Friday, March 14, 2014

Mary Poppins and Packing

Packing for overseas travel seems easy at first. The principle is simple, after all:

Have stuff. Have suitcase. Put stuff in suitcase.

But it never works out quite like that. Oh no.

It all starts with the heap of stuff—stuff gathered after hours of analyzing costs of xanthan gum on this website versus that website and putting together Amazon orders filled with everything from livestock suturing tools to gluten-free bouillon cubes to several years worth of vitamins until the UPS man is on a first-name basis with your dogs and the shelves of the basement “packing zone” are overflowing.

With Mary Poppins playing in the background and three dogs watching eagerly, I dragged everything into the middle of the rug, and divided everything into carry-on versus checked. It’s like the separating of the sheep and the goats, I decided.

Many stages of packing....
Then came my favourite part. While I could never look at the pile of stuff and give you an accurate estimate of how many items there are (10 and 30 look about the same to me) or what the snorkel weighs or how many millimeters long the book might be (my dad can do that), I can with pretty consistent accuracy, tell you whether or not it will all fit spatially.

And my pile was going to fit. Even more, by the time I had finished and Mary Poppins was dancing on the rooftops with the chimney sweeps, not only did it all fit in my checked bag, but there was quite a bit of room to spare. Success!

Or not. Because my bag was 10 lbs over the checked weight limit.

The heaviest items were pulled out immediately (think bags of gluten-free flour)—but I soon realized that the smaller volume available in my carry-on was not going to accommodate a pure weight transfer.
Such a fun game! Image courtesy of

Suddenly, it all became like a Tower of Hanoi game, but instead of switching the wooden rings in and out with the speed of a county fair game attendant, I was playing with ounces and volume and my mom’s bathroom scale. 2.4 pounds of bulky clothes in the carry-on could trade for some smaller jars of vitamins and xanthan gum...

Back and forth I’d drag the checked bag to the bathroom where I could confirm my progress (only another 8 ounces to go!), the dogs trailing at my ankles, until finally the scale read triumphant! I collapsed on the couch and watched Mary Poppins float away on the clouds, effortlessly carrying her bottomless carpetbag.

Next time, I vote for one of those!

Lift-off! After seven wonderful months at home, it’s time for me to head back to Papua New Guinea. Over 13,000 miles, 8 airports, 3 countries, 32 hours of flight time, and three weeks of travel—it’s going to be fun and crazy and exhausting. Here’s my itinerary for the next few weeks! 
  • Mar 14: Leave Minnesota for Hawaii
  • Mar 17: Start Wilderness First Responder course in Hawaii
  • Mar 28: Leave Hawaii for Australia (connecting through New Zealand...and missing Saturday as a result of the international dateline)
  • Mar 30: Meet up with my colleague, Hanna, in Cairns, Australia April 4: Fly to PNG!