I consider myself a bit of a packing wizard. We traveled 8 weeks in Europe just in carry-on luggage, and now we are doing the same thing though Southeast Asia. I wrote a few blog posts at the beginning of our trip about my packing strategy and plans. Now, 6 months later, looking back on what I brought and what I left, this is what I’ve concluded. I overpacked.
I know what you are saying, “How is it possible to over pack in carry-on luggage??” Sounds crazy, but it’s true. When we got to the airport to fly to Bangkok from Chicago, we realized that our bags were not oversize, but overweight. Asian airlines are apparently strict on carry-on weight. One airport they went around with a hand scale weighing passenger’s bags before they boarded. So we were left to check our bags against our initial desires. But then I began to realize that I really DID bring too many things. About a month and a half into our trip, we both unloaded some of the excess. Since we were returning to Bangkok in a few months, we knew we could leave a bag with friends and return for it at the end. So we purged.
I left about 6 shirts, 2 shorts, so many toiletries and accessories behind. And rarely thought about them again. Because the truth is, you really can travel for 5 months with 7-8 shirts. And you can make it with 4 pants/shorts/skirts. Laundry services are so prevalent in Southeast Asia, and so affordable it’s ridiculous. Not to mention the occasional hand washing night.
Once we lessened our stash, we felt more free. Our bags were no longer stuffed to the brim, but there was room for souvenirs and room to pack things a little less precise. This lesson I learned in packing is a good one. See, we are moving permanently to Asia next year, and this experience showed me the essentials and the non-essentials. I realized what I needed to bring with me, and what I could buy on the road. In China, there was hardly any laundry services and so few toiletries that I could use. But in the rest of Southeast Asia, this was not the case. I found familiar brands and favorite products easily in the cities.
So as happy as I was with how I packed to do this trip over the last 5 months, looking back I know I could do it differently. Isn’t that life, though. We plan and make the best decisions in the moment, but looking back, we may have done it differently. Well, going forward, I know I’ll pack differently. The rest of this year, we’ll be in the US, but traveling again to Mexico over the new year. And then in March, we are moving to Southeast Asia for good! So many adventures to pack for…