Getting Back to the Auld Ways

I’m leaving tomorrow for another trip.  It’s been way too long since I’ve been abroad…almost a year to the day.  That’s probably one of the longest stretches I’ve had without a new passport stamp in the past couple of decades.  One thing I’ve noticed is that while many of my fellow countrymen were acquiring more girth around their mid sections, I was allowing my luggage to grow into a beast that I could not tame.  Reducing your luggage takes discipline regardless of whether it’s around your ass or checked through to your destination.

Probably the most memorable trip I’ve ever taken was when Ray and I went to China in 1987.  We were gone for about a month and we each only had carry-on sized luggage.  You have to realize that the China of the mid 80’s is not the same China it is today. There was nothing modern about China then.  When we were there, there were 10,000 cars…in the entire country!  Everyone else was on bicycles.  We were travelling as a group of students (well I was a student…albeit nearly 30 years old) on a summer exchange program from from Wright State University in Dayton, OH.

I truly believe that the managability of the luggage we used made this trip bearable.  There were no elevators, escalators, roll-aboards, baggage claims, or even in some cases, streets, per se.  You had to be able to lift your luggage.  “Lift” is probably too delicate of a word.  “Carry” would be a more apt description.  Sometimes for a long distance, uphill, to get to a “hotel” with no air conditioning in the dead of summer.

We were a small group (5 students, 3 groupies) but a group nonetheless.  That meant there were at varying levels of intelligence, age, good looks, odors…and especially luggage volume/weight.  Groups are socialists by nature.  By that I mean that we were only as good as the heaviest packer in the lot, and by some weird twist of fate, the smelliest of the lot.  You see, Ray and I only took clothes that were light-weight, quick drying, and some detergent.  Many of the others lugged around their dirty, smelly clothes for almost a month.  Some were doctoral candidates and I was an undergrad, but that is the topic of a much different post.

On my ATW (around-the-world) trip I remembered the lessons learned from China.  However for some reason I tended to ignore them.  I made up excuses…I’m going to be gone for nine months, this is everything I own, I have to carry every medicine known to mankind because the rest of the world does not have them…otherwise Bill and Melinda Gates would be like totally bored.  I so overpacked that I sent a suitcase home full of stuff with Jill when she joined me in Thailand.  That was just the second month into the journey, I should have done the same thing with Joan in India.  Oh, the things I simply threw away because they weren’t worth carrying.

It’s domestic carry-on size

Well, I’ve come to my senses once again.  This time I’m travelling for three weeks in England, Scotland, and Ireland using only a bag that would be considered small by international standards.  Actually it meets the domestic carry-on regulations and I would be surprised if it weighed more than 20 pounds.  This is all that I will really need when you get right down to it.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am also carrying a small day pack that will contain my Netbook, a Kindle, a camera, and the pretty, little, plastic cosmetic bag you see in the photo.

I realize that it is easier to pack as a man than it is as a woman.  I suspect the reason for that is that we’re clearly the inferior sex and thus need less to sustain us.  But I will share my packing list with you.  Keep in mind that this is a European packing list where I expect cool, damp weather for the duration.  Packing for a tropical climate is much easier.  It really is.

  • 2 pair Columbia pants.  Zip-off legs, quick drying.  Khaki and something dark for evening.
  • 3 Long-sleeved Columbia button-up shirts
  • Your two favorite long-sleeved t-shirts
  • You two favorite short-sleeved t-shirts
  • Five pair of undershorts.  (This is a touchy topic.   I know that men are “particular” about their underwear.)  Get over it.  Buy something that is light weight, dark (who wants to look at skid marks?), and replacable.  There are two  choices:  really expensive stuff that costs upwards of $20/brief/boxer to Marshall’s Take-Your-Pick for about $2.00/pair.)  I choose the latter because toward the end I just start throwing them away which makes room for the trinkets I’ve bought).
  • Five pairs of socks, easily washable.
  • Fleece jacket.  I like Columbia, but you decide.  Don’t buy something too expensive.  You want to be able to abuse it.  Go ahead, wad it up.  Stuff it in your daypack.  Use it as a pillow.  It’s a tool, not an object of art.
  • Collapsable umbrella if you’re going into the Great Damp.
  • A Columbria RainShell

Other than that, please tell me in the comments what else you’d need.  I know it’s going to be fun.  The weather forecast for Scotland is interesting. gives a 25-day forecast for there.  I think because it’s always the same, rainy and 63 degrees.  My impression is that it makes Seattle and Portland look like Palm Springs.  There’s supposed to be “some sun” on June 29th.

I promise to blog along the jolly good way.  Please be responsive.  It gives me inspiration.





2 thoughts on “Getting Back to the Auld Ways

  1. So glad “we” are going on a trip! I look forward to reading about it!! When you write, I can “see” everything.

  2. I would need a package or pantie liners, but, I am female 🙂 So happy we are on the road again. Like Tracee, I “see” it when you write it. Just had a question. Do you take extra shoes?

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