Well, I Tried

I really, really, really tried to pack light for my departure to Bali tomorrow. I mean, I have all kinds of excuses. I’m the teacher—I bring special things for my students—beautiful hand-sized notebooks as gifts—so in this case with two groups in a row, that’s 32 little notebooks, giant name tags I hand-wrote on file folders, handouts to print, my teacher’s gong and a silver talking stick from Petra, and a map of Indonesia so my students can see where Bali is in relation to the rest of the country. I hope to scuba dive this week before they arrive, so of course I need my prescription facemask and PADI dive card. I tucked in an extra power cord for my computer and a second two-prong adapter—because if mine doesn’t break, someone else’s invariably will—or someone will have brought the wrong adapter or no adapter, and now I can help them out; as their teacher, I believe it’s part of my job to make their lives easier.

Instead of two pairs of shoes—flip flops and hiking sandals,all that Bali really requires—I’m wearing a big clumpy pair of hiking sneakers on the plane because we’re offering an optional big hike at the end of the trip, and since I now have old feet—feet that have been experiencing neuropathy since my bout with Covid last fall—I require stable hiking shoes; sandals will not do. Oh, and I brought my tri-fold hiking poles because I have them and why not; and a small Camelback with a water bladder because I get thirsty when I climb up a mountain.

For months, I’ve been piling stuff on my office floor categorized as either definite or maybe for Bali. A lot of it is NOT going with me (yeah, something to be proud of!). My clothes are well organized and I’m not bringing too many. It’s ALL the other stuff—vitamins, medications, arnica gel, Advil, medical supplies, covid tests, Paxlovid just in case—that’s adding those pounds: myriad power cords in a brown drawstring bag, accoutrements to handwashing, a new bendy stand that can wrap around a tree so I can shoot videos without a shaky hand.

I could go on and on, but that would make a very boring post. You get the idea.

For the last two days, I have really tried to keep my STUFF down to one carry-on suitcase, a backpack, and a purse. (Oh, there’s also my c-pap machine, which unfortunately has to travel with me everywhere I go. At least it doesn’t “count” as a piece a luggage—there’s a pass on medical equipment.)

I did great with my backpack—I got in the essentials: my laptop, essential medication, and enough clothes to last a few days if my checked bag gets lost.

Then I started placing the rest of the pile into my carry-on suitcase, but it just kept overflowing.

I thought wistfully of a writer who came on a trip Karyn and I led to Peru seven years ago. She was traveling all over the world, and had been for a couple of years, and she had, by far, the tiniest suitcase of anyone on the trip. A very small carry-on, and that was it. She carried everything she needed in that one small bag to travel for YEARS, easy and light on the earth. I asked her how she did it and she showed me what she carried, and then she proceeded to give me a great lesson in handwashing clothes on the go. I so admired her. I aspire to be her.

But unfortunately, this time, my aspirations for a light footprint have crashed into reality. For this 40-day trip to Bali, leading two different groups of fourteen writers, with an early arrival for me and time off in between—I have failed miserably. I happen to own (and carry) a small, cleverly designed portable scale that weighs suitcases, which comes in very handy when you’re leading a group of people who need to keep their checked bags under 50 pounds (or whatever the limit of their particular flight might be). So, I pulled it out and just weighed the big blue bag I am going to check, and it clocked in at 46 pounds. Just enough room left to slip in that one last essential item.

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