A travel writer's dirty secrets

Thailand August 15, 2012 00:00

By Phoowadon Duangmee
The Nation

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The champion of travelling light has to be the Arab journalist from Dubai I met seven years ago on an assignment in India.


While I was clad in scruffy Levis, white t-shirt, black jumper and optional headscarf, the Arab journalist, perhaps in an imitation of 007, always wore a white shirt, black suit, tie and leather shoes. No doubt the local folks wondered how the Arab journalist managed to dress so well even though he was so far from home. And he was travelling light, so light that he wandered around Ladakh and Kashmir for a week with only a black briefcase to his name. 
I know his secret. The Arab journalist wore the same clothes every day. I assume he flipped his underwear or had one change in that briefcase. Had he fallen in the murky Indus River, he would have been forced to wear his pyjamas for the rest of the trip.
The travel journalist must do everything to travel light, though the Arab’s rule of packing is taking things a little too far. To me, a reasonably sized bag and a daypack is the rule of thumb, no matter how long is the trip.
The luggage is for clothes – rolled, of course. The day bag is for computer notebook, smart phone, digital camera and lenses, power adapter, a half-finished novel, battery chargers, backup T-shirt and jumper.
How do I manage the space in the luggage? 
Before I throw in the first piece, I consult the itinerary. That tells me what awaits each day, which can vary from zoo to museum, black-tie dinner to street food on the go, and city hotel to roughing it in a tent. Itinerary in hand, I make a checklist for everything I need from head to toe, from day one to the journey home.
On my second day in Sao Paulo, for example, I had a mixed bag of hotel brief, museum visit, exploring the food market and lunch before a night out at pub restaurant Bar Bharma. The checklist allowed me a long-sleeved black shirt, khaki pants, retro-styled Adidas shoes plus a green t-shirt and blue jeans for dinner.
The jeans came in handy again on day three for a trip to football museum and Central Market.
Of course, a journalist on assignment and a family on holiday are mango and apple when it comes to packing. But you get the idea, don’t you? Pack only what you need, and always start with a checklist. Do that and you will never over or under pack.
In my very first days as a travel journalist, I always ditched dirty socks and tees to make way for press kits. After 10 years on the road, the press kits were replaced by local beers.
Sooner rather than later, airlines will start changing for every kilo of luggage you take with you. According to rumours on the Net, Ryanair could well charge for using its overhead locker in the future. Don’t head to the airport with half of your household.