Three months in and you'd think by now Laura and I would have this travelling thing sorted, that our bags would be light and manageable and that we would be able to pack in a jiffy, given five minutes notice. How wrong you would be in that assumption! Following advice from the Rough Guide's First-Time Around The World, we set off in September with a capsule wardrobe and minimum travelling essentials. The problem was our wardrobes capsuled every possible situation…
“I best take three sweaters, what if I lose one and the other is in the laundry, then what will I do?”…”I'll need an evening dress in case we're invited for drinks with the prince of Cambodia”…”We better take crampons and an ice pick in case we decide to fly to Alaska”…
Our travel essentials were not much better. In the bottom of my rucksack I was carrying huge inflatable dinosaur and a globe. Laura had the entire contents of her jewellery box and half her kitchen drawer.
Even before leaving York I realised that something had to change. Getting my rucksack on my back necessitated the help of my brother Tom and his housemate Lawrence. Once the bag was on my back it took all my strength not to fall over backwards.
Within days of arriving in Hong Kong we each had a pile of superfluous items. These were neatly packed up and shipped back to Britain. Sorted. Or so we thought. Over the next couple of months we started accumulating junk again. I currently have three hefty books in my bag that I have picked up in hostel book swaps (The Killing Fields, Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island and The Dambusters…all essential reading in my opinion!) Laura carried a kilogram of Goji berries around China for a month before realising they'd turned mouldy, and swiftly disposing of them.
Like a lifelong weight-watcher, our rucksacks fluctuate from being skinny to podgy, depending on how tempted we are by the local markets, the amount of reading we've managed to fit in, and how much shampoo is left in the bottle.
Here are the ins and outs of our bags so far:
Jeans: Sent home from Hong Kong. With hindsight these would have been ideal in northern China.
Jumper: Two is definitely enough. Taking three was just daft.
Jewellery: Costs next to nothing in the markets here, therefore we're not worried about losing it. We should have left the good stuff at home!
Watch: Also went in box sent home from Hong Kong. Similar story to jewellery, but would have been useful for actually trying to make the bus/train/boat on time.
Plimsolls: On top of flip-flops, running shoes, walking sandals and hiking shoes we really didn't need them. Bin!
Denim shorts: Last minute panic buy before leaving the UK. In the rush I bought a size too big, and risked flashing my bum in Buddhist countries…not cool!
Linen trousers: I loved these trousers. I wore them for a promotion interview at school (which I got) and since then they have been my lucky trousers. Unfortunately years of wear resulted in holes in places you really don't want holes, and no matter how much I tried to fix them they were still completely indecent. Sadly, they went into the bin too.
Crinkled clothes: It was a toss up between buying a travel iron (never going to happen) or throw away the clothes that crease. Bin!
Inflatable dinosaur and globe: Leaving presents from my band-mates in the Crazy Dinosaurs (love you guys!) and the best car mechanic in the world, Jonathan. The idea was brilliant: take them round the world, blow them up and take photos with them in awesome places. Unfortunately, even deflated, they took up too much room. There was no way I could throw them away though, they went in the box from Hong Kong too.
Mini hair straighteners: I have a fringe, that should explain all!
Travelling trousers: I look like a cross between Swampy and MC Hammer, but I couldn't care less, because I absolutely love them! They will not, however, be gracing the streets of York, because people will stare, laugh and throw things at me. I shudder to think about what the people in Bradford would do.
Camera: Laura sold Freddie the Fiesta 😦 but with the money bought an awesome camera 🙂
Waterproof bags: When embarking on an epic jungle adventure, that sees you ziplining through waterfalls, a waterproof bag is a superb idea. An even better idea is to put your things inside it.
Travelling teacup and tea: When in China, one must have ones own tea supply otherwise one would appear quite inferior.
It might sound like it, but we are not complete novices at this game. Laura's excellent space saving techniques include breaking a brush into half, then half again and keeping just one quarter. It continues to be a perfectly acceptable grooming implement. The handles of spoons and toothbrushes are also completely unnecessary and release vast amounts of bag space once removed.
I'm sure by the time the year is out we will have the knack of it. For the time being I'm just off bargain hunting in the market, then I'm going to see what the hostel's book swap has to offer.
Love to all,