How to Pack (and how NOT to)


Next week I will begin the 5-flight, 26 hour journey to Cochabamba, Bolivia. Despite my desire to be a low-maintenance traveler, four months in a foreign country that doesn’t have drinkable water or free 2-day shipping from Amazon, brings out the girl who would like to have absolutely everything she owns come with her.  A problem arises when I A.) Look at the price for checked luggage, and B.) Realize that I can only carry/roll/drag so many suitcases on my own. So, unfortunately, my moving to Bolivia cannot include a U-Haul truck.

Two giant suitcases, one rolling carry-on and an adorable floral wallet will be my allies on this ridiculously long journey. Here’s how to do it!

  • Roll roll rolllll all of your clothes that you want to pack tightly, but tend to get incredibly wrinkled. Good space saver, and it helps you avoid permanent creases.
  • Put necklaces in your socks, and put those socks in your shoes. It’ll prevent tangled necklaces, and keep your shoes from getting crunched up as well (especially if you have an addiction cheap ballet flats like I do)!
  • Decide which household products you can buy at your destination, and which super-special-soap-that’s-only-made-in-America you need to get at home. Fewer liquids (shampoos, face washes, etc.) = fewer things that have potential to explode in your suitcase — not that everything isn’t already in a giant zip-loc bag, right?
  • Bring one of those squishy neck pillows and carry the obnoxiously sized sleep-aid with you in the airport. Seriously. Anything over 6 hours will kill you, even if you think you’re not the type of person who sleeps in public places or giant flying machines.
  • The carry-on bag is for everything that you couldn’t fit in your suitcase, or would cry over if it got smashed to pieces accidentally by a baggage handler. Also, some in-flight entertainment and, most importantly, FOOD. Mine will have: my DSLR camera, laptop, phone charger, 2 books (one for the way back?), meds on meds on meds (Dramamine is key, and always carry vital prescriptions on you, in case checked luggage gets lost), an extra outfit, toothbrush stolen from previous business-class flight, roasted edamame, fruit leather and baby carrots. And all of those little things that never found a home whilst packing previously, like travel tissues, notebook/pens, mascara, bug spray
  • The food point is a good one. ^^ Don’t bring junk food, despite how good that 4 pound bag of Sweedish Fish looked at Sam’s. It’s easy to find junk food to buy in airports and on the plane, but much harder to find something that will actually keep you energized and not feeling like it’s Halloween in grade school. Be careful when traveling internationally, as no fruits/veggies/chihuahuas are allowed, to avoid spreading pests and such across boarders. Plus, a lot of the food and drink rules are arbitrary, so it’s sort of see-as-you-go. Don’t bring anything you’re too attached to…..
  • My passport, money, visa, etc. are not all in one bag/wallet. You don’t wanna be screwed if one gets lost or stolen!

I thought that moving to Boston (almost two years ago) was helpful in deciding what things I actually needed to live and what things were actually just useless material goods. It did narrow down my “I need” pile, but moving to Cochabamba has done so even further! A friend recently reminded me of the yoga yamas aparigraha, which is the concept of non-attachment, or non-possessiveness. It’s easy to say you only need a few more pairs of shoes or just that new iPhone to be completely content with what you have, but in reality, what you currently have has little to do with what you currently need. Packing and unpacking can help identify which things you forgot you even had, and which things you need on a daily basis.

I’m lucky enough to have a life that’s simple enough that I can pick up all of my stuff and move in two suitcases. I don’t have furniture, I don’t have pets and I don’t have boxes of books that I need to take with me. Well, I do have boxes of books, but they’ve found a foster home for now. I’ve seen many adults who do have these things, and have convinced themselves that they just have too much stuff to be able to travel or move. From my perspective, it’s a self-induced condition, and it’s not always as complicated as it seems. Aparigraha asks us to leave the house, the coffee table, and the goldfish; and then we can better decide where we want to go. More importantly, we’ll be where we need to be.

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