Stories from the Amazon
Organizing the materials for another trip to South America.
Frame of Mind is More Important Than Items When Packing
“How do you pack for a two-month journey to South America?” Doug Winfield, a friend of mine in Fremont, asked the question.
“We go to Minnesota for a week and fill the trunk of the car.” he told me.
It’s a good question and one he was sincere in asking.
I’ve done this enough times that I forget others might not understand the process I go through in preparing for a long journey.
Shortly after that conversation, I was on the phone with one of my credit card companies to inform them of my future travel plans. Calling them is part of my preparatory procedures. I do this so the credit card company won’t freeze my card if I wish to use it while traveling.
The service agent on the other end of the line asked, “How many hours does it take to fly to Ecuador?”
I replied that it’s around 12.
The agent responded, “I don’t think I have ever driven 12 hours, let alone fly that long.”
I smiled and said: “There’s a whole world waiting for you to go explore, but you will have to go out and experience it. It can’t come find you.”
One of the great things about the majority of people in the rest of the world is they really don’t care what you look like, as long as you are clean. They care about how you treat one another in the way of kindness, dignity and respect. At least those are the people I tend to enjoy spending time with, like my friends the Achuar of the Amazon Rainforest. I am sure they would roll on the ground with laughter at the idea of a car trunk full of stuff for a week’s visit.
They have the advantage of knowing that the majority of almost everything they need is all around them in the rainforest. Plus it doesn’t take a credit card to acquire it, just a little effort and knowledge.
So back to Winfield’s original question, “How does one pack for a long journey?”
One of the most important aspects is the right frame of mind. You don’t want to start packing for a long trip the night before you leave. Two weeks before my departure, I start by making piles in my office of things I want to take. Otherwise, I run the risk of packing things that I “might need.” This is a guaranteed bag filler and back breaker.
You also don’t want to overthink this packing process; otherwise, you will drive yourself crazy trying to anticipate every potential need. Have a little faith in your own ability to figure things out as you go. I don’t always know what the heck is going to happen as I travel, but I do know I have the ability to find a solution to most challenges that come my way. With enough time and effort, I’ll find a way to make it work.
With clothes, I use the Garanimal approach. If I can’t mix and match it, then it doesn’t get packed. This means most of my clothes are earth tones. If I want to spice things up a bit, like a colorful T-shirt, I can buy something cheap on the road. I bring no more than four of each clothing item and layer for warmth. For walking, I bring one pair of hiking shoes and one pair of sandals.
When it comes to crunch time, I spread things out on the living room floor and eyeball everything. With this overview, I evaluate how much use each item has.
Keeping things organized is crucial for long journeys. Some of my favorites for this are Ziploc bags (the freezer type); they are more durable, cheap and easy to see what’s inside. I also use mesh bags that are made for garment use in the clothes dryer. They cost a fraction of the fancy packing bags and work great for keeping clothing sorted.
The largest change in travel for myself over the years is the use of electronics. My cameras and computer add a ton of weight. I love photography, which means I want to capture the best quality photos I can. It is always a struggle to decide what to take and what to leave behind. I’m happy to live without an extra pair of pants or shirt if it means I can have the gear I want to use. It’s also important to bring the correct power adapter so I can plug in and charge devices or batteries.
In addition, I bring along small padlocks for backpack compartments that can be locked to make things inconvenient for potential sticky hands.
The bottom line is you don’t need lots of stuff to have a wonderful travel experience, just the right frame of mind.
A good reminder for the holiday season.