What to pack… and why
An old friend stayed with me recently in Azerbaijan. We chatted while he unpacked and I asked about the small tin of anchovies in his bag. “I always carry some!” he replied, smiling. “Essential for spicing-up a meal. You never know?”
Sure enough, next day we added anchovies plus some lemon juice to my sautéed courgettes and garlic: delicious. It was also food for thought. You know how to pack a bag, yes? Me too. But what do other gentlemen take? I emailed some, for their suggestions. Here’s how they replied.
Edgar, a Romanian in Singapore, says, “I take my Magic Bag of pills, for diarrhea, ‘flu, aches and pains. I guess I’m a hypochondriac. I also pack the Confessions of St. Augustine. 600 pages. I never read it, but I feel smart and closer to God.”
Meanwhile, French diplomat Jerome writes from Africa, “My Romanian wife Dana never travels without ground coffee, coffee beans and instant coffee. She adores coffee. In her special cup!”
Jude from Liverpool suggests, “Two hooks with rubber suckers, a length of line and plastic pegs for drying clothes; neoprene bottle covers for keeping beer cool; a tri-band mobile phone for local SIM; an international driving license.”
Vlad of Bucharest suggests, ”Three silk shirts – smaller than a tennis ball when packed, they wash and dry in minutes with the hotel hairdryer, sexy too! A warm sleeping bag; a liquid gas Zippo to occupy and irritate personnel at airports, because security measures are absurd, inefficient and often abusively applied.”
Doug, an American in Ukraine recommends, “A headlamp for power cuts or walking at night. I’ll often take my hiking poles. I used them in Sibiu. And a compass for new cities.”
Rupert in Bucharest advises, “A good jacket in case the heating fails. And a pocket knife.”
British globetrotter Kevin says, “I used to carry a Swiss Army knife in case I want to slaughter the cabin crew and take the pilots hostage. However, last time I forgot to put it in my checked luggage and the guards confiscated it. Luckily I was in Switzerland and was able to buy a new one in Duty Free before boarding! I’m vegetarian so I pack nuts, soya beans and seeds. Indian Army boil-in-the-bag meals are good. I drop the sachets into my travel kettle and eat in my room. I hate sitting alone in restaurants or bars!”
Paul of Tel Aviv recalls, “Twenty years ago, I got a nasty infection in my eye. I have packed special eye drops ever since.”
Marketing guru Eddie from Yorkshire says, “I always take Pass the Pigs, it’s a great little game. Plus lots of business cards, diarrhea pills, spare underwear in hand luggage and a sewing kit.”
Tony in Adelaide recommends, “Small screw-top bottles for your favourite shampoo or shower gel, and keep your suit in the wrapping from the dry cleaners. It will fold without creasing.”
Brussels-based international business coach Peter recommends, “Hand wash in a small bottle; very hygienic and helps in conversation, ‘Hey, you want some liquid soap?’ Also, I travel with some empty plastic bags, for wrapping whatever necessary – worn socks or a new souvenir.”
Ascanio of Rome always carries a gift from his Kazakh wife. “A glass hedgehog in a leather box (my nickname is Yozhik, hedgehog). Two tote bags for compulsive shopping; power adapters for 6 continents; 1 terabyte parallel hard disk with my laptop backed up; Ekhart Tolle’s ‘A New World’ or ‘The Power of Now’, to read if I get stressed. A mini USB loudspeaker because music is the answer.”
Dominic in Devon suggests, “A mosquito net for the tropics, some cigarettes (not to smoke but to grease the wheels of bureaucracy), and a smart phone with a solar charger.”
Several respondents insist on hand luggage only, like Henry, a London journalist who suggests, “Take half the luggage and double the money. When you arrive, buy what you forgot.” For example, the Confessions of St.Augustine?
First prize for travel essentials goes to my architect friend Dirk in London. He’s a severe haemophiliac and for a 2-week holiday abroad, he takes 21 vials of powdered Factor VIII, 21 syringes of sterile water, sterile adaptors for 7 intravenous injections, butterfly needles, alcohol swabs, a tourniquet and cotton wool. He’s also HIV+ and has to swallow 3 pills per day, for that. His 2-week mobile medical kit is worth over $40,000. No wonder we Brits are so proud of our National Health Service. Then again, the NHS owes Dirk, since it gave him HIV through infected blood products during the political regime of The Iron Lady, so-called, when profit counted more than people.
As for my essentials, I prefer to travel close to nature with a strong-minded companion. So, based on years of experience and many happy miles, I recommend a donkey, a carrot and a stick.
Bon voyage. Or, as they say in Romania, drum bun!
[First published in Playboy, April 2013, by Mediafax Group, Romania]