Tag Archives: Travel Gear

My Packing Problem

As the temperatures drop here on the east coast, so do the number of days I have left until I’m out! As I am writing this there are under 30 days left. See?

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Knowing I have only a few weekends left, last weekend I started to collect the items I plan take with me, in one place. Spread out across my little couch, it didn’t LOOK like that much stuff, especially not for a year; a handful of tops both sleeveless and short-sleeved, bottoms of various lengths and bathing suits, electronics and wires, a cell phone, an old and new passport, bug spray, hairspray and deodorant among other things. Nothing in the pile was unreasonable or unnecessary, but still, I could tell it was too much.

To find out exactly how too much, I did a rough pack. I put most things into packing cubes and plastic pouches and stuffed them into my backpack (seen below) in a somewhat realistic fashion. I lifted it onto my back and felt a pang of panic; umm no, I cannot walk around with that on my body! I like to think I’m kind of strong for my size, but I’m clearly no She-ra, Princess of Power.¬†So, a bunch of this stuff has to go! But what?!

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And herein lies my packing problem: I am going to be gone for so long and in so many different situations that I need a large variety of things. I need clothes that can take me from the beach to the jungle, from a church to a bar, and they all need to fit on my back. Plus, in Latin America, when you dress like a true gringo (yoga pants, flip-flops and most other clothing that we would find completely acceptable) you stick out like a sore thumb. While some of that is unavoidable, I’d like not to be the sloppiest person in sight. So, I need things I can hike in one day and wear to a restaurant the next. This is hard! Plus the full-sized shampoo, conditioner, hairspray and curl cream I am packing, are adding definite weight. But, smaller sized items will just be replaced by full-sized ones later, so it seems better to budget the space and weight from the outset.

So, this weekend, I looked at everything again and made some progress in lightening my load; I guess I don’t need this white t-shirt, these boxer shorts, this mouthwash or so many hand sanitizers. I stuffed my backpack again, and felt a definite difference, but I would still like to cut it down further. Afterall, no one is going to carry this backpack for me, and I don’t want to be struggling every time I have to move. So, there is still work to be done and I have a feeling it’s going to take me the rest of the weekends I have left to fully solve my packing problem.

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Initiate REAL Countdown

So, today is October 11, 2013. It has been 3 whole months since I last posted and I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed! Distracted by this summer’s happenings and interim travel plans, I slowly stopped stalking my countdowns and eventually lost track of the number of days left to go altogether. The result; without realizing it, I breezed past the 150 day mark, then the 100 day mark, and find myself, today, with 88 days left until I depart. 88!

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88 days are bound to fly by, so it is time for me to get serious about getting my ducks in order!

Money: I am ahead of schedule with my savings and am going to beat my goal! Now, the only question is by how much. But no matter how much I end up saving, I don’t plan to spend more on my travels, instead paying down a little more student debt and saving a little more for later. Of course, I say that now…

Gear: Since my last post I have purchased, among other things, a new daypack that will double as a front pack during periods of travel and transportation. I also purchased a rain coat and an around the waist money belt. I have recently become obsessed with packing cubes and have stocked up on the sizes and shapes I think will be optimal for my big travel backpack. I got a Swiss Army Knife for my birthday, which may or may not come in handy for things other than wine bottle opening in Italy. Left to acquire: a travel clothesline, hostel bed sheet, headlamp/flashlight, and hiking shoes. I may decide I don’t need all of these things in the end, but for now, they are still on my wish list.

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Volunteering: Things appear to be all set-up for Belize. In the next few weeks I will pay the fee to hold a spot in Spanish school and will in tandem secure the ability to volunteer in Guatemala. Now that September is over, I will purchase an annual membership to WWOOF Italy so I can start investigating farms I might want to volunteer with there. I don’t want to commit to volunteering in any additional places in advance, but will remain open to other opportunities while I am on the road.

Entry/Exit Requirements: I need to renew my passport before I depart. I filled out the application and wrote the check but haven’t yet put it in the mail. Thank goodness because at this moment no passports are being processed and I can just picture piles of passports building up in some dark room, underground, never to be seen again by their owners. Once the government decides to function normally again, I will get that done. But not before I get a set of passport/visa sized photos to use for my renewal and any other visas I may have to apply for along the way.

At some point it also came to my attention that I might not be allowed to board my flight to Belize or make it past Belizean immigration without proof of departure from the country. Given my plans to leave by local ferry or bus, and the impossibility of acquiring proof of those plans from here, I had to make a decision about whether I wanted to take my chances or play it safe. After some thought, I decided that I would rather start my trip off drama free and eliminate the chance of being turned away by having proof of departure. So, I purchased a refundable plane ticket from Belize to Miami which I plan to cancel after I make it smoothly into the country.

pile of passports

Health: I have zeroed in on the travel insurance I will buy for my trip and will purchase it a little closer to my departure date. I also went to my Doc and got a Tetanus booster and a Hep A titer to see if I have immunity or need the shots again. Turns out I’m immune! It was kind of pathetic how excited I was when I found out simply because it will save me $60 in vaccination costs that insurance won’t cover. I still plan to get Typhoid Fever and Yellow Fever vaccines just to be safe and will probably do so in early November.

Communication: I am the proud owner of  Google Nexus 7 tablet that I have loaded up with e-book copies of all of the travel guides I have purchased over the last year. It is also loaded up with travel apps, Skype, Facebook, WordPress, etc. I plan to use the tablet for lots of my communication needs but will also buy an international SIM card for an old flip phone that I will carry with me. It will make local calls more affordable, receiving texts free or 10 cents each and sent texts between 25 cents and 75 cents each depending on my location.

Despite having lost track of the official countdown, I have still stayed pretty well on top of everything I need to do to prepare. At this moment, there is only one more thing that I HAVE to do before I can go. One thing I am not looking forward to at all. I don’t want to jinx things, so I won’t talk about it just yet, but I will let you know once it is done and how it went…

Almost there!