When I was a younger, more fiscally solvent man I spent a year teaching in Bangkok, Thailand. I was just out of college, full of debt and pretense but largely free of stuff. Moving from dorm room to dorm room for four years doesn’t encourage a fella to accumulate much beyond tolerance for squalor.
When I moved across 2 continents and an ocean for no less than a year, I traveled with 2 big duffel bags and a guitar case. There’s something exciting about traveling light – a little scary, a little bold. Every pair of underwear you leave at home gets you closer to Rambo.
If I had it to do over again, I’d pack even less. Like towels. I brought towels. Why did I bring towels? Thailand has towels. I can confirm this. One thing I didn’t bring was a first aid kit.
I don’t think I’ve ever packed a first aid kit on a trip.
I bring this up because I was on a trip to the University of MN Landscape Arboretum recently and we’d packed a first aid kit. And we needed it.
Here’s the story – Little Man’s first grade class was on a field trip. I was given the honor of chaperoning. One of the kids to a spill and did a face plant into gravel. Bumps occurred, bandages were administered, and the day was ours
This all drove home a fact which I’d often observed but never articulated: I moved to Bangkok. Bangkok. For a year. And I did it in 2 duffel bags. Today, my family of 3 will go for an overnight at the grandparents’ in the same amount of luggage. If not more.
It’s easy to be distressed by this until you realize it’s all a matter of expectation, a matter of what’s reasonable.
When you’re an adult, traveling alone or with other adults, it’s reasonable to expect that you won’t be bleeding from your head. Unless you’re going to Syria. It’s also reasonable to expect that neither you nor your companions will poop your pants.
When you travel with someone who only recently needed two hands to show you their age, it is not reasonable to expect such things. It is not advisable. You are courting disaster. Don’t f**king do it, is what I’m saying.
You pack differently depending on what you expect. How you pack for work is not how you pack for the zombie apocalypse. Even if you’re resourceful, you want to be prepared. If MacGuyver and Jason Bourne had a kid they would have a diaper bag, at least one change of clothes, (for the kid, maybe a shirt for themselves), a wet bag, a snack, a few towels/rags, the requisite toys, and coffee just to go on a grocery run.
Any parent will testify – you don’t have to be a boy scout, but you damn well better be prepared.