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Packing - Two Decades Later

26th May 2016

Perhaps I’m getting slightly nostalgic as I approach my twentieth year working in the travel industry but I can’t help but contrast what I used to pack in the 90s with what found its way into my luggage for my recent trip to India & Sri Lanka.

Looking back I can recall with incredible clarity the packing advice given in the old Lonely Planet guidebooks - “Lay out on your bed the absolute minimum that you think you’ll need for your trip. Now halve that.” Inspired (and challenged perhaps?) by the LP travel bible I turned packing into an art and it became an element of tedious competition between travellers as to how lightly one had managed to pack. I remember being awed by a traveller whose entire backpack for 6-months of travel weighed a mere 7kgs.

Oh how my younger myself would have disapproved if he had seen what I ended up schlepping with me on my 2-week trip with my hand luggage alone coming in at 8kgs! However in my defence I can cite 3 key factors that may explain the change.

The first is ironically down to experience, for having travelled as much as I have over the last 2 decades I have known rain in the desert, bitter cold in the jungle and footwear giving out in the middle of nowhere. So preferring to be safe rather than sorry I am now supremely well-prepared for any eventuality regardless of how unlikely it realistically may be.

The second is down to the way in which I now travel. Gone are the days when I would haul my rucksack across town to avoid taking a $5 taxi. Now I am generally transferred from place to place by private vehicle so other than getting my luggage to and from Heathrow, it really doesn’t make any practical difference where I am on the scales

And lastly there is technology. My first few years of travel were blissfully free of anything “e” related but now inside my luggage you’ll find a laptop (with accompanying lead), a mobile phone (with accompanying lead), a digital camera (with connecting USB lead, spare rechargeable battery and battery charger with accompanying lead), a torch with batteries (in case of power-cuts), an electric toothbrush (with accompanying lead and special adaptor – yes, I know it’s not essential but why should I forsake my usual dental hygiene practices while travelling?) and to top it all off a 4-way socket surge protector plus universal adaptor.

So should I be ashamed that I am now certifiably a “bad packer”? Or should I be proud that I no longer care? I suppose at least with my receding hairline I won’t need to worry about packing a hairdryer...

Marc Leaderman

Narrowly escaping the "lawyer, doctor or accountant" stereotype career that is the fate of many Cambridge graduates, Marc taught English in Romania an…

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