The final decisions

We were going through our things tonight. We have a large maybe pile of things we may want to take with us (in addition to a much larger pile of things we are definitely not taking with us). This pile is the culmination of all of our planning and packing and putting aside anything we think might be useful on the trip. Now the job is to make those final decision about what is going with us and what is not.

So what is it about us that makes these decisions so difficult? Both Theresa and I have spent much of the day sitting in the basement with this pile completely immobilized by the whole process. There’s so much to consider, so many scenarios to envision. How many sets of clothes to take, which shirts balance which pants in the best combinations. How many possible layers to take. Whether to take waterproof pants. What electronics to take, and what plugs and adapters to take to make sure they can get power, including redundancies. What to include in our first aid kit, and what container to put all of these components in. What toiletries are really necessary and which are luxuries we can do without. What types of entertainment to take, and how much. Each decision has two important aspects to balance: how much they will improve our experience, and how much it will weigh us down to to carry it around.

We’ll eventually make all of these decisions, for better or for worse, and we will learn whether we chose right when the time comes. And fortunately, Theresa has already put a general packing list online to work from (unfortunately, I am a procrastinator and have done no such thing myself). But its one thing to make a list and its another to actually pull out those items and leave everything else behind. The questioning comes … the what ifs flow. Every possible permutation comes to mind. What is it about us that can’t just let go, throw what’s on our list in a bag and call it settled? After all, nearly everything we’ll need we’ll be able to buy almost anywhere we end up, almost certainly at a cheaper price.

I think it has to do with the principle of the thing. Of not wanting to be wrong. Of being comprehensively prepared. Being in control of the situation … oh, I have anticipated this problem have the answer for that right here. And the finality of the decisions is always harder than a decision you can easily fix. While I may be able to get a shirt in Argentina, I certainly won’t be able to grab my favorite lightweight polo that just got the ax. What about you? Do you find packing easy or hard? Does it bother you to think you may be missing something you might need down the road, or do you have the faith that you’ll come up with something (or the knowledge to know you couldn’t possibly be missing anything)? Fortunately, we’ve got three more days to finish this project!

9 thoughts on “The final decisions”

  1. Jeff, if there’s one piece of advice I can scream at you across cyberspace it’s this: Pack light!

    Forget your electronic redundancies. Forget the what-ifs. If you really need it, you can buy it. Yes, power cables are everywhere. Tropical strength insect repellent? Everywhere. Another jacket? Everywhere.

    Look at the pile of stuff you might take and dump it all. Look at the stuff you are taking and knock another 30-50% off it. Do it.

    Throw it all away. Screw the polo shirt.

  2. What is it about world-traveling veterans saying “pack light, and then undo your packing and pack lighter” and world-traveling amateurs wanting to “overpack” even after receiving said sage advice?

    Can you only learn what you don’t need by experiencing not needing something? On the other hand, can someone tell you “oh trust me, you won’t need that,” and you are able to trust him/her?

    I find this packing challenge to be quite interesting. On one hand, I expect you two to come home and say, “We overpacked.” On the other hand, Jeff likes stuff and Theresa likes to be comfortable (and to have options), so who knows. Packing is completely personal, so where is the line?

    For what it is worth, Amanda met a 20-something female in Madrid who is there to do some hiking. This gal left some of her “overpacking” with Amanda, which she will retrieve at a later date. Another one drinks the Kool-Aid, a little too late…

    Seems that the regret of overpacking is inevitable. Somehow, though, the fear of not packing enough seems, at least temporarily, to outweigh the idea that you are bound to overpack. Seems to be the running lesson learned when it comes to many forms of traveling such as long-distance cycling and hiking (such as the AT). Think of the scene in AWitW, where Katz is reducing weight by throwing the coffee filters off the ledge!

    Then again, maybe it’s just a right of passage all (world-)travelers must experience.

    Personally, I think the American convenience society has to play a roll. It’s a rare day when I go to UofL and only take what I need. I always take an extra jacket, or some extra work, you know, so if I find magical time during the day. Better to be prepared the argument goes…unless your extra preparation is living on your back – A lesson I learn whenever I miss the bus and lug my overstuffed Timbuk2 bag home on foot.

  3. I don’t envy you guys at the moment (as I usually do when I read your blog about your RTW trip). I hate packing with a passion. Even if it’s just for a short weekend away or a simple overnight I’ll put it off as long as I can and then stress out about whether I did it correctly pretty much until I return from my trip. As much as I love to travel, the loathing I feel towards the act of packing is almost enough to keep me from doing it (almost, but not quite). I can’t imagine having to pack for an entire year and to do it in such a way that I could carry everything easily on my back. That being said… I guess for a trip like this you probably have to just reach a point where you let the packing anxiety go and just realize that if something is that important to have, they probably sell it where you’re going. Good luck šŸ™‚ I’ll be interested to read about how you guys feel about the way you packed when you’re a few months into your trip!

  4. Like Laura, I hate to pack, even if it’s just for a weekend. As much as I claim to love surprises, I don’t love them if I don’t have a warm fleece or the proper footwear. I try to pack light and go the minimalist route, but I’ve gone on too many trips when I ended up cold and either privately whined to myself the whole time or bought another hoodie or coat, all the while knowing that I had 5 more at home in my closet.
    I think with an extensive trip like yours, the tough thing for me would be the ‘stuff’ rather than the clothes, toiletries, etc. Even if I was bringing a computer, I think I’d have a hard time reminding myself that I could buy guidebooks and maps and camera batteries and all my ‘trip stuff’ along the way. There are lots of different ideas out there about packing your guides–some people just bring one for the first destination and then buy the rest en route, others just print lists with addresses and kinda wing it from there, others totally rely on the web. Me and my books get pretty attached and I think it would be hard to cut the cord.

  5. It really is easy. If in doubt, leave it. Take only one thing that you don’t really need, but really want to take with you.

    Then, of course, there are the things you don’t want to have to lug around, but really don’t have any other choice. But for me it’s always easy. I stuff my dive equipment into my backpack and after that there’s only space for 2 t-shirts, 1 sarong, 1 jumper, 1 pair of shorts and my boardshorts.

    I have plans, though. Extremely minimalistic plans. 1 bag only, no dive gear, 5-6kg max (and that includes a netbook and a book)

  6. Pack light!! I just put a good list on my website! Check it out.

    But if you come across something you really need, you can buy it on the road. Stores are all over the place! šŸ™‚ So you can’t wear your favorite polo, you’re not going to travel to look good. Theresa will love you in any random shirt.

    Throw 5 shirts in a bag and go!!!

  7. @Matt: Five?! You wash too seldom, my friend!

    In all honesty I carry three shirts and two t-shirts. But I work as I travel; I could easily ditch one or two. Because we’re staying in Perth until Christmas (longest time I’ve stayed anywhere since 2006!) I’m going to let some stuff accumulate then cull mercilessly.

  8. Please don’t take waterprrof pants, whatever you do. I met a girl once who took a tarp. She didn’t even have a tent and yet had a tarp. Not the same as waterproof pants but you can’t pack for every eventuality so there’s no point trying.

    My rule is dont take anything you don’t wear at home because you probably won’t wear it on the road either.

  9. From traveling for the past 2 summers, I would say if destination 1 is not a 1st world country, take 2 high quality pairs of clothing (read: Columbia or Northface, etc…) and buy what you need when you get to each destination. You will probably want to dress like a local some times, and when you move on, that clothing can cheaply be disposed of in favor of the next destination’s garb. Enjoy! I have to admit, I envy you guys right now. You are forcing me to get the travel bug myself.

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