Carry me caravan
Take me away
Take me to Portugal
Take me to Spain
Andalusia with fields full of rain
I have to see you
Again and again
Now that I’ve been on the road for a year, I figured it’s a good time to take stock of what I’ve been lugging around. Surprisingly, I have very little of what I began with. I began my journey with my 70 liter Jack Wolfskin backpack fully loaded and that was supplemented with a 30 liter bag that was equally full, although that was mostly due to the dozen cans of Guinness beer I was taking as a gift to my friend Vivek in Chennai. Who knew that in one of the biggest cities in India you would not be able to buy Guinness, or really any other imported beer?
The bulk of my luggage was trekking gear for the two treks I was going to do in Nepal. I had a super-ultra warm sleeping bag, a pair of Vasque boots that took up an incredible amount of space, a fleece, thick trekking socks and many other cold weather items. Traveling with all this gear is not a lot of fun. You’re basically immobile and putting all that stuff on and off trains and buses is a real pain. According to a travelers’ newspaper in Cambodia I would be classified as a pregnant snail, which is when you are carrying one big backpack on your back and a smaller one on your front. I knew early on that I had way too much stuff and so I’ve been shedding weight throughout the trip and now I’m traveling with just one very manageable bag.
Thanks to international shipping via low-cost-and-slow-delivery sea cargo and faster-but-costlier air mail I’ve been sending packages home from India, Nepal, Indonesia and Thailand. Total weight sent home is now between 40-50 kgs, almost 100 lbs. And thanks to the “you don’t really expect all of your things to make it home do you?” shipping service lottery from India, the actual weight that will be delivered to my parents’ home will be about 10 kg less than that.
So what’s left from the original cargo? Here’s the list:
- Jack Wolfskin backpack – I’ve had this bag for ten years and taken it everywhere and I have to hand it to those Germans. They really know how to make a durable bag.
- North Face pants – these are the MVP of the trip. They double as shorts and I’ve worn them just about every day for the past year. I have worn them on five long distance treks. They were khaki upon initial purchase but are now a rugged gray color thanks to washing them with a new pair of black boxers.
- Helly Hansen thermal shirt – this is a super durable long sleeve thermal shirt that I’ve worn during treks and as an under layer on cold nights. Amazingly it is still white and even survived a three year old expressing his artistic side on it with a blue marker. If you do any hiking in cool weather, you might want to pick one of these up. They’re about $30.
- H&M long sleeve shirt – simple, basic brown shirt that I wear when it’s cold.
- Blue American Apparel tshirt – a super comfortable tshirt. Thanks Sophie!
- Green tshirt – I bought this in Paris four years ago and it’s an all-time favorite.
- Green rugged shorts – they’re just about done
- White lightweight long sleeve shirt – I hardly wear this but somehow I’ve still kept it
- Five boxers – somehow my boxers are super durable and I haven’t yet had the need to buy a pair of knockoff Calvan Klain boxers.
- White running socks – they are no longer white but they are still socks
- A toiletry bag that I got from the Lucent medical department when I worked there back in 1997. Who would have guessed the bag would outlast Lucent?
- A packet of twelve sewing needles that I have yet to use even one of. I brought them along in case I got any blisters while trekking. Now that I think about it, even when I did get a blister I didn’t use them.
- Gillette Sensor shaving handle – thanks to the kind people at Gillette it is possible to buy replacement cartridges anywhere in this world and in case you’re wondering, they are ridiculously overpriced everywhere.
- A pen from the New York New York casino in Las Vegas – I don’t even remember packing this pen but it somehow found its way into my backpack. On a down note, I lost my Xythos space pen somewhere in India. Bummer.
- My iPhone – One of the neatest things for traveling. It’s a music player, it’s a Skype phone, it’s a web browser, it’s an alarm clock, it’s an emergency camera, it’s a movie player for the long journeys, it’s a currency converter, it’s a game center (chess and Simon are big hits) and if you get it unlocked it’s a mobile phone in every country you go to. And it’s always a conversation piece.
And that is all that is left from the original contents of my backpacks. If I made a list of what I no longer am carrying with me that would be about ten times as long as this; books, bags, hammocks, sleeping bags, boots, clothes and basically just about anything else a family of four would need to live comfortably.
I have since added a few new things to my cargo like new shirts, an MSI netbook (a small very portable laptop) and my rather big Nikon SLR camera which was graciously shipped to Bangkok for me by Thad who emerged victorious after another battle of storage-unit-Jenga.
I must admit that even though I have whittled down my cargo to just the one backpack, I do still get backpack envy when I see someone travelling lighter than me.
But at least I am no longer a pregnant snail; I am now just a regular old snail.