Packing-Challenged Anonymous

packing full car
Packing for a weekend trip. I'm kidding, but this is what it feels like!

My name is Laura and I have a packing problem. Hi Laura.

I am unofficially the world’s worst packer. Admitting is the first step to recovery, right? If there were a self-help group for packing-challenged peeps like me, I’d be the first to sign up. Normally, I have an urge to be overly prepared, and on top of that, I’m extremely indecisive- a dangerous combination. After several frustrating times packing for past trips, I thought that putting it off until the last minute would cut down on the amount of time I spent packing. It also meant, though, that I inevitably ended up forgetting something (did I mention I’ve forgotten to pack underwear before? And I didn’t learn my lesson the first time so I had to, of course, forget a second time). What separates a good packer from a bad packer?

Blame it on the Girl Scouts
Oh yes my friends, I was a Girl Scout in my tender years. And we all know that scouts teach you to be prepared. While in theory, this is a good thing, it’s bad news for me. I am extremely cold-natured, so I fret over having enough warm clothes should temperatures change. I always say the weather forecasters are never right, but we all know that if truth be told, the weather is unpredictable. What if it gets hot? What if it gets cold? What if it rains? Or even worse, what if it snows? If it’s the middle of summer in SC, chances are I can plan on hot and humid. But some destinations and times of year are too unpredictable. Aside from clothing, I always overplan in terms of ‘things to do’. For most weekend trips to Charleston this past year, I brought my computer, camera, sketchbook, and a book. Now ask me how many times I actually used all of those things. But I get paranoid that the one thing I want to do is the thing I won’t be prepared for.

Red or blue? Studs or dangles?
Indecisiveness. I swear it’s a disease. I’m not sure how you catch it but there should be a cure. If battling preparedness weren’t enough, there’s this whole other element involving choosing the specifics. So let’s say I decide that I need one nice outfit for a trip. I stumble into my closet (contrary to popular belief, I actually do have an organized closet, color-coded and all) and find the nicer clothes section. Oh lord, it doesn’t matter how many clothes I’ve purged lately, 3 would still be too many to choose from! This is how the thought process goes- Do I go for the cute pink number? Oooh, or how about that blue dress I haven’t worn in a while. And if I choose the blue dress, what shoes will I pack? Jewelry, did someone mention accessories? And now you get a glimpse into how my brain works. It’s a struggle!

Packing for a weekend trip vs. packing for the world
So you know how painful it is for me to pack for a standard domestic trip, let’s take a look at backpacking. Surprisingly, I almost find backpacking for an 8 month rtw trip to be less stressful. Vanity and dignity go completely out the window. No hairdryer, curlers, makeup, jewelry…. they’re nonexistent. And when it comes to choices of clothing, it’s limiting. Since I can take very little clothing with me, it all needs to be lightweight material so it will dry quickly and not weigh down my pack. I love bright colors, but usually when it comes to this type of clothing, your choices are beige or black. I think I can handle that. I take small amounts of toiletries because you can buy more on the road.

After my last backpacking trip abroad, I vowed never to carry such a heavy load again. I borrowed a Kelty backpack that was roughly 70 Liters from a friend, and as much I appreciated the loan (thanks Megan!) it didn’t fit me properly and was too big. The bigger the bag, the more likely you are to fill it. And I crammed stuff into every nook and cranny. To make matters worse, I even shoved 3 more pieces of clothing into it as I was heading out the door for the airport. Too much stuff combined with an ill fit made for some rough walks. I’m pretty sure I cursed myself the entire 2km walk to Kendwa in Zanzibar and swore I would never lug that much stuff again. Of course, as if the lesson weren’t engrained into my brain already, I was able to scold myself again on the 2km uphill walk back from Kendwa when it was time to leave. So, I started off the purchases for this trip by getting a smaller, properly fitted backpack. It’s a MUST! My goal is to only fill it about 80%.

Oh but it does get complicated
Packing can never be ‘just that easy’. Although I’ve figured out where I went wrong on my trip in ’08, I have some new elements thrown into the mix of this trip.

1. I’m running marathons and training on my trip. Essentially, I will be wearing two outfits a day and need specific running clothing. I also have to pack an additional pair of running shoes since I wear my shoes down in about 4 months when consistently training. Had I not been running on this trip, I would not pack two pairs of this type of shoe. They’re not that heavy, but bulky.

2. I’m a flashpacker in the making. I’m still staying in cheap accommodation, but I will be taking a lot more technology this time around. This fancy schmancy blog doesn’t write itself, and I will need my computer with me to maintain it. I also splurged on a gadget (or two) at the last minute… the image of my swelling backpack is coming to me as I write. Did I mention something about 80%? Umm, maybe I meant 90.

So, now we’ve come to the real question: What is in Laura’s backpack? Check back soon as I tally it all up and share with you what items made the final cut!

4 thoughts on “Packing-Challenged Anonymous

  • I hate packing – but I have learned to not fall into that trap of thinking that i have to take everything. I would really consider only taking one pair of running shoes. Totally understand the need to have two since marathon training requires a couple of pairs. However – you can buy running shoes when you need them. Or buy them online and have a friend send them to you at an address you are at.
    I actually have replenished running shoes a number of times while traveling. I bought some in Rome once and it was a great way to find the running community in Rome. I did research online and found the best places to buy running shoes (that carried my brand), and then found some other running clubs that I could go and run with.
    So – it is something to consider because the thought of lugging an extra pair of shoes along for 4 months when you won’t even use them seems strange!

    • Sherry,

      Thanks for your insight. The running shoes have been a tough decision. Everything else that needs replenishment on the road is flexible from the brand of shampoo I use to a replacement t-shirt. However, as you know, changing running shoes is inflexible. The longest I will be in one place is about a month in Kenya. However, when I was there last time the mail system was a huge hassle. A friend sent me a birthday present, and not only did they hold it in customs for two weeks but they wanted to charge me $100 in fees. My best bet would be buying them on the road then but I haven’t had much luck finding shoe stores in Nairobi that sell shoes other than Nike. I need to dig further and see if I can’t find an Asics dealer though. Thanks for the input!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *