As a fellow who is trying to make the best of his service with Atlas Corps, I have been trying to make the most of my time, stipend, and be ready for different situations.

As all of you know, being a fellow on a limited stipend is a challenge by itself, and with such a challenge one should be prepared for all situations and ready all the time.

Away from work and serving at my host organization, I was pretty much occupied with going to new places which usually meant that I had to leave my place early at morning and come back late at night (utilization of time and saving transportation 🙂

Since I started my service with my host organization, they provided me with a laptop and a backpack. However, after 5 months I realized that my backpack was growing in size and more items are added to it at least in the first 3 months.

Right now when I’m looking at my nice gray medium-sized backpack I remember plenty of situations when I needed something and I couldn’t find it (at least at the proper time), but now I think I can go out all day long knowing I have everything I need without thinking twice. So, whenever I decide to go out, I know what items I should have and I’m pretty sure my backpack will have my back 🙂

So, as a good fellow who wants to share his experience with fellow fellows and make their lives a little bit easier and help them (at least the new fellows) to quickly adapt with their new situation and be prepared, or at least avoid some confusing or sometimes critical situations that one could avoid with simple and cheap solutions. And I would be very glad if this blog could make its way to the orientation week, so new fellows get those tips and tricks from day one.

So, without further a due, lets jump right into it.

To make it easier for readers, I would include here the most basic items that I use, with a short description of each one, including some quick tips. And please keep in mind that what works for me does not necessarily work for you, so you are the best person to judge which items are necessary for you and which are not.

  • Backpack

First thing you should have is obviously a backpack, as it would be your travel companion every day, even when you don’t have your laptop, but at least it would be very helpful to put all your needed stuff in one place, instead of having them here and there, or having to carry them in different bags. Make sure to have a backpack that is comfortable, with a size that is suitable to your own. And trust me, size and comfort are very important, especially when you realize that sometimes you will have to carry your backpack for long hours.

  • Water bottle:

Although you will probably find plenty of places where you can find water fountains, but who knows! Having water is very important for your health and keeping your body hydrated especially during summer. And believe me, don’t expect to find water everywhere you go, having it right in your backpack is the safest option. And guess what? when it is empty, you can fill it from many places you’ll find in your way. Usually you can get a water bottle from any store or supermarket for low prices, and of course, they vary depending on the features and size you want. Personally I prefer to have a water bottle that is 750 ml, which is not that big and heavy, so you can have it full and still carry it with ease, and at the same time, it can anguish your thirst for 2 to 3 times (unless you had a very chilly and spicy lunch).

  • Power Bank:

Just imagine that you went out, and on a sudden, you realized your battery is dead. What would you feel like? Now you are thinking about how you will go back to your place, But you can’t call Uber or Lyft, and you don’t know when is the next bus coming, or even where the bus station is. And to make it worse, you most probably don’t know the way to your place (At least if it’s your first month here). That’s why having a power bank is a must. Most smartphones these days could barely make it for 12 hours of moderate use. But if you have plenty of on-screen time, then it will not last for more than 6 hours. So, having a source of power that is in your pocket is a safe option in case your battery died. There plenty of options out there for power banks. You can get decent ones for 20$ to 30$ which is cheap when it’s needed. (Trust me on that). One important thing, always make sure that your power bank is charged and has enough juice to charge your phone, and have the suitable cable for charging (trust me, once I had my phone battery dead, and I had the power bank, but I didn’t have the charging cable, how smart was that?!)

  • Selfie Stick

If you do not like having selfies, then this item is not for you. This item is for selfie lovers or addicts. I mean come on, you are in the US and of course, there are plenty of places and memories you want to capture, at least to feed your social media account.

A selfie stick is a feasible option for one who travels alone, as it would be pretty difficult to ask someone else to take you a photo every time you want. And having a selfie without a selfie stick will make all of your photos look the same, which is bad for your facebook account 🙂

In my personal experience, as I was going to places alone, with no one else to take pictures of me, I found the selfie stick a very good option. It enabled me to take incredible photos by my self. And did you know that there are some types of selfie stick that come with a tripod and a remote, which enables you to take photos without holding your phone! Check this photo I took by myself, and you will not believe that I was all by myself hanging out by the golden gate bridge, and without the selfie stick, I could never make such awesome photo (I know, I’m bragging now).

Gorgeous view of the Golden Gate bridge
  • Snack

As simple as it sounds, but it is very helpful, especially when you are out for a long time. Having an apple, or any preferred type of nutritious food could be very helpful. Of course, it will not replace a full meal, but at least it will help you pass on one or two more hours without having to buy an expensive meal just because you have no other option.

  • Umbrella/ Extra clothes

This is very helpful in winter times, and depending on the weather conditions in your city. For me in San Francisco; the weather is fine but it is quickly changing, so you need to be prepared at least with the umbrella. And for purposes of portability, make sure you have Collapsible Umbrella that can be folded or collapsed to fit in your backpack.

Having an extra piece of clothing will also help you adjust to weather fluctuations especially if you are out all day long, where temperature varies from early in the morning to late at night.

  • Headphones

As most of the unlucky fellows who end up living in a place that is far from their work, you will definitely spend at least two hours of commuting (if not more) on daily basis. Which is a very valuable time especially for young leaders and change-makers such as you. So, having headphones, or earbuds (depending on what you prefer) is a must. And this becomes more essential if you are annoyed by the noise of the train system you are using and want some peace of mind, then having headphones with noise canceling features will be your next best thing.

There are plenty of different options out there you can choose from, but my advice is not to buy a new one, especially if you are a sound enthusiast and want the top brand in the market. Buying used from eBay will give you exactly what you want and save you some money. For me, when it comes to headphones, I would recommend testing the different types of headphones before buying, because everyone has his own preferences in this regard. So, I would recommend testing headphones at one of BestBuy stores to make sure you land on the best option for your liking.

Finally, I’m pretty sure you can think of at least one or two more items that should be in this list, and I invite you all to comment with what items you think very important to have on the go.