Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Preparing to pack

It is something of a Dodd tradition to start packing for a trip well in advance. It usually starts several weeks prior to departure with items being laid out on the spare bed. Over the course of the next few weeks more and more clothes, chargers, suntan cream and the rest get added until eventually everything you can possibly think of is laid out.

My dad did this back in February before he and my mum set off for Vietnam and everything was packed up and in his backpack four days before they were due to leave. They hadn't thought to find out what their Skype password is (having not used it for a year), but that's another story.

While we all mocked my dad at being overly organised, I have to confess that I indulge in the same activity before I go away. So about a week ago I started to lay out all my bits and pieces, slowly adding to it as I thought of things.

I tried to encourage my other half to adopt the same approach when he was preparing to head off to South America a couple of years ago. But alas, Healys are not Dodds and simply do not work in the same way. After a week of encouraging him to put everything he would need on the spare bed I went in two days before departure and there were three pairs of underpants and a toothbrush.

But I digress. So with a week to go until I set off for Malaysia the pile on the sofa bed in the spare room is getting larger. It is a while since I have done a trip such as this one, so I am trying to remember exactly what I will need. I have treated myself to new walking shoes and a lightweight jacket, as well as the usual holiday paraphernalia of flop flips and sun cream.

My sister (once a Dodd, now a Dixon) jokes that I pack so lightly that I don't even take a towel and this is true. Towels are large unwieldy items that are simply not suited for travel. They take up far too much room and too much water, meaning they are never dry by the time you wish to leave. I always take a sarong - big enough to wrap me up in my entirety and tries in a fraction of the time - in my mind it's a no-brainer.

You see I like to have all the bases covered, but hate carrying a huge bag. Over the years I have found that the most annoying thing when travelling is to have too much luggage. It makes it difficult when moving on, tires you out in the heat and impedes your flexibility. Instead of being able to jump on a local bus with a little backpack, you need to get a taxi or another form of transport.

It is unusual to feel the same level of frustration at not having an item as the one I get when I am carrying around something that I haven't used. If I take a backpack that is too big, there are simply items at the bottom that never see the light of day.

This is why the stage of my packing process before putting everything into my backpack is whittling down what I need. After a week and a half of gathering things together I can look at them on the bed and systematically work through them deciding what is truly necessary. I can also cross reference items of clothing, working out which ones can multitask and therefore make others superfluous to requirements.

It is in this way that I will whittle down my luggage to the minimum and hopefully achieve my aim of taking only hand baggage on my trip to Malaysia. This will cut down on the time spent hanging around at the airport and that agonising moment when you are stood next to the luggage carousel and there are no more bags coming and you still haven't got yours.

This feeling of unease is only heightened when you are travelling on your own and therefore have no companion with whom to share clothes while the airline attempt to track yours down. For the first three days of my solo adventure in Croatia some years ago, I had only the emergency essentials the airline deigned to give me and the clothes I stood up in.

The essentials pack from Alitalia included a one-size-fits-all tent - sorry I mean T-shirt - some slippers and an interesting selection of cosmetics and feminine hygiene products. I now know that if I do check a bag in, then a change of clothes strategically placed in the hand luggage is an absolute necessity. Nobody wants to be wearing bargain basement Croatian multipack pants for the first three days of their holiday!

So the question is this - will I have struck the perfect balance of bringing just what I need and no more? Or will I find myself desperately missing something I should have packed while another item languishes at the bottom of my backpack? Fingers cross it's not the latter!


Anonymous said...

Towels. I've always been undecided about them; partly this stems from a realisation that Douglas Adams was right and that a towel is a multi-functional and uniquely useful item (clothing, drying, sleeping on, protecting yourself from wandering monsters...), but a decent towel is somewhat bulky (and a thin towel virtually useless) and in most backpacker hostels you can hire them anyway for a small fee, or even just pick one up off a market stall.

I did take a towel to West Africa, but I was justified in that I was mostly staying in obscure/cheap guesthouses with virtually no amenities - plus when every day is dry and 34ÂșC, it dries quickly. I'm not sure I'd bother with one if I were going round Europe or South America.

Barefoot Em said...

I always swear by a sarong, but who am I to argue with the late, great Douglas Adams?!