Traveling Light? Yeah Right…

Traveling Light? Yeah Right…

Breena S Riley

I like to travel, but I hate being underprepared. It is my nature to worry perhaps more than I should. I hate not being completely self-sufficient when traveling. Because of these reasons, I end up overpacking.

Before a major trip, I usually make a packing list about two weeks before I leave. It starts out reasonable enough. I start out by including the items that I must have for the trip. For example, for this research trip abroad I need my passport. Check. I need my GPS unit and a field notebook. Check and check. Then I think about how long I will be there and what the weather will be like. Is it cold? I need those long-sleeved shirts then because I am going from a daily high of 32˚C or more all the way down to about 15˚C (I am from the southern United States, so I don’t do well in the cold). Check. Finally, it is the weird or uncommon stuff that I list: “Oh my gosh. I forgot that I have to take bed sheets!” Check.

My list seemed reasonable at first. It was that way until I actually started packing. I am limiting myself to three bags, including my carry-on. In goes the clothes, the research supplies…I hope I have room for my camping stuff…my rain gear and more clothes. Most everything seemed to fit at first. I tried to zip both of my bags. One of them didn’t close and the other’s zipper looked like it would bust.

I decided that I didn’t need some of the clothes. I rearranged everything at least three times. I weighed the biggest bag and prayed that it is not too heavy for the airplane. To my relief it was still under 25 kg. When I thought I was finally done packing, I realized that I forgot to pack some of my research equipment. I still have to find a way to pack them into my already-bulging bags. I had to unzip everything YET AGAIN. I realized that I forgot to pack other crucial items.

In the end, I actually did manage to pack almost everything I needed plus a few bonus items. The bonus items are things that I don’t absolutely need but make traveling more pleasant. Among these are a little sewing kit, an extra phone charger, and a reusable shopping bag.

Truthfully, I can’t pack everything that I need. I think a big part of research is trusting that your colleagues are there to support you. I am relying on my collaborator from Umeå University to source some supplies for me in Sweden. I can’t just fly in with corrosive chemicals like sulfur-based compounds in my checked luggage to run analyses that I need. I worry a lot, but I need to trust in others’ support—that they will get the job done.

That black bag is 72 cm x 48 cm x 38 cm and amazingly weighs under 25 kg. I tied bandanas on my bags this time so that I can actually find them on the luggage carousel after the flight. I will wear them for field work later.
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