I think most people, even if they haven’t come close to starting to pack, have at least glanced at the IES Master Packing List. If you’re like me, you looked at it weeks ago, and already have your suitcase with most of your things inside sitting on your bedroom floor. Such advance planning– am I just too excited to wait and a little obsessive compulsive? Sure. Am I also just really intimidated and a little bewildered by the sparseness of the packing list? Definitely.
If you’ve looked over the packing list, you’ll know what I’m talking about. 2-3 shirts, for three months of living abroad, seems absurdly little to bring. Even though they warn that most people over-pack and that closets are much smaller than in the United States, their recommendations seem below the minimum I’d consider bringing. Maybe, as I’ve thought, they suggest such few things because they know people will pack more anyways.
Or maybe, they really, truly, want us to pack so light.
This summer I travelled through the Lake District and Peak District of England for a month and a half on a travel fellowship, hiking and staying in hostels. I carried with me 25 pounds worth of stuff in a backpacking pack. I was worried that I’d be underprepared, but at the end of my trip I was thankful I’d brought so little, and even wished I’d left a few things at home.
While I’m still planning on bringing more then they recommend, I think their exhortations to pack light are good ones. Packing light makes sense logistically– your bags cost less, you can move them by yourself, all your stuff fits where you’ll be staying. But more than that, it establishes a meet-the-road-as-it-comes-to-you approach from the beginning, which I’ve learned is necessary when traveling. Not to say that I’m anywhere near a master– it’s been a steep learning curve, since I’m stubborn and like being in control.
The other positive side of packing light is that it leaves space in your suitcase for new things, which has unavoidable metaphoric undertones. “Pack light,” leave space for new experiences. It’s a motto to aim for, but one that’s easy to forget when you’re simply trying to decide between this and that beloved shirt. We’ll see how it goes.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Haley Stewart was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and is currently a Comparative Literature Major at Williams College in Massachusetts. She was lucky enough to be in a Spanish Immersion program from preschool thru high school, an experience which left her a fluent Spanish-speaker, a lover of Latin-American literature and an avid traveler. She's used her Spanish in many ways since, from teaching computer classes in Oaxaca, Mexico, to volunteering at an organization for low-paid farm workers in Oregon, to her classes on Spanish literature and history at Williams. Haley's most recent travel experience, a month and a half long trip to England on a travel fellowship from Williams, hiking alone through the beautiful Lake District in the footsteps of the Romantic poet Wordsworth, has left her even more excited to explore Granada. A lover of Federico Garcia Lorca for many years, Haley looks forward to not only walking, but living, in a city full of such poetry, music and magic.</span></p>