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Packing For Perpetual Travel

How To Pack To Be At Home Anywhere In The World

“In February,” writes Correspondent Vicki Terhorst, “Paul and I sold and emptied out our summer home just beyond the burbs of Buenos Aires. We gave away most of our possessions and celebrated the return to a fully committed life as Perpetual Travelers. Actually, we considered ourselves PTs even with the house. I referred to our house in Argentina as our second home…and the world as our first.

“In our second home, we kept stuff. As moving day approached, we began the task of giving it all away. Toward the end, I reached my emotional limit for getting rid of our things. I packed up the rest of what we owned in a few boxes and tucked the boxes away in a friend’s attic.

“We moved into a small, temporary apartment for the rest of our stay in Argentina. Then we packed our carry-on backpacks, spent a few weeks with family in the States, and then took off for our new temporary home, a favorite guesthouse in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

“Thai historian Nitthi Eiowsriwong once wrote: ‘Those who pack sparingly reflect that they are blending into a new environment just to be a part of it. Those who carry big bags and lots of items show they are bringing their own life and items into new surroundings.’

“Paul and I are perpetual travelers. We live out of carry-on backpacks. We pack sparingly and buy what we need when we need it. We like to blend in and adapt to new and different environments.

“Still, I also like to have a few items everywhere I go.

“I’m not thinking of the things you already know you need–such as a passport, credit/debit cards, prescription medications, eyeglasses, etc. We’ll also set aside what you can buy easily in just about any location in the world–things like toiletries and flip-flops. Well, sometimes, ‘buy easily’ can be an exaggeration. Being sure you’re buying shampoo rather than conditioner can be a challenge in China, for example!

“And, of course, we’ll assume you’re traveling with some clothes. Paul and I have learned to travel with very little in the way of clothing. The key is a very adaptable wardrobe. I include in my limited wardrobe basic black. Not the sexy little black dress, but something more modest. Lucky thing, because today, for example, I suddenly was asked to attend a funeral with my Thai friends. No time to run to the store and buy appropriate clothing.

“So, all those things aside, what are the few items I like to have everywhere I go? Here are my three travel essentials, the items that create the hidden structure of my life…

1. Netbook computer. Even with computers widely available at hotels and cafes, I prefer to travel with my own. Paul and I each have our own small netbooks. We look for hotel rooms with WiFi or Internet cables we can plug into. This is what keeps us connected, to family, to friends, to financial accounts, etc., no matter where in the world we roam.

2. Immersion heater and lightweight coffee cup. Paul and I like the luxury of coffee in bed before we start our day. I automatically feel at home once the smell of coffee permeates our hotel room.

3. A large, superfine, Indian cotton shawl/scarf. I’m on my third one after 30 years of packing light. I have used my bright yellow shawl as a towel, pool wrap, sheet, pillow case, tablecloth, head covering, wrap-around skirt, and, even, as probably was originally intended, as a shawl.

“A few simple things…but comforting.

“Finally, I like to buy a large, cheap (two dollars or so) rubber bucket if we’re going to stay awhile in a given city. The main purpose is for washing clothes. I’ve also used the bucket, though, to store water, to help flush a sluggish toilet, and, along with a bowl for a scoop, as a traditional Asian shower (useful when a hotel has very low water pressure).

“Finally (and perhaps best) the bucket can be used as an ice bucket for celebratory champagne.”

Kathleen Peddicord

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