Proper Packing Is an Art
The question, “What should I wear today?” takes on a whole new meaning when you’ve been traversing the globe for four months and all your worldly belongings are stuffed into a medium-sized roller bag. Proper packing is indeed an art.
True, you will never have the perfect shoes to match every outfit. But with careful planning and packing, you just might find, you have what you need.
Eileen: I think the keys to successful packing—whether you are constantly on the move or settling in one place for an extended period—are foresight and research. You have to anticipate the kinds of weather and occasions you will be encountering.
It also helps to do your research to determine what kind of weather is typical for that time of year and learn as much as you can in advance about norms for that culture.
I agree the weather heavily influences what we pack and when to go to many destinations. For instance, I never want to travel to Cusco, Peru in January, which is the peak of the rainy season. Road closures are common in the Andes because of landslides. Weatherbase is a great source for annual weather data to decide where to go and when.
And kudos to you for developing a chart for us that details when the rainy seasons are in cities we want to visit around the globe! As you well know, I’m not a fan of cold and winter. But if you choose to travel in those climates, your packing list (and the size of your suitcase) will vary greatly.
Depending on the country, we can buy heavier winter clothes when we arrive and donate them before we leave if there isn’t room to pack it. Since I like the alpaca sweater I just bought in Cusco too much to give away, I was determined to repack to make room for it!
I’m finding that the more I learn about other countries, the easier it is for me to figure out what to pack. For example, for our first trip to South America, I packed several pairs of shorts. What I found is that other than the tourists (or people visiting resorts), none of the women wore shorts.
The same was true in places like Vietnam. So unless I wanted to broadcast my tourist status to the world (and possibly offend local standards of decency) I stuck to pants.
The shorts rule also applies to men. Almost everywhere we go, jeans are the norm, but in relatively good shape. Even in the poorest areas, people are proud of the way they dress. Any clothes with rips or tears, however stylish in Western fashion, are perceived as a sign of poverty.
Then, of course, there is the quintessential question of how much of everything to bring. Some of it depends on your access to laundry facilities.
But generally, I bring enough underwear for several weeks, a mixture of short- and long-sleeved shirts that allow layering, a couple of nicer dresses or blouses, and as few pairs of shoes as possible. Those can really weigh you down if you’re not prudent.
I have my “rule of 4,” pants, t-shirts, polo shirts, long-sleeve shirts to mix and match different looks. There is also my passion for packing cubes which allows me to fit as much as possible. Best invention ever! And, of course, where would we be without our roller bags?
Share with us your strategies for the art of packing for long-term travel. There are so many ways to make it work.
by: Mike & Eileen Brill-Wagner