As we travel over the coming months, aside from writing about the places we visit, we want to document some of the backpacking experience we have; from the good, to the bad, to the ridiculous.
First off, a topic probably falling in the latter category – baggage (particularly clothes!)
Imagine you have to select 5% of your wardrobe to wear for 12 months. Just a handful of tops, bottoms, footwear and essential items. You have to try and cater for all kinds of terrain and weather conditions (cities, beaches, jungle, mountains, glaciers, etc.). You need to be careful not to take too much (no more than will fit into a 70 liter backpack with an absolute maximum weight of 23kg). You need to be careful not to take too expensive (or labelled) items, due to safety and the fact that you don’t want to ruin all your decent clothes.
Quite a challenge for most people.
Now imagine on top of that, that you’re two gay guys who generally love their clothes, will often try on multiple outfits when getting ready at home and pretty much have a sneaker and cap addiction.
This was us 6 weeks ago when we were packing for the trip. Clichéd as it is, for us the task moved from being quite a challenge to near impossible. After spending a couple of months planning and debating, followed by a couple of weeks packing, unpacking and repacking, we finally had our shit together. Well, almost. We did have to do some last minute offloading of our skin products (you’re welcome Javi). This, our first achievement of the trip, was a great feeling. Although not very long lived.
What has followed over the past 5 weeks has been a series of offloading even more of our things, along with having (ok, maybe also wanting) to buy replacements along the way. What could have gone so wrong after having spent so much time planning, debating, packing, unpacking and repacking? Well, here are a few lessons we’ve learned in those 5 weeks.
(Full disclosure from Carl at this point. 80% of the baggage issues have been his. Jeroen has 2 advantages: firstly (and annoyingly), he can put anything on and make it look good, as well as not care what it looks like. Secondly, he is not as materialistic as Carl.)
Lesson 1: it’s no fun to be carrying 17-20kg (the original weight of our bags) around with you from hostel to hostel, bus station to bus station, etc. We know this sounds obvious, but it’s something we overlooked when we did the whole 30 second tryout of our backpacks at home. Even with the most comfortable of backpacks, less is definitely more!
Lesson 2: if you’re traveling as a couple, don’t bring matching clothes. (‘Why would you do that?’, we hear some of you cry!) We’re not really sure why, but for some reason we thought it would be a good idea to bring the same walking boots, Tevas, jogging pants, and some tops. We soon realized that walking around like you are twin brothers dressed by your mum, instead of husbands, is not the best look.
Lesson 3: don’t pack items of clothing you haven’t worn in 3+ years. Again, not really sure what the thought process was here! If you’ve not liked something enough to wear it for so long, why would you carry it half way round the world for 12 months?
Lesson 4: on the point of shopping; don’t buy any new clothes at home just before your trip. Especially if one of the things you’re looking forward to in the big cities is exploring some of the shops. Aside from the fact you either can only window-shop, have to throw things away to make space, or end up with even more weight to carry, it’s also way cheaper (where we are at least) to buy locally.
Lesson 5: as a last resort, if you do bring too much and can’t bare to part with anything, take your clothes to a laundry shop where they don’t speak English. They’ll mix up what you said and ruin your clothes in the drier; forcing you to get rid of them. (Needless to say, we’ll be doing our own washing from now on.)
Thankfully, as a result of these lessons we’ve been able to donate quite a bit to charity along the way, managed to get our shopping fix to replace some items, and gotten our backpacks to a bearable weight now. That is providing Jeroen manages to prevent Carl buying more things in the meantime!
Tune in later for more of our backpacking escapades.
Carl & Jeroen