The Things They Carried (And Didn’t Need To)
About a year and a half ago, I was obsessed with finding a universal sink plug. I was about to set off on a three-month backpacking jaunt around Southeast Asia, staying in the sorts of places that cost the same per night as my daily Starbucks habit in the States, and apparently a universal sink plug was de rigueur. I mean, honestly, all the guidebooks said so.
So after several weeks–and various forays into many, many stores–I finally found one. Into my backpack it went, along with my mosquito repellent, my sunscreen, my travel detergent, and a hundred pocket-sized packets of tissues. After thrice-daily applications, the mosquito repellent and the sunscreen were gone within a week; the travel detergent was equally as indispensable, given the frequency with which I used the communal laundry facilities in youth hostels (can you imagined carrying a Target-sized container of Tide around Asia? I think not.) And the pocket-sized packets of tissues proved, time and time again, to be as important as you would imagine them to be in a series of third world countries where toilet paper in public restrooms is not exactly high on the list of priorities.
But the universal sink plug? Didn’t even use it once.
Ditto the flashlight and the padlock I’d been convinced I needed. If, however, I could somehow have squeezed more hand sanitizing wipes into my backpack or added a few thousand more band-aids to cover my everpresent blisters, I would have done it in a heartbeat. And don’t even get me started on how many more travel packs of ibuprofen you’re guaranteed to wish you’d packed when you’re aching and shivering and rather suspecting you might have contracted Dengue fever in Burma. (All the guidebooks I had with me, by the way, advised not buying any medication in Burma, since it’s fairly likely to be either counterfeit or expired. I reckon if I’d skipped the universal sink plug, I could have fit at least another bottle of Advil into my carry-on. But hindsight, of course, is 20-20.)
This got me thinking about the things we convince ourselves we absolutely need to take on vacation and then end up never actually using. I’m fairly certain I can’t be the only girl (or boy) who thought it entirely warranted to bring six pairs of shoes on a weekend mini-break. (Oh, alright then, seven.)
So what would you advise a space-conscious packer not to bother bringing with them on a trip, despite what the guidebooks tell you? (And don’t you dare say a universal sink plug. I mean, really; you could have told me earlier.)