On packing.

I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails lately of the “I can’t believe you’re leaving so soon!” variety. Frighteningly enough, I can’t believe it, either. When you spend so much time just thinking about the abstract concept of doing something like this and so little time actually planning the specifics, departure dates don’t loom so much as show up out of nowhere. The fact that I’m leaving tomorrow surprises me to the point where you’d think I didn’t consciously book the ticket myself.

The fact is, I’ve been pretty underprepared for this trip, down to the most basic details — like packing. Just the other day I was sitting in a coffee shop, perusing the blog of some acquaintances who are traveling the world, when I realized, man, did these two think things out. They even posted a break-down of everything they packed. It was about three seconds into reading their account of exactly how many pairs of quick-drying socks they were each toting along that I started to panic, my new backpack having sat empty and slouching in the corner of my room since Christmas.

The detailed packing list is, as it turns out, a not-abnormal thing to have figured out before one leaves on an extended trip. They actually seem to be pretty standard-issue on a lot of amateur travel blogs and, you know, in life. But, rather than think these things through, I’ve spent the last few days stuffing and re-stuffing a new set of packing cubes (you are not the first to wonder what those are) with the approximate precision of, say, a fickle dresser taking a three-day road-trip to Oregon in an SUV. So far there’s been no “how many shirts will I reasonably need over the course of a year, and of what weight and sleeve-length?” No, for me it’s been more like “how many shirts can I cram into one cube while allowing it to retain a vaguely geometric shape?”

So, less than 24 hours before I take off for Los Angeles and on from there to Auckland, here is the best I’ve managed:

Clockwise from the left: One packing cube of socks and underwear; one of tops of varying degrees of impracticality in no way guaranteed to match anything else I’m bringing; one of clothing to cover the bottom half of my body (Pants? Shorts? Skorts? Kilts? My memory is already getting fuzzy); one enormous bag of toiletries purchased in full-sized quantities because, “Hey, what the hell, I’m checking my bag anyway, right?”; one pair of flats; one pair of flip-flops; a collapsible day-use backpack; a Ziploc bag full of various cords of which I suspect many are duplicates; a vacuum-sucked bag containing a down coat and a wind-proof fleece. Because I’m a girl, apparently, I’ve since jammed in a second vacuum bag of several sweaters and a small make-up bag.

To all of this, add a small tote bag containing my laptop, camera, Kindle (thanks, Jen!), and a Ziploc full of important paperwork (Ziplocs take up much less room than expanding folders, you see), a small purse for other necessaries, the clothes (and running shoes) I’ll wear on the plane, and a crazy metal exo-skeleton that makes it look like my backpack pissed off Spiderman, and suddenly the final two lines of the “When preparing for you trip” e-mail BUNAC sent me last week become pretty laughable:

“Right then, don’t pack too much in your bags. In fact a top tip from Work New Zealand participants is that you pack less.”

So, either my willy-nilly packing style will miraculously prove to have been just right, or a few months from now you’ll be able to track my progress across the country by following the trail of discarded clothing and full-sized sunscreen bottles. Stay tuned.


5 thoughts on “On packing.

  1. I always under pack, which leaves room and an excuse to shop while there 🙂 Love and miss you! Can’t wait to read your next post/update.

  2. Hi Jess. It seems like it’s going to be a very exciting adventure for you. and I would love to keep reading about it. Dont forget to post video 😉

    Bon courage et plein de bonheur!

    Prends soin de toi,

  3. Pingback: Night Buses in Vietnam: the Good, the Bad, and the Scary « My Year on a Whim

  4. Pingback: 30 Lessons from Life on the Road « My Year on a Whim

  5. I spend a year and a half on the streets of India with two t-shirts, a pairs of Leivi’s jeans, a cargo shorts and someone stole my sneakers while I was taking photos inside a temple in Chennai. I made mistake by flying to Tibet without extra socks and thick jackets but then, I got a chance to wear and smell a yak fur jacket. In Laos, I was literally naked for a day because all my clothes were stolen while they’re hanging on the laundry rack to dry.

    I’m glad you prepared and even brought along sunscreen. The Tibetan stared at me when I asked for sunscreen, I had to put yak butter on my face instead. XD

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