What’s in Our Bags?

Of course, before starting a year-long journey, one has to do some hefty preparations. We prepared packing lists months in advance, making sure that we were carrying all of the essentials (and some desirable extras) with maximum weight- and volume-efficiency. Even on the gadget front alone (see post of 8.20), this was no easy task. However, things wear and tear, and different places can require different supplies, requiring the picking up of additional items along the way. So, you might be curious–what are we carrying now? Where did everything come from? Not quite a comprehensive list, but close:

– Two backpacks and two duffels. One of the backpacks was acquired in New Haven, the other in Chicago. We use the duffels to protect our backpacks during bus and train rides and flights, to keep the backpacks clean, avoid damage caused by hanging straps and deter opportunistic theft. One duffel was purchased in Chicago, the other provided to us in New York after an old one was damaged by an airline. We almost had one of the backpacks (filled with approximately half of everything below) stolen at Damascus airport in April, but that’s another story.
– Guidebooks. I am carrying Bradt Mali, Rough Guide West Africa, Lonely Planet West Africa and Rough Guide Morocco, all purchased from Amazon.co.uk and shipped to a friend in Milan, where we picked it up in November. I had to quickly order and pay for these books a second time after a poste restante shipment (see post of 4.1) from Hong Kong failed to show up at the post office in Istanbul. I am also carrying a map of Mali purchased in Dakar.
– Other printed matter. I am carrying a non-fiction history book to read for pleasure (gifted to me by a friend in Hong Kong, during our August visit there), a map of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (ordered for free on the internet and shipped to me in New York), a book on New York purchased by a friend in Hong Kong and brought to Uzbekistan and New York postcards purchased by a friend in New York and brought to us in Hong Kong. All of the books (other than the guidebooks we are currently using) are carried in a sturdy plastic shopping bag from an electronics store in Sharjah, one of the United Arab Emirates.
– In addition to the gadgets and supplies mentioned in my post of 8.20 (including a hard drive from Sharjah), we are carrying an extra hard drive purchased in Istanbul and GSM SIM cards purchased in Cairo and Aqaba. My cell phone was stolen in Aswan, and so I am also carrying a new Motorola purchased in Cairo. One of the watches we are carrying was purchased at the border market between Afghanistan and Tajikistan (see post of 6.23). Derek’s camera bag was replaced during our August Hong Kong visit with an identical one, as the first was worn to the brink in our first six months of travel.
– Ultralight sleeping bags (0.5 kg, 10 degrees Celsius), purchased in Hong Kong. Handy for the crappiest of hotels (especially those that double as brothels).
– Small DVD case and blank DVDs, most recently restocked in Istanbul.
– My clothes. I have two t-shirts, one pair of shorts, one pair of lightweight pants, one pair of lightweight jogging pants and a couple of long sleeve shirts. These were purchased in New York, Seattle, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. The pair of pants I started the trip with, purchased years ago in Singapore, wore through and so were discarded. I have several pairs of underwear and socks, including socks from Dakar. I’ve lost my hat twice, and am now traveling with a handmade straw one purchased at the famous Monday market of Djenne, Mali. I’m traveling with my original pairs of shoes–Tevas and Merrills purchased in Seattle. One of my t-shirts has worn thin and has a few small but growing holes, helping me blend in here in Africa (well, not really, as calls of “Jackie Chan” still abound).
– Derek’s clothes. Derek has a pair of convertible pants, a pair of lightweight jogging pants and a few long sleeve shirts. He also has several pairs of underwear and socks, including underwear from Slovenia and socks from Dakar. Derek lost his hat once, and the current one is from Xinjiang. Derek’s hiking shoes were replaced during our Hong Kong visit with a pair that he had had brought from Texas. He also has a new pair of Birkenstocks from Kuwait City and a pair of flipflops from Dakar. Derek and I both have Montane ultralight packable windbreakers purchased in Hong Kong. All of our clothes are in wetbags purchased in Seattle. We keep dirty laundry in a plastic laundry bag from Sharm el-Sheikh.
– Some food from a Venice supermarket.
– Small bottle of whiskey from Jordan duty-free.
– Half carton of cigarettes from Sulawesi. These were intended as gifts that we’ve had a difficult time giving. Numerous bedouin suspected us of trying to drug them–has tourists’ drugging of unsuspecting bedouin been a problem?!
– Ziploc full of receipts, tape flags, pens and coins, from everywhere.
– Toiletries. Our toothpaste is from Cappadocia, our toothbrushes from Flores. We have hotel soap and shampoo from a bunch of places, including Dead Sea mud soap from Sharm el-Sheikh.
– First aid kit, including bandaids and gauze from Iran and iodine and ointment from Flores.
– Medicine, including Mefloquine–the only antimalarial that our Hong Kong pharmacist who gives us pills without prescriptions had on hand–and Aleve, brought to us in Hong Kong from Texas.
– Secret pockets, purchased many years ago from the Savvy Traveler in Chicago, perhaps the world’s greatest travel store. We have two that fasten onto our belts and are worn on the inside of our pants and one that can be velcro’d onto our shin, should we not be wearing beltable pants.
– Swiss army knife, purchased in Hong Kong.
– Headlamps and flashlight.
– Various other supplies, such as a laundry rope from India, laundry soap and detergent from a bunch of places, a pair of scissors, a notebook from Iran, photocopies of guidebooks, many passport photos, an extra pair of glasses purchased in Bangkok, disposable contact lenses, etc., etc.

Isn’t it amazing, the distances goods travel to satisfy our modern consumer lifestyles? Not included in the above list is a bunch of 3-in-1 instant coffee packets. We carried one particular packet, a Malaysian brand of Colombian beans that we picked up at an Iranian hotel, all the way through Central Asia and China, eventually back through Malaysia and the Middle East, and ended up drinking it in Dakar. What a journey!

3 thoughts on “What’s in Our Bags?

  1. We started the trip with a couple nalgenes, but we found that we just ended up buying bottled water, and so ditched the nalgenes fairly early on in the trip. Not so great for the environment, but so much easier than filtering/purifying…

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