The Golden Rule – DO NOT OVERPACK
The online world is packed to its giga gunnels with warnings of hell, fury, plague and pestilence for those who cock this one up.
Blogs, tweets, forums and factoids urge virgin travellers to “go light”. The patriarchs of the backpacking tribe post videos sharing the intimate secrets of their sacks.
Packing is earnestly debated in dozens of travel forums. The correct number of T shirts, trousers, socks and hats. The best twine to take for make-shift clotheslines. Hiking boots or trail shoes? Should it be one pair of shorts or two? A guy who suggested three was cyber bullied for his profligacy and is currently undergoing re-education at a Cambodian youth hostel.
But backpackers have reached a surprising consensus on an area close to my heart (actually a rather more delicate organ). They are united on undies. A very clear line is drawn. There is absolutely no room for manoeuvre in underwear. Girls are explicitly told to pack seven sets of knicks. Gents, for you the magic number of jocks is three.
Now that got me thinking, and this is dangerous territory. I understand the concept of seven for ladies. One for each day of the week, then it’s soapy suds time. Completely logical.
But why do blokes only get three? I’m baffled. Amazingly nowhere on the net is there an explanation. It’s an off-limits kind of conversation. Not a word. The issue is the backpackers’ equivalent to Bill Clinton’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. And we all know what a f**k up that was. So I remain dumbfounded by the disparity.
Certainly I’m old enough to appreciate that men and women are different. Men are from Mars and women are from the planet Barking Mad (joking girls). I’ve also been around long enough to know guys will happily forego a bit of personal hygiene. But a ratio of 2.33 clean undies to 1 for the girls?
Anyway, I digress. This is neither the time nor the place for me to be getting into ladies’ knickers………
Most blogging backpackers put a picture on their sites to show what they’re taking. It’s proof of tribal conformity. Desperate to fit in, I laid out all my items and took the pic. As I viewed it I had a sinking feeling. I had cocked up, and how. I’d gone to the other extreme. There was next to nothing to pack. A couple of long pants, two short and one long sleeved shirt, a few small accessories and that was really it.
But it wasn’t just a shortage of clothes. There was something else. Actually, that’s wrong. There was nothing else. Not only had I nothing to put in my backpack but I suddenly realized I didn’t actually own a backpack. Oh s**t.
I’m kidding. I didn’t have much to take nor did I have a backpack but they were conscious decisions. And this brings me to the real point of my blog:
Seek out local knowledge – it is worth it’s weight in gold.
I’d heard Bali was cheap, so my plan was to put my bare essentials in a grotty old holdall, travel in some slip on shoes and replace them in Bali with plush, but cheap, new gear.
Fortunately through one of those “friend of a friend” kind of deals I met up with Paul, an Aussie guy who’d lived in Indonesia for many years.
He was a fountain of good advice. The Bali markets sell cheap copies of backpacks and footwear but as vital items they’d be a false economy. How long before they fall apart? Would they give me back and foot problems. Sure, the island also has plenty of upmarket shops but not necessarily selling the gear I wanted. Even if they stocked them prices would be similar to home. Not everything there is cheap.
The first big mistake of the trip had been avoided, thanks to local knowledge. I could have been wandering the jungle with a grotty old blue holdall in my hand and a pair of impractical shoes on my feet. Hardly de rigueur for the rainforest.
Instead it’s shopping at Kathmandu and Mountain Design for me, on the cheap of course, the 60% off sales have started.
Avoiding the second mistake of the trip was easier. I’ve opted for seven sets of jocks – bugger the backpacker etiquette, I’m not a fan of chafing or hand-washing.