Pack Heavy! You are an American!
January 18, 2009
In 2007, shortly before I left on my Mideast tour, author Tim Ferriss blogged about packing ultra-light, skipping around the world encumbered by only 1.5 pairs of underwear, a bike lock, and a single breath mint.
I fell for it. I left for the Middle East with a few shirts, one pair of practical shoes for tromping through rough terrain and one pair of high heels for the stage, a bottle of sunscreen, and a single red lipstick.
One of the other comics, in contrast, had brought at least twenty cute outfits, several bikinis, a hairdryer and many hair products, a full makeup kit, and a wide variety of push-up bras. Her luggage wasn’t that much heavier than mine, and she looked way prettier everywhere we went. In all the photos, she looks vibrant and polished, and I look like I have just been to the gym.
Somehow, on my way to Buenos Aires, I fell for it again. I am not a dude. I enjoy having 4 or more different brands, formulations, and viscosities of lotion to apply to my various body parts. I like to write on fine-ruled legal pads. Wide-ruled legal pads ruin it for me. I do not consider it an adventure to find out if Argentine tampons work differently.
Once in the last two weeks, I walked 20 or so blocks to an office-supply store to buy a notepad that fits in my purse. I have a fine-ruled legal pad I brought with me, and I’ve been conserving paper like a medieval scholar. Write smaller! Skip adverbs! (The latter is good advice anyway, I wrote self-referentially).
I didn’t bring a lot of clothes, figuring that I’d have fun shopping for more. I did buy some little dresses and shirts. That was nice. But then I ran out of underwear, and since I don’t plan to do laundry here, I decided to buy the kind that come in a package at the drugstore (hot!) They come two or three per package, depending on the style, and I’ve bought maybe four packages of them so far. I’m going to be wearing Argentine drugstore underwear for the next year and a half.
I thought I might buy a new bra, but all of the places that sell bras are tiny little stores staffed by ladies who help you with the bras — in many instances, the bras (even inexpensive, everyday bras) are displayed in glass cases, and you have to point at the one you want, and a lady goes into a back room and brings one out in your size, sort of like how shoe stores work. Bras here don’t have cup sizes — there’s just one measurement around your whole torso-and-breasts complex, in centimeters. This is not a fun adventure.
I only brought one book. I’ve poked my head into many large bookstores, and none have an English-language section. I found one bookstore with a single shelf of used English-language books, and contemplated catching up on my Henry James.
Shopping in a foreign place is fun! But it’s more fun when you’re just wandering about, seeing what kinds of wonderful things you happen to find — not when you’re out of mascara, wishing you had the David Sedaris you’ve been meaning to read for a year, and bobbing down the street with boobs untethered.
If I could do it again, I would’ve brought SEVENTY-FOUR POUNDS of books, legal pads, notepads, underwear, bras, lotion, gym clothes, bikinis, hair appliances, interesting hats, framed photographs of my favorite U.S. Presidents, etc. I say seventy-four because seventy-five is the limit for normal-weight checked baggage, and if Continental is charging me a $15 fee for the first checked bag anyway, by god I’m going to take advantage.
Pack heavy! You are an American!