Friday, March 27, 2015

The Packing Has Begun

Over the last week we have been doing laundry, shopping, and checking our packing lists so we can make sure we have everything we think we need and it’s all ready to go.

First, was collecting and organizing all the little travel-sized things and coming up with some ways to manage them so as to not be driven crazy by them.  They’re only useful if you know where they are.

I started setting out everything on the bed and while I was off hunting through drawers and shopping bags I came back to find this . . . .


Moving on to what I will wear for 19 days in China . . . .

I started with a general packing list of what to take -- shirts, pants, pajamas, etc. I bought, or rummaged through my closet, to find the thinnest, lightest-weight things that I could layer and efficiently pack in my bag. That helped me determine how many of each thing to bring. Then, for maximum efficiency, I tried on outfits to make sure that as many things as possible could be swapped out and interchanged, giving me more options from fewer choices. Here is what I have arrived at, though there are a couple things that are still proving their worth or they will have to go.

I know it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a lot of successful mixing and matching going on here, but the colors in real life are more compatible than they look photographed.

Starting from the left I have: 1 pair of pajamas, 1 nightgown, and 1 robe. Above that is a windbreaker and raincoat.

Next: A mesh packing cube with underwear and socks, and a bathing suit.

Below: 3 sweater/wraps (black, white, tan), 1 half-zip pullover, 1 turtleneck, 1 long underwear shirt.

Next column: 5 short-sleeve shirts and 1 camisole top.

Pants: 1 long cargo with ties that could push up to make crop pants below the knee, 1 jean, 1 crop pant, 1 pair of leggings.

Far right: 1 dress, 1 skirt, 1 skort.

Not pictured are 2 pairs of shoes and a pair of flip-flops, all of which are lightweight and fairly flat.

Next is my hanging toiletry kit:

Here is how it all gets packed:

Pants & pajamas go in the bottom of the bag; shirts go in a mesh cube.

Here’s how everything fits inside, including shoes and the toiletry kit:


It’s definitely full, but not busting at the seams or splitting any zippers. In fact, there’s not even anything in the outside pockets yet. Amazingly, all that thin & lightweight stuff still added up to nearly 18 lbs! But that’s lighter than it would have been in a rolling bag and still under the airline weight limit.

Glad that’s all done and ready to go – only 5 more days!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Another week closer to China for us!

Most of the planning has been done at this point, at least as far as where we’ll go, what we’ll do, how we’ll get there, and where we’ll stay. So this past week began the shift to actual preparations for the plans we’ve put into place.

Minimalist packing is high at the top of the prep list. I have hauled bulging suitcases and overstuffed backpacks to destinations around this country often enough to know I do not want to do it in a foreign country, where travel etiquette and courtesy are nearly non-existent. Fortunately there are lots of helpful blogs and websites devoted to traveling light, so I’ve collected some good tips, not only on what to take, but how to take it. The first thing I did was order this suitcase, which is really just a soft-sided bag.

Only 30 bucks, and it is the exact same dimensions as my regular carry-on size suitcase-on-wheels! But instead of the wheels and extending handle, it has a regular handle at the top center, plus a shoulder strap; but the really neat thing is the pocket on the backside that unzips to release two hidden padded backpack straps. I love that! And since I’m packing light I should be able to withstand the weight long enough to get from place to place. Oh! The other great thing about this bag is that it only weighs 1.5 lbs. when it is empty. My other suitcase is nearly 7 lbs. before I even put anything in it! I also got one for Cameron, and after Steve saw ours, he decided to order one too.

My keywords for clothing on this trip are “thin & lightweight.” If it isn’t that, it doesn’t go. Cameron & Steve keep rolling their eyes at me. I say, “Sure, roll your eyes at me, but just don’t forget to roll your clothes when you pack.” Yes, rolling clothes is the way to go, along with a couple small mesh packing cubes for organizing. I also have a really “thin & lightweight” toiletry bag that unzips so you can hang it from a towel rack. Minimal stuff will go in there too, but we’ve been advised to buy any OTC drugs and remedies here, to take with us, rather than trying to buy there. If the labeling isn’t clear we could end up buying the wrong thing, or sometimes the Chinese version of a product we can buy here is not necessarily the same.

Fortunately, our doctor has also given us a supply of antibiotics to take with us if we happen to pick up any gastric agitators while we’re traveling. You cannot drink the water. Bottled water is plentiful, but Cameron is excited about the prospect of going to a place where Coke is considerably better and safer for him than water. He plans to drink it with every meal – strictly as a health measure, of course.

So, until we can actually start packing, we are reading guide-books and watching videos on youtube, so we won’t be totally bewildered when we get there. We watched one yesterday called  “9 Reasons Why You Got Robbed While Traveling.”

We have been told that crime in China is very low, but pickpockets and scams are everywhere, especially at a lot of the touristy sites we’ll be visiting. After years of trying to teach Cameron to be helpful and polite, he’s going to have to learn some new skills in self-preservation and being rude for all the right reasons. This also circles back to traveling light – the less stuff you have to haul around, the easier you can maneuver away from situations you need to get out of quickly.

Have I mentioned my favorite quote about traveling? It’s this:

“To travel far, carry less.”

It’s a slight variation from a book about hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, 
(Something else I would like to do!) called
 To Walk Far, Carry Less

22 days to go!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

One month away -- our trip to China

In exactly one month we will begin our first journey away from these United States. We are bound for China!

It all started a year and a half ago when our friends moved over there. At our last meeting before they left -- the day after Halloween -- they invited us to come visit, and, of course, we said we would. Not sure if they meant it seriously, but we did. We would not be doing this if it weren't for an invitation that turned into an irresistible opportunity to see what's on the other side the world!

So at one month out we are feeling like we're in pretty good shape. We have our passports, and the visas are being processed. Our plane tickets have been purchased and hotel reservations made.

We've put together an itinerary of places to go, and things to see and do, but no matter how you work it there's never enough time to do everything. 
I think we have a good balance of climates, settings, activities, and interests, in satisfying the Chinese philosophy of one (or three) harmonizing with their surroundings. We'll probably learn a lot about harmony trying to get on the train from the airport when we get there.

It's amazing how many connections we've made through the planning of this trip and we are grateful for the help that's been given. Co-workers, extended family, friends, and former exchange students, have all added valuable insights and advice for us -- it's been a bit like finding shells on the beach and dropping them in a bucket to carry with you as you walk.

As luck would have it, and by crazy coincidence (already sounds Chinese, doesn’t it?), a dear friend of my in-laws will also be traveling in China, just a few weeks after us. It’s been a lot of fun exchanging information, sharing tips, puzzling over perplexing cultural differences, and trading itineraries with my partner-in-planning Gloria; a well-seasoned world traveler. While this trip seems really big to us, it’s just one of many stops for her and her husband as they trace the globe.

Leaving in 31 days . . . .