Monday, July 29, 2013

PACKING FOR A TRIP OF THIS SCALE IS TRICKY. While we knew we could easily pick things up along the way, we didn't want to spend unnecessarily. Jeff has been carrying a medium backpacker-style backpack, and I've been using a large rolling duffle; both have been stuffed to capacity since we left home. We even shipped a slew of stuff - clothes we weren't wearing, books, camera lenses - from Vietnam (10kg for $135, and it took less than 2 weeks: not bad!) back in June.

This trip was very much planned around the sun. We arrived in New Zealand and Australia at the end of their summer, and then stuck to a firm route guaranteeing warm weather. This helped since we only had to pack for sun. I can't imagine if we'd zigged through Europe in February or zagged through northern Mongolia. Packing for 4 seasons would be really hard.

In terms of provisions, we started the trip with lots of pharmaceuticals, might-need toiletry items, and on-the-off-chance clothing. Jeff brought 3 pairs of jeans and I packed every pain relief medication I could cram in a Ziploc bag. After spending three months in South East Asia, I can tell you this: You can get all sorts of meds there, for pennies. Cold and Flu? No problem. Headache? Got it taken care of. And, as you can imagine, their Gastrointestinal Aisle is epic.

Below, a peek at what I'm packing.

1) This is likely the most-worn part of my wardrobe. Bathing trunks. I brought 3 pairs, and have ditched one along the way. If I could start the trip over again, I would've packed 10 and nothing else.

2) Other than a swimsuit, The Uniform for this trip has been a black polo shirt and a pair of khaki shorts. I literally have 5 of each and, like Smurfette before me, wear them every day. Polo shirts maintain their shape and are neater than a t-shirt, and khakis are just light and easy. I don't want to think about my outfit on this trip, so creating a uniform was the easiest plan of attack.

3) I have two pairs of shoes: these Vans and a succession of flip flops. Sneakers are good for walking around all day. I find that brown leather ones are better than, say, a bright colour or pattern. I can get away with wearing them to dinner (we don't eat at ultra-fancy places) and at first glance they don't immediately look sloppy.

4) One pair of khaki pants. I've worn them, literally, 3 times since we landed in New Zealand. Handy to have for those (rare) cool nights. I also wore them to the opera in Sydney, where shorts would've been inappropriate.

5) The navy blazer. I wore it to the opera in Sydney, and that's it. The poor guy has been smushed in the bottom of my suitcase all these months. When we shipped some things home, I considered ditching it, but here's what: On the off-chance I need it, a blazer isn't something you want to pick up along the way. It fits and I like it, so it'll stay the course.

6) A checked button-down shirt like this. They're beach-friendly, but can also be worn to a "nicer" event or dinner. They launder and travel very well. Handy to have, though hasn't seen much action.

7) We had leather flip flops made in Hoi An, Vietnam, a town known for its custom shoe and clothing industry. (They are similar to these by Ted Baker, though the straps are leather too.) They are comfortable and have held-up well. Not bad for $10.

8) The other half of The Uniform: Several pairs of khaki shorts. Again, they pack easily, are quick to iron, and don't look sloppy when we're in an urban area or having a nice lunch somewhere. We have done a full turn-over on our shorts since leaving. They can get a bit dingy after months of wear and questionable wash-water in places like Bali. But there are H&M's everywhere, so a quick stop and $50 had us back to square one.

9) The Essentials. A hoodie for cool nights. Several plain black T-shirts for beaching or sleeping, and all the underwear in my underwear drawer. You never know how long you'll have to wait to get laundry done, and certain things aren't wear-twice articles.

10) We've literally bought nothing on this trip, in terms of "souvenirs" or take-home stuff. But when we were in Istanbul we stumbled on Jennifer's Hamam in the marketplace and couldn't resist snagging a few Turkish towels. (There was a Canadian flag sticker on the door which drew us in.) We used to carry beach towels in our luggage, but ditched them somewhere in South East Asia as they were heavy and took up too much space. In the few weeks since Turkey, these have been so handy. As a lightweight picnic blanket in Paris or, their rightful use, a towel. They dry almost instantly and take up very little room in the luggage. A must for a trip like this.

On Uniforms (January 30, 2012)

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