The World Traveling Pillow.

These trunks may not look like much but they have been around the world and back.  When I left for Papua New Guinea in 2008 I shipped three trunks filled with books, clothes, shoes, hard to get toiletries, other american amenities and my favorite pillow.  They arrived 10 months later in 2009 and I was excited to finally have my trunks.  But as you can tell from my post back then, I was mostly just excited to have my pillow.

When I decided to leave PNG and come back to the states, I had to make decisions about what I would leave behind and what was important enough to ship back to California.  After three years, the toiletries (like the multiple gallons of Dr. Bronner’s soap) had long been used.  The shoes were mostly worn to bits and the clothes well faded from hanging dry in the tropical sun.  So I decided to only send two trunks back filled with my books, PNG art and pottery, other random things which wouldn’t fit into my suitcases and of course, my precious pillow.

I packed these trucks in September of 2011 but because of some delays they didn’t actually leave PNG until February 2012 and then I got an email about a month ago that the trunks had made it to North Carolina.  So I arranged for the final leg of their journey and they finally made it to California while I was still in Chicago.  2 trunks filled with memories and my pillow.  And also a whole case of Papua New Guinean coffee.

When I opened up the trunks all my treasures were of course a little musty.  But everything survived…well almost everything.  The one major fatality was my pillow.  This pillow has a long history and it did quite a bit of traveling with me.  It even survived my college semester abroad in Ghana by being professionally washed and recovered back in 2006.  However, the Papua New Guinean tropics proved to be too much and as much as I loved my perfect down/feather blend, another cleaning and recovering wasn’t going to help this time.  So I unceremoniously tossed my pillow into the trash.  But don’t worry, this story has a happy ending.  As an early birthday present, I was able to buy a brand new pillow with the perfect down/feather blend.  We may not have the same history but we will make history.  Next time I move countries, this is the pillow that is going with me.

Packing for 5 Countries / Tips from a Seasoned Packer

My packing prowess has been featured before when I was going back to PNG for the last time in January 2011.  I was carrying a lawn mower and a printer among other crazy things.  And in December 2011 I packed for my trip back to California from PNG where I passed through a couple very different climates including sunny South Asia and snowy Germany before arriving back in the US.  Multiple countries always creates unique packing challenges.

In less than a week I leave for my next trip which includes 5 countries and two continents.  This means different climates, cultures and let’s throw in a wedding for good measure.  It depends on the item but I consider multiple things before adding anything to my suitcase.  Here is just a bit of the thought process I have while packing for almost any trip.  While most things are geared towards international travel, a lot of it can be adapted to any travel whether it be a week or just a weekend away.

Toiletries: Can I buy this where I am going?  Is the price reasonable?  If yes, then pack a small amount and replenish as needed.  If no, pack just enough and a touch extra.  What do I need that I don’t normally use?  Make sure you have sunscreen, lotion, hand sanitizer, bug spray or other things that you might not normally use but that are place appropriate.  This goes for little things like q-tips and tissues as well.

Medication: What do I normally use?  Make sure to pack enough and a little extra (in case you drop something) for the whole trip.  What might be helpful?  I always carry a small amount of things that could prove useful like Advil, Tylenol, NyQuil, Sudafed, Pepto Bismol and sleeping pills.  Remember a small amount of bandaids (antibiotic ointment already included) in various sizes.

Clothes: Layers. Color. Weather. Culturally Appropriate.  Activity Appropriate.  Is the item multi-functional?  No. Don’t bring it (unless it’s a swimsuit or pajamas or other similar, necessary item).  Yes.  Then ask, how many outfits can it work with?  I always go through multiple packings when space it tight.  There is also something to be said about a mix between fashion and comfort.  Also consider how often and where you will be able to wash things.  But always bring more underwear that you think you need.  Also don’t forget who you are staying with, can you borrow items?

Shoes: Muti-use.  Match everything.  Comfortable.

Electronics: Computer?  Only if actually needed.  Kindle? Yes, I did buy one.  Ipod? Just the Shuffle which weight-wise is almost inconsequential.  Large thumb drive?  Always, especially if you don’t have your computer.  Camera?  Always.  Make sure the SD card is clear.  Adapters, cords, misc. electronic accessories?  Make sure you have what you need for each thing you pack.  Batteries?  If needed yes.  If you can buy them on the road, only two extra sets.

Paperwork:  Passport. Paper copies of tickets, ticket information and itinerary.  Phone numbers, directions to your destination and helpful airport information (especially if it is a new country where you don’t speak the language).  Keep all these things together even if everything is supposedly electronic.  Paper copies can save you.

Money: Some American cash.  Almost always useful in a pinch.  A small amount of local currency.  Sometimes useful but almost not necessary because of ATMs.  A working ATM/Debit card.  Make sure it actually will work and that you have a 4 digit pin.

Miscellaneous:  Handkerchiefs.  Ziplock bags of different sizes.  Small sewing kit.  Super useful for lots of reasons.

The Ultimate Carry-On: All the paperwork and your computer.  Entertainment.  Sudoku, something to read, notebook, pen and music.  Also a cribbage board and cards.  You never know who will be in the seat next to you.  Comfort.  Your own blanket and blow-up wrap-around neck pillow.  Worst case scenario.  Change of clothes, toothbrush, basic make-up.  Enough to freshen up if something spills or keep you ok for a day if your luggage doesn’t arrive.

The Suitcase: Keep it under weight.  Rolling suitcases work best for airports and modern destinations.  But a good backpack with waist straps can be invaluable.  Any place where you have to carry the suitcase for long periods of time without the benefit of rolling is a place to carry a backpack.  There are packs available where the straps get zipped inside to protect them from the airport conveyor belts and other things where they might get caught, cut or broken.

This list is by no means exhaustive but hopefully it can give you a few more things to think about.  Packing well makes any trip that much better.  Happy Packing!