Here in 2012, I begin my second extensive backpacking trip, as I head off to Nicaragua to meet up with my friend to navigate our way through central and south America until we get to Rio de Janeiro. We're planning to be on the road for a few months (but it could end up being longer if we love a certain somewhere). I vowed to myself not to bring too much stuff, and in particular not too many clothes.
Having recently moved out of my apartment in Jinju, Korea - where I had lived comfortably for 2 years - I parted with a lot of clothes. Some were old vintage items I just wasn't wearing, some were new items that I hadn't quite worked into my wardrobe, and there were lots of colourful scarves and pretty skirts that just fell somewhere in between. With the simplicity of fewer things in my apartment in Korea, I also seem to have adopted a bit more of a simpler wardrobe in the past month. Fewer costume changes, and more well-liked clothes on repeat. It is with this principle that I packed my backpack for my upcoming travels.
What clothes did I pack? A pair of jean shorts, a black skirt, a white skirt, a blue button up collared shirt, 3 pretty tops, a longsleeved shirt, a cardigan, a short dress and a pair of leggings. Just one dress, and this is odd for me, since my four-season wardrobe consists of at least 50% dresses. The reason is that I know I will find dresses I love down south.
Yes, there are other items in my bag, and that's what makes up the other 6kgs. I have a netbook and terabyte of storage for videos, a 1068 page guidebook, a GoPro camera plus the user guide (since I have yet to memorize it), a silk bed liner, a pair of blunnies and a bunch of other little things which I want to have with me. Of course I want to have dresses with me too...
But, when I'm traveling in a new city, and I find a dress that I love, I buy it. These clothing items are my souvenirs, and when I wear them I'm filled with the memories of the music, food, and the city where I bought it. Going to the land of floral dresses and handstitched patterns only makes my heart pine for beautiful dresses, and I know I'll find ones that suit me perfectly. This way, the dresses I wear on my trip will be of that area, and I can create memories and take photos wearing items from that region.
At the airport en route to Managua, Nicaragua, my backpack weighed 8.8kgs (with a carry-on at 4kgs). Here I have a much more organized and well-prepared backpack than the one I carried in Europe, and as a bonus I'm starting at a lighter weight. Remember, my first backpacking trip was 6 years ago, and I was pretty much as novice as a backpacker can get (I'd been to Paris and London for 2 weeks each on a high school exchange, but high school exchanges are far different from solo traveling, oh and that one trip to Barbados when I was 16 with my family...). I've picked up a lot of tips and tricks throughout my other travels to places including Turkey, China, Burma, Vietnam, and Thailand.
No umbrella, wearing my heaviest shoes instead of keeping them in the bag, using air compressing plastic bags to organize clothes, and carrying fewer liquids are some of my current strategies keeping my bag lighter. But another strategy is just simply having fewer clothes. When traveling Europe in 2006, some clothes in my bag would go a month or more without being worn, which is too long to simply be carrying clothing on the road. This time, I plan to wear everything in my bag in the span of a week, and just wash what I wear every other day in the sinks (with my handy traveler's laundry soap sheets).
It's a new strategy in practise for me, but an old concept. I remember reading of the legend of the traveling woman in the black dress who carried no backpack. They say she washed her dress and underwear every night to have it ready and clean for a new day. Sounds pretty amazing to me, and I'd love to try that on my next adventure - after I stock up on Peruvian alpaca sweaters.
Now, to you dear reader, what's your strategy when packing your travel bag? Are you a notorious overpacker, prepared for every rift of inclement weather? Or do you bring less and adopt a more frequent washing cycle, as I'm going to try? Please share your tips and ideas as a comment here on the blog, or tweet your tips and ideas to me on twitter @expatkerri.
I'm already imagining all the beautiful things I will find in Granada and beyond. I guess I'm not ready to be a legend in a black dress just yet.