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Wednesday, 11.17.04: Packing Principles (Woman's Perspective), continued

Oh, dear, have I actually run out of things to write about? Am I really about to continue listing what I pack to go on a trip?

No other topic thrills my mind, so I will drone on about the extras.

It is the extras that challenge my one-bag rule.

Dop kit. The usual -- toothbrush, tiny shampoo. Remember to restock painkillers and blister-perfect Band-Aids. Corkscrew, single serving instant coffee, and packets of Sugar Free Kool-Aid can bring sunshine to a cloudy day. Make-up -- goes back to parameter #2: who are you trying to impress? One tube of lipstick might provide the needed illusion of make-up.

Tiny flashlight on a chain for around the neck. Chain can also be used for keys of various sorts.

Compass. Sometimes I forget, but compasses are not just for jungles. When you are arguing with your husband on that cloudy day about which f*****g direction you're walking, a compass is a great peacemaker. It also helps when a taxi driver has decided to take you on the scenic route -- or has completely misunderstood your instructions.

Toilet paper. This I learned on my first trip -- Spain, 1968. Save the last 1/4 to 1/2 inch of your toilet paper rolls, work the cardboard center out and flatten them. Keep one in your pocket at all times. Saves you from... ugh, try not to think about it. You might think carrying around those mini-packs of Kleenex will do, but no, there is nothing like good old U.S.T.P.

Books. We usually need 2 guidebooks so we can each pore over one at breakfast. Birdwatching books are nice if you are in an exotic locale. But be careful. We lugged a giant bird book through all of Indonesia only to find that, well, the birds were gone. Eaten. Afraid of being eaten. Same for Thailand. Pleasure reading: gradually we've found the fun in bringing along stories that relate to the environment -- they add interesting depth and texture, especially when the onslaught of sights threatens to dissolve everything into a meaningless blur.

Sealable plastic bags. Essential for keeping organized. Even more essential for packing away leftover cookies, crackers, candies, etc. that always come in handy. I spare no expense on good ones ever since we were in Thailand. Jim stuck a couple cookies in a little plastic wrap in my backpack and when I pulled them out, the swarm of ants they attracted fell into my sleeping bag. I don't need too many lessons like that. Speaking of food, packing some of those little non-refrigerated cheese triangles can be the perfect canapé when you are hours from the next meal.

Notebook + pens. I always keep a trip journal and hope for creativity to strike.

Electronics. Oh, I hate being tethered to my electronics, especially those with rechargers. When will someone come up with wireless electricity? I've switched over to a digital camera. Now I have a digital camcorder. A cell phone. A PDA. And all their bloody rechargers. Sometimes I bring along my slender notebook computer, but I think I need to decide whether a trip is going to be verbal or visual -- computer or video camera, pick one. Jim just carries his pocket-sized film camera and laughs at me for all my devices.

I can't think of anything else.



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