’s a sippy cup for adults. I’m obsessed.
- Bonavita BonaVoyage Electric Travel Kettle .5L – Five years, and this thing is still kicking. It heats up water in a flash. I drink tea. I drink a LOT of tea. And I can store my loose tea in the kettle itself when it’s not in use.
Here are some of the essential apps I use nearly everyday.
- Headspace – Demystifying the practice of meditation, Andy Puddicombe has created a 365-day guided program that helps you to see the clutter in your mind. It is a part of my morning routine, and I can’t say enough good things about it. Check out Andy’s TED talk here.
- Tempo – This is my favorite metronome app. It lets you create “setlists” so you can scroll through changes quickly. I have it open during shows to make sure we’re keeping consistent tempi.
- Wunderlist – A beautifully-designed list app for those of us who like to keep our tasks organized. That reminds me, I need eggs and milk.
- Interval Timer – For my morning routine, for my practice routine, for my exercise routine, I create custom timers (3o min of practice, followed by 5 min rest, for example) to keep me on track. This app also keeps track of your progress over time.
- Genius Scan: PDF Scanner – This app turns your iPhone into a scanner, allowing you to create custom PDF files from images. Useful when I need to email important documents or scan sheets of music.
My only tip on travel is to look for objects that are small, compact, multi-function, and that bring you joy when you use them. They should be useful, but ultimately, all of these things should make your life easier and give you more time to walk around and enjoy your trip. To all of you fellow jet-setters, happy travels!