Monday, 14 March 2011

Some packing lessons

One or two things I learned about travelling while I was in India... this is after 30 years as a traveller! But nearly three months is a longer time to be on the road than I'm used to, and it throws all your small failings into stark high relief.

  • Pack a torch or a headlamp, and keep it with you - even when you go to the bog. Power cuts nearly always happened when I was in the shower - the one place in an Indian hotel practically guaranteed to have no natural light at all. (Cracks in the wall don't count.)

  • Have a large handbag or a tote, not a daypack. Zipping and unzipping a daypack requires two hands, which is a pain when you have a camera. The only time I was glad I had a daypack was when I was biking. (And it would be easy to fit straps to a handbag.)

  • One thing I got right was taking a jagbag. I slept in silk sheets every night... next time I'll take a pillowcase too. Though grimy, my bag has survived everything India could throw at it.

  • Another thing I got right was having a shesh, not a hat. A shesh has so many advantages. I can wear it as a headscarf, a makeshift sarong, a shawl, use it as a towel or a fruit carrier... When you're wearing it as a hat, it also covers the back of your neck, one of the most annoyingly easy places to get sunburnt. And my shesh cost about 50p; it was a bit of cheap cotton muslin chopped off the bottom of an old curtain.

  • Next time I go to India I will buy an Indian mobile phone on day one. They are incredibly cheap and the call rates are even cheaper.

  • I really must make sure not to pack trousers and shirts that don't have pockets. You're always after somewhere to put a bus ticket or your lens cap... I might even get a flak jacket style waistcoat with plenty of pockets, though camouflage isn't really my preferred dress style.

  • I will print off Google maps of places I'm going, because the guidebooks' maps are always crap.

And I will pack lighter. I thought I had packed pretty light... but in the end, I had far too much.


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