Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A minor footnote (for any aspiring travelers)

Depending on your destination and your level of desired comfort, I have one piece of advice to aspiring travelers: bring less than what you think you need.

I have been in Thailand less than once week, and already I find myself trimming my load of crap that back in the States I deemed potentially essential. After two days in Bangkok, I was rooting through my backpack one morning and found myself asking, Why in the hell did I bring all this stuff?

Preparing for eventualities with comforts from home is great in theory, but my recommendation – recently revised – is to travel as light as possible and realize that just because you're in country you've never been too doesn't mean your Bowie knife and night-vision goggles are going to come in handy.

Items I've shed so far: Two magazines and two books (there are plenty of used bookstores all over Thailand that operate on a trading system, so the English language is never far away); an alarm clock; my cherished Associated Press hat (I imagine a kid finding it one day on a Bangkok trash heap, inspiring him to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist); miscellaneous toiletries; and a deck of hole-punched playing cards from the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas.

I am sure there are other items I will ditch (I brought a baseball for some reason), and others I will pick up along the way. But even for someone like me, who loves to travel light, I realized pretty quickly that I it's never light enough. So my suggestion: when in doubt, leave it out. You'll thank yourself in the end.

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