Since we were holed up in Cairo for a few weeks, I had a chance to document some of the things I lugged around the world. A few years later, I’m now getting around to doing the write up! I hope it helps women out there with some of their packing plans. It’s not easy fitting a girls’ closet inside a couple backpacks but for a chance to travel around the world for an extended period of time, it’s well worth the downsizing. (You really do learn to live without so much crap…so pack light…makes me think of Erykah Badu’s Bag Lady.)
A girl friend of mine and I had dreamed of backpacking Europe, while we taught English in Japan. I went on vacation in Taiwan, found a pack I liked and that was me committing to the Euro trip. Unfortunately, that trip didn’t exactly pan out but I kept a hold of my precious pack and a few years down the road, it came in handy. By then though, the materials had gotten lighter and as you can see in Steve’s pictures, he had a bag with wheels. I dropped a couple hundred at the time and I couldn’t see wasting more money on a new pack.
Ya wanna pack that has lots of access space and compartments. Mini bags within the pack help you keep things organized. Dedicate those extra compartments to things you need access to most and memorize what goes where so that when you need to lock up your gear and head out in a hurry, you won’t have to unpack everything to get to your lock. I had covers for both backpacks, too. They came in handy. I’d put them on to deter thieves from opening up zippers while wearing the bags around town or acting as an extra water barrier from river sprays during the Thailand to Laos death defying speed boat trip.
For an extended trip throughout various countries, I brought clothes for all occasions. I needed to be slightly dressed up for our cruises/friend’s wedding, totally covering up skin in Arab countries, ready to soak up the rays while island hopping in Greece, and bundled up during the blizzard on Jungfrau. Think layers. That bikini can double up as underwear when you are running low. (I never ran into that problem because I also had a block of laundry soap that I could do my wash in the sink or shower. Used it a lot during the cruises, where it cost more to get laundry done. You can find those laundry soap blocks at Walmart…the things ya never knew existed until ya need them.) Tank top (built in shelf bras save you from having to bring more bras) under t-shirts, under long sleeves, under a jacket, wrapped up with a pashmina and a sarong can keep your upper body remarkably warm in freezing weather. As for the lower half, thank goodness for yoga pants (lifesaver during pregnancy, too) and fitted running pants. I brought a pair of leggings, too. I could sleep in them and wear ‘em under my skirts/pants for colder day. Then, that all purpose black dress is key. You can dress it up or wear it casual. Mine was a stretchy polyester fabric which made it easy to wash and fast to dry!
Shoes were probably the hardest thing for me to sort out. A girl can never have too many shoes…except for when ya have to carry them around with you for months on end. I limited myself to three pairs, a pair that could get wet, a pair that could be slightly more dressed up and sneakers to climb around in. Flats are the only way to go because they are practical and pack down…pretty flat. I wore my running shoes on the days we moved around to free up bag space, be comfortable and have good traction for whatever the terrain.
Rather than bore you with more details, here are a few of what I deemed essentials: silk sleeping sack (packs light, feels good and protects you from bugs…although that’s very doubtful); sarong (acts as a scarf, turban, blanket, wrap, tapestry, etc), flats, glasses (but it’s still good to bring some contacts), locks (we like to be proactive so we had little ones & big ones for zippers and a retractable one to tie all the bags together to something grounded…if someone really wanted to get your stuff though, they’ll slash right through so limit your valuables), mini bags (keeps your stuff sorted), a book (bring one that you plan on passing on so you can exchange along the way), iPad
I probably could have done without: nail polish and remover (I’m a girl!…I only brought one but not necessary), safety pins (never used them but they were small enough), lotion (more messy than useful), hairdryer (good for long hair, short hair dries fast enough and usually you can find a dryer along the way)
What you don’t pack, you can buy. I ended up buying a blazer so I could cover up a bit at a wedding…didn’t really match but I felt like it could be reused later on and it was cheap. Steve kept getting his shirts stolen (?) or left behind during laundry days so he replenished his supply along the way. I think he also wished he bought a few mementos but seriously, who wants to carry more things? You’ll have tons of pictures and memories etched in your mind. Makes me want to pack some things and head out again…