Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Better Packing

First, an announcement. I have finally finished blogging about my vacation to Indonesia, but if you haven't had enough of it yet, you can also view my complete photo album on Google+. Be sure to read the captions for valuable information! And if you're still hankering for some travel blog goodness, well, you're in luck, because I can't stop talking about travel!

I learned a lot about travel over my 3-week voyage (including: flying frequently in an airplane makes your ears start popping all the time, even after you've been home a week!), but the most important lessons were on traveling light. Here are some of them.

I deliberately packed a lot of clothes I had been planning on getting rid of anyway, so I could just throw/give them away by the end of the trip, to make more room for souvenirs. Consequently, what I had with me was a mishmash of clothes that didn't fit, didn't look presentable, or didn't match with anything. While it was nice to liberate myself of this burden at the end of the vacation, I don't know if it was worth feeling like a fashion reject for the entirety of the trip. If I were to do it again, I think I'd rather just pack fewer, more serviceable, articles at the outset, and keep them. Wearing the same outfit twice is a minor sin compared to wearing an outfit that makes you miserable.

The next time I vacation, I'm either bringing a small backpack OR an oversized purse, but not both. And I'm going to make sure the straps on the purse aren't so long next time.

Big-brimmed sun hats, despite their usefulness, are not worth the trouble it takes to pack around their bizarre shape. Heck, half the time, the wind is blowing them off your head anyway, so just do yourself a favor and leave them home. In the end, it's probably easier to just wear some extra sunscreen or carry an umbrella.

Platform wedges, though nice for that one day you decide to go out clubbing, are just about the most bulky and heavy shoe possible for packing, and completely not worth it if you're only going to wear them once. If you do feel the need to have dress shoes with you, just in case, at least choose the kind with a stiletto heel and a single sole, so they don't take up your entire baggage allowance.

I brought along a laptop computer as well as an iPad. The laptop was mainly because 1) I wanted to work on an InDesign project, which I proceeded to leave at home anyway and 2) I needed an SD card reader or USB interface in order to get the photos off my camera onto the Internet. Those 2 benefits were definitely not worth the 8 extra pounds of baggage. Next time, I'm going to admit that 1) the chances of me working on anything while on vacation are too slim to bother and 2) it's definitely worth the expense to get an iPad camera connection kit (especially if I can get my employer to pay for it). Problem solved in 1 oz or less.

I recently purchased a new camera, which I love for its easy access to manual controls and its powerful zoom lens. But, as I learned on this trip, I don't love how heavy it is. I frequently found myself leaving it behind when I went places just so I wouldn't have to deal with the weight. The lesson is, bring a smaller camera (or don't lose your phone). What you might sacrifice in picture quality, you'll make up for in actually having pictures.

The biggest packing revelation I had on my trip was, by far, related to toiletries.

My large bag full of toiletry products proved to be impractical. It was overly padded, it sported an unnecessary and space-hogging carry strap, and overall it was an awkward shape for packing. Next time I'm going with wide and flat so I can fit it in on top of all my other stuff, since the toiletries are usually the last things I pack when I'm leaving a place. Furthermore, the things it carried could have been heavily pared down (for example: pills in a compartmentalized box, or even little baggies, rather than oversized individual prescription bottles).

However, there was one product I brought that, I realized, could have replaced almost all of the other toiletries in the bag. And that product was baking soda. No, it's not even a traditional toiletry, but it's good for so many things!
  • It makes a passable substitute for shampoo when washing your hair, and an equally passable powder to absorb grease in between showers.
  • It can be used for brushing your teeth.
  • It is excellent for relieving the swelling of insect stings, ingrown hairs, and zits.
  • It can be used as a gargle when you feel a cold coming on.
  • It makes a very effective laxative when you consume enough of it (I learned this once by accident).
  • It is also an antacid.
  • It can be used as an underarm deodorant. 
Baking soda does does the deodorant job better when mixed with coconut oil, which, incidentally, can be used to replace the following products:
  • Hair conditioner
  • Lotion
  • Lip balm
  • Soap
So there you have it: 11 of your travel hygiene needs solved by just two products! The only other things I kept in that bag were a few other medicines, sunblock, and bug repellent. Which reminds me: because of its odor-absorbing properties, you probably shouldn't store your baking soda in close proximity to your insect-repellent wristbands. I learned that the hard way.