BRING NO MORE THAN WANT TO CARRY
It is easy to over-pack; it can be overwhelming to grab everything you deem essential. The fine line between bringing too many (unnecessary) items and omitting to bring certain essentials is a personal decision. You can always re-up or lessen on supplies, buying or shedding articles along the way. It is optimal, however, to bring the bare minimum of what you’ll need – no more no less.
Inexperienced, it was a dilemma for me to prepare for a five-months summer journey to South America. I was bracing for daunting freezes of Tierra del Fuego – the farthest-south point of the world (aside from Antarctica); but was also excited about scuba diving in the Caribbean and clubbing in Buenos Aires. So, logically, my swimming trunks, snorkeling gear, fine dress shoes and shirts were all stuffed in the 80liter Everest bag along with absolutely all of my warm clothes from life in southern Texas. Everything didn’t quite fit and three black sacks – each the size of a sleeping-bag – were attached on the outside of the main backpack. It was a clumsy, heavy, uncomfortable multi-piece bag, but I pushed through with it on my back for more than a month.
Ushuaia is a small cast out town on the bottom of the world, at the tip of a breathtaking godforsaken cape surrounded by snow-capped ridges from three sides and Magellan Straight from the south. Soon after flying into this geographic and climatic low point of South America, I realized that fears of unbearable cold were unfounded – not in Tierra del Fuego, not later in the barren Patagonia. I hauled all those pounds of garments for weeks and ultimately wore only 2 of the sweatshirts (the big jacket and thermo-wear were lifesavers though). All of this wouldn’t be interesting to tell, however, if it wasn’t for the incident when a goat pissed all over these belongings of mine in the plane.
Day’s ride from Ushuaia, I arrived to Rio Grande Airport to fly four hundred kilometers north over the water channel to Rio Gallegos on Patagonian mainland. For a long moment of disbelief, I stared at the sign “Rio Grande International Airport”. It was a plain cement building the size of a convenience store. Still under construction, from outside it appeared more like a warehouse. I spent several hours awaiting my flight on the mezzanine level of the empty terminal, reading a book, drinking Quilmes, not seeing a single person that entire time except for my upbeat talkative bartender/waiter/airport manager.
When it was time to board, ten persons and three goats appeared out of the left field and made their way to the Cessna 525 aircraft. I was instructed to bring my cumbersome bag in with me. There were six rows with two undersized seats on each side of the aisle – so, twenty-four seats, or twelve double-seat sections, in total; there was no steward. All settled in, each person had a two-seat bench to him or herself (enough to sit comfortably). Two of the goats were buckled into the two unoccupied sections. The remaining goat was left wondering around the cabin.
My bag did not have a convenient spot to call its own: it was too big for the overhead compartment, too oversized to serve as a headrest for me to lean against, in fact discomforting me any which way next to me. I unbuckled all of the bag’s attached appendixes and stuffed three of the four separate pieces of carry-on in the foot space under me, closer to the aisle (I kept the fourth, smallest, baggie to serve as a comfy pillow). The takeoff was rough: the bulkheads were jiggling, detaching from outer walls, no air was coming in through the vents, making it super stuffy, the passenger seat suspensions jolted us up towards the ceiling on every bump of the deteriorated airstrip, the odd goat was pinballing around. Exhausted and dismayed, I was quick to fall asleep once up in the air.
Well, as you might have foreseen, my rucksack and its detached satchels were somehow flung around the cabin, midflight, and intercepted by the unattended goat for the buck’s gain. I woke up to witness the poorly groomed farm beast lounging over my stuff. The dirt in its fur was too clotted to rub off onto my luggage, although the barely dried mud (or some form of food) on its tee was intimately connected with my sleeping bag. Its torso, with legs half-open, was sprawled over the main bag, while the unattached sacks supported its neck and slobbering mug. I tried to contain my irritation, considering the circumstances, yanking my possessions from under the insolent goat. The discovery of real damage was after leaving the plane – first as I felt moisture seep onto my back after putting the bag on, and later, in the hostel, as the smell of (animal) urine was thoroughly permeated through most of my clothes. I immediately threw away a few items that night, ridding the bag of extra attachments, consolidating my travel belongings to only the most necessary and valuable components. Lessened load was pure joy the next day, and opened many opportunities for adventurous detours in the next months of travels.
The 5th guest POst in the Vital (cliché) steps to adventurous travels series from someone who has a lot to say about spontaneity, facing fears, and traveling with tips on how to embark on an adventure of your own.
The other POsts in this series can be found by following these links:
the tiny village/town behind Igor is Jelondi, Pamir, Tajikistan
Igor Postrekhin is a (seemingly fearless) world-traveler and professional adventurer. He is also my brother. Having a travel journal including more countries and cities than most will ever even contemplate visiting in their life-time, Igor has a unique perspective on wild experiences, facing fears, cultures & people, and most importantly living life without the constraints of society’s rulebook. A direct quote from his About Me section on his Couchsurfing profile (which has an overwhelming 142 positive reference list) says “Passion is the fuel that keeps me going. Extremes and adventures exhilarate me, obscure the norms.” He is currently living in Xinjiang, China.