"And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home."
Wendell Berry

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


You guys, I committed a MAJOR no-no for traveling light for an extended period of time: I bought heels.

I seriously don’t know what I was thinking. It was like I had a temporary lobotomy. I have nowhere to wear these things anyway, and there is virtually no space in my backpack. They aren’t even a light, strappy pair, and they don’t even have a low heel that I could actually get some use out of. They’re high, chunky, and extremely heavy. My only explanation is that I was weak and feeling gross, the salesman was very convincing, they were cheap, and they were extremely cute. Unfortunately, like everything else in Hong Kong, they are also extremely non-returnable. Since they’re too heavy to ship, I guess I will do my penance by carrying them around for a month, and then hopefully Ad can carry them home for me from India. Lesson learned.

Unexpected things I've needed on the road:

Large scarf—good for a variety of purposes, from towel to blanket to headscarf to belt to great way to dress up an outfit.

Divacup—I couldn’t be a bigger fan. You do not want to lug around a year’s worth of tampons, do you?

Hankies—I have two and use them constantly, particularly since arriving in HK since I’m eating a lot of spicy food and napkins in restaurants seem to be a rarity. My hankies also made me feel good when we hiked down Lantau and someone had left about 200 used tissues along the path.

Lipstick (or another unnecessary/feminine item)—I’m normally not a lipstick wearer at home (or much of a makeup wearer period), and not really a very girly girl in general. But after feeling totally grubby and wearing the same very functional, plain, less than cute clothes for a month, I’ve found it can really make me feel attractive again. If I had been wearing lipstick, I probably wouldn’t have bought heels.

Fake wedding ring—Comes in handy more often than you’d think.

A sweet knife—Ditto. I use my pocket knife multiple times a day (this might be because it has a bottle opener as well…).

A hidden pocket—I found that I hated money belts and refused to wear them, so I sewed (or had my sister sew, because let’s be honest, I am not that craftsy) a pocket in my bra. I carry some extra cash in there just in case. It’s come in handy twice, and I suspect it would be even more convenient if I ever got robbed.

Small change purse—I don’t have a wallet, but use either my daypack or my passport pouch to carry money. When I don’t want to lug crap around with me, the change purse comes in really handy, especially since a lot of countries are coin-heavy in their currency.

Shampoo bar—Lush makes a great shampoo/conditioner in one solid bar that I’m obsessed with. You don’t have to worry about leakage (my first 2oz liquid shampoo spilled ALL OVER my backpack), plastic baggies at the airport, toting multiple bottles, or replenishing, since it lasts a really long time. Totally biodegradable, so you can take camping, and can also double as soap.

Multivitamin and hand sanitizer—An attempt at sickness prevention. Again, I’m not normally a proponent of either at home, but with an immune system weakened by constantly switching time zones, eating less healthfully, and constantly using public transit, I’ll take ‘em.

ColorSome of the best advice I received before I left was to pack only things that I felt really good in. I did, but on the recommendation of many packing lists, I also packed only blacks and neutrals so that everything could go together, and that really contributed to feeling like I was wearing the same thing every single day (I kind of was, since my two t-shirts are exactly the same shirt). When I lost my only sweater in my final days in New Zealand and then arrived in Hong Kong to really cold* weather, I was so bored with black that I bought a bright red sweater to replace it. And I love it! So my advice is, bring one really bright, stand-out item, but one that is functional and that you can still wear regularly.

A smilethis might sound obvious, but I've started to realize that my default expression, while not a scowl exactly, is kind of frowny (I blame 5 years in NYC). A smile can communicate a lot when you don't speak the language, and makes people want to help you.

*Note, for all you New Yorkers and Michiganders: Okay, not *really* cold at all, more like 50 (F), but cold for HK!

**The hearts were stickers on my wall at the Hong Kong guesthouse. Seemed appropriate.


  1. I love this packing list. The things you learn on the road...

    And the shoes. SQUEE! They're gorgeous! Worth the extra weight, you sexy, lipsticked thang!

  2. PS, my security word to post a comment was "vabilyb."

    Is it weird that I giggled?

  3. "Vabilyb" sounds like it relates to "bring me back some crabs."

  4. The shoes are gorgeous! I'm sure you'll get plenty of use out of them-sounds like you get your share of bar hopping and parties! So what if you have to lug them around- that won't kill you and if it does you'll go out in style!

  5. I say -- pull on your red sweater and your new dancing shoes! Go Party!

  6. Mom and Aunt Jane, I mailed the shoes back to Ad after all (despite weight) and the sweater is likely to follow. It is WAY too hot for sweaters in Thailand, and fellow travelers are all barefoot, but still having fun, anyway!