Travelling the World?


Here’s an idea: Pack for one week

What’s amazing is that even after five decades of trekking the globe, I’m still learning how to be a competent traveler.

My first solo trip was as an eight-year-old.

My parents loaded me on a Greyhound bus for a 300-mile trip from Long Beach to Salinas to visit my cousins.

Since then I’ve honed my packing skills and know to pocket Dramamine, extra cash, Kleenex and bottled water wherever I go.

We just returned from India where I needed …

  • Dramamine for five hours of endless curlicues to the high plains of Munnar (and I still threw up)
  • Extra cash for the restrooms that charge a user fee
  • Kleenex because there’s no toilet paper in the restrooms that charge a user fee
  • Bottled water to avoid diarrhea-inducing tap-water

The biggest life lesson for me was learning how to pack fewer clothes.

The epiphany emerged when I spent a summer in Washington, D.C. on fellowship at the National Museum of the American Indian.

I packed and repacked and packed again, until I made a fateful decision: Just pack enough for one week.

Taking one carry-on bag was liberating.

I packed only enough clothing for one week and used the washing facilities at my sub-let.

I learned to limit my clothing palette to the basics: white or beige and black or blue, with colorful scarves and sweaters to add spice.

When we travelled to London this month I sported one vibrant scarf, one dress, one pair of leggings, one pair of socks and one pair of boots, which I wore for three days and then packed in my carry-on bag (along with my winter coat) and stored at the hotel while we traipsed from London to India.

To plan for India, I had tucked a smaller bag inside my carry-on when I arrived in London.

Once packed for India, my bag and purse weighed 2 kilos less than our allowable 7 kilos (15.4 pounds).

I boarded the plane at Heathrow with sandals (in December)—sturdy, sole-supporting and breathable Keens—and took three pair of capri leggings, four summer dresses, one lightweight wedding-appropriate dress, one summer nightgown, one sweater, one scarf, and a week’s worth of underwear.

With bright, hot weather I needed sunblock which doubled for body lotion and found a lipstick that lasts 24 hours, which I topped off with chapstick throughout the day.

After years of searching for the perfect purse I settled on a cross-body—rather than a backpack or shoulder bag—constructed of thick fabric rather than heavy leather.

The sturdy and light-weight bag has three distinct, zipped compartments and holds my wallet, passport, cell-phone, book, medicine bag, large water bottle and leaves enough room to close the top zipper.

Turns out I had everything I needed to traverse India: cool clothing, bottled water, and motion-sickness meds.

It only took 50 years to sort it out.


8 January 2018















About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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