How to Pack Like a Pro

In my current days of adult travel (in which trips are few and far between yet easily financed) it’s simple for me to pull out my biggest suitcase, stuff it full of crap, and be about my way. However, back in my days of being a lost undergrad looking to see the world, this was definitely not the case.

My Wal-Mart backpack, now muddled with the patches of various states and countries and somehow lacking any sort of holes or disfigurements, would be packed to the brim with essentials most Thursday or Friday nights on my newest journey out of town. When I would arrive at my chosen destination and someone would ask me, “Hey, can I borrow your umbrella? I couldn’t fit mine in my bag,” I would sometimes sneak a smile.

Packing like the nomad you truly are requires skill, dedication, patience, and intuition. It is not a task for the weak of heart, similar to travel in itself. If you’re about to fly first class to the Galapagos Islands, ignore this post. But if you’re planning to hop on a bus, then a train, then hitchhike to the nearest hostel with a backpack strapped on, read on.

Image

1. Roll your clothes. Even though they look way nicer when folded, rolling your clothes and tightly stacking them in a suitcase saves a ton of space… as well as the ensuing wrinkles.

2. Put on your heaviest items. This means that when you step into the airport, your biggest boots and thickest jackets and sweatshirts should be on you, not tucked inside your bag.

3. Wear what you know you’re going to wear. A nomadic trip is not the time and place to pack that dress you bought two years ago that you’ve been meaning to wear. You’re just going to end up wasting space and possibly trying to sell it on eBay when you get home.

4. Give space bags a go. Or pseudo space bags since the real thing is kind of pricey for what is a glorified plastic bag. If you’re really looking to save space, buy yourself tons of large freezer bags and stuff your clothes inside and sit on them to squeeze out the air. Prepare to bring extras since they will pop before your journey home.

5. Pack solid items on the bottom. Clothes will morph around, say, your lava lamp, however your bag will not be able to close directly on top of it. For this reason, pack shoes, lava lamps, and other heftier items on the bottom of your suitcase.

6. Avoid packing clothing that only has one purpose. Instead of packing that shirt that you can only wear to a club, pack the tank top that can be paired with a multi-use pair of pants. You need to get the most out of the space that you have.

7. Don’t pack items that are on their last leg out. If you’ve got one pair of shoes packed but they’re clinging to life, the place to kill them isn’t somewhere along your trip to Budapest. Leave them at home and pack (or wear) the item that is going to be reliable.

8. Keep yourself mobile. Even if you can pack a suitcase the size of a small garage, that doesn’t mean you should. No amount of clothes is worth being that guy lagging behind the group dragging your stuff around. It’s uncomfortable and embarrassing. You always want to be able to comfortably carry all your own stuff in one bag and maybe a purse.

9. Pack the night before. Even though it’s sometimes more convenient to wait until the day of, especially if you’re leaving later in the day or you don’t really have a lot of toiletries to leave laying around, pack the night before so before you fall asleep, you can jot down anything you forgot about during the packing process so you can pack it the next morning.

9.  Allot double the amount of time to packing than necessary. For some reason, I always think I’m going to shoot through packing in one hour, although I have literally never accomplished this. Always set aside double the amount of time for unforseen circumstances… like trying to decide if you really need those four-inch wedges.

Image

My Life Aboard The Traveling Circus

As anyone who has ever read one thing written by me ever, you probably know that the most settled I have ever been is the few years where I lived in the boondocks at the edge of the woods with my mother, a yappy beagle, and an orange cat.  Not very exciting… or so it seems. 

Now that I’m back, (poorly) adjusting to post grad life, it seems all the more depressing. I have no one to hang out with, the only thing to do on a Friday night is go bowling (except there’s no one to go with…), and the only bar within a reasonable distance is Applebee’s, which doesn’t really work for me because I’m not ready to pick up soccer moms quite yet.

However, back in the day, this town was the place to be! Well, not really, but we made the best of it. Because there was nothing easy to do (…the closest mall is still 30 minutes away…) we had to make our own fun. Every single day. Mostly because we didn’t have a choice, but even still, it made us able to have fun in a cardboard box. I used to be good friends with a girl who moved to London, and her friends there in the city wouldn’t even believe her when she told them the trouble we got into on the weekends, no mind-altering substances necessary. We didn’t have a bar or a movie theater or a mall to keep us company, so we certainly never gave up being creative trying.

We would take our friends’ cars and hide them around town and make scavenger hunts for them to find them again. We would play golf in the middle of the night, setting up our own courses in abandoned playgrounds. We made our own boardgames, tie-dyed sheets in the backyard and then made them into tents and camped out under them, ran through high school hallways by nightfall, and otherwise caused innocent mischief like only kids can do.

1

To do these things, I didn’t have to get on a plane or pay an astronomical museum “donation” fee. I didn’t have to try to find a dirty hostel to stay at or figure out why I had to pay for tap water at an overpriced tourist restaurant and I didn’t have to listen to a tour guide with a heavy accent tell me the history of anything. Instead, all I had to do was walk outside and call one of my dopey friends to come over.

In many ways, I think that it was these boondocks adventures that prepared me for a nomad life, one spent living out of a suitcase and scavenging for free meals and trying to solve little crises that only happen when you’re 18, dumb, and broke. Irony is, as much as we all complained about living in the edge of nowhere back in the day (and then, trying to make the best of it by having more fun than anyone who lived in civilization), it was those quirky adventures that made us yearn for it for every year onward, always keeping us upon the life aboard the traveling circus.