A Gap Year Redux
We are making our plans to head back out: South Africa in November. It has been nice sitting here for a time, surrounded by friends and family. Slowly, more things have been sifted out of storage, and we’ve been shopping, as well. Coming is the process of paring back down to the essentials, with one bag and one carry-on per person. We’ve decided to make changes to our gear we need while we are here. We’ve been re-thinking most things, changes from experience.
Two or three week vacations don’t really prepare you for the reality of extended travel through different seasons and places. The winter snow vacation, spring rain while touring cities, summer beaches, and mountain hiking all require different gear. Often easily filling a suitcase, without including clothes and gear for the other weeks. Sustained travel is a compromise in belongings.
I’ve always started packing with my shoes. This goes along with fashion more than function: start with the favorite outfit and pick the shoes. Then, pick other clothes based on what I can wear with those shoes. Shoes are bulky and heavy. Lugging multiple pairs when you don’t have to is a drag, literally.
Based on this, I set out to take the perfect shoe to wear around the world. City loafer meets hiking shoe; the non-existent hybrid. I ended up with an OK looking city shoe that got beat up on rocky trails and didn’t give much support. My ankles paid the price. And, the brilliant thing about it, is I took two pair anyway: a loafer and a mary jane. Like I’m going to wear a beat-to-crap on the trail grey-was-black mary jane shoe with a dress? Right. They were a decent city shoe, if a little squishy, until they looked like my younger daughters sneakers after a few months on playgrounds. And, more shoes: I had a pair of crock ballet flats for the beach that I did wear with dresses once the mary janes looked shoddy.
We’re headed to South Africa, this time each of us with a good hiking shoe, a city shoe, and flats for dresses. OK- no flats for John. Mine and Marlie’s are crocs. This time, I won’t leave mine against the patio wall in the sun all day, either. My feet are not that shape. Soft plastic, heat. They are not friends. Hannah will have to carry some flip flops, too, for the beach. She doesn’t like crocs.
This time around should be a little easier, in that we will be missing winter. We head into summer next month and come back north of the equator in time for spring in Asia. No parkas, much less wool, it’ll be nice to leave some of the bulk behind. More layering; sweaters and rain shells.
We took way too much first aid stuff. Each of us had a supply, in addition to our travel first aid kit. We’ll have to share notes on that one. We’ll take a lot more ziplock bags this time, we could not always find them in the grocery stores. Some small scissors, duct tape taken off the roll the size of one of those extra shoes and rolled around something else to save some space.
I’m taking a bunch of clear plastic zippered bags, ones I think I saved after buying pillow cases and sheets, and sticking them into my bags with Velcro. Couple of clear pencil cases, too. I’m sticking them to the hard shell outside the fabric liner. I swear every time we arrived somewhere, it felt like my stuff would be stirred up like a farmyard after a dust devil. The stuff I don’t always need is going to the back of the shed. Even the main part of my carry-on is sort of a vortex. Once I pull my computer out to go through security, my sunglasses and snacks and anything smaller than a jacket all fall to the bottom.
I’m leaving most of my other little bags that I can’t see in without opening. The ones that group all the little stuff, like power cords and earphones and such. I don’t know how many times I’d have to open three bags to find what I was looking for. As much as my ego and esthetics want the pretty bright red fancy bag, a ziplock makes more sense. Clear, light weight, replaceable. The family legend of my father-in-law Rocky was that he packed in a paper grocery bag. An attorney who specialized in power production, he took many a trip to Washington DC. A suit worn on the airplane, a toothbrush, clean shirt, and underwear in a brown paper bag. Although I admire the freedom, those shiny objects (read: pretty little red bags) are still hard to leave behind. I’ll have to talk myself into the ziplocks.
Other stuff we carry are things like hair cutting shears and multi-purpose glue. Pocket knife. Pack Safe (Pacsafe) for locking up our computers, hard drives, and passports. We didn’t end up using our sleeping bags much last go-around. We’re still debating those, they take up a lot of space.
It has been fun, being able to re-think everything. Most around-the-world trips don’t have a time out in the middle. I guess that is is a good thing for us. We didn’t have time to think everything through as thoroughly the first time, as we were packing away our belongings in the garage at two AM. Who knows, there is even a chance that someone else will read this before they take off on a gap-year adventure and find our breadcrumb trail useful.
Here’s a list- hiking shoe – city shoe – flats for dresses – sweaters – rain shells – travel first aid kit – ziplock bags – small scissors – duct tape rolled around something small – hair cutting shears and multi-purpose glue. Pocket knife. Pack Safe (Pacsafe) – our computers – hard drives – passports – sleeping bags?