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Published: August 16th 2007
Travelling light has always been one of my biggest challenges. As I write, I am nervously glancing at two big cardboard boxes stuffed full with things I am intending to take on my trip. They are big and heavy. And they don't even include clothing yet. When I started planning this trip, I thought everything would be straight-forward: walking boots, two pairs of trousers, two t-shirts, two fleeces, jacket, you get the picture. But no, then you're supposed take a medical kit, homeopathic remedies, mosquito nets, sleeping bag, water bottle, contact lens solution, towels, and all the suddenly necessary items that well-meaning friends and family furnish you with: an inflatable sink (fab idea though!), plastic plate & cutlery, a washing line. And never mind the things you really want to take: journal, books, ipod, light yoga mat, peppermint tea..... I guess here I really have to make the distinction of what is necessary, and what is a luxury. And a lot of the stuff is probably based on 'what ifs' -- good to have but you probably won't really need it, unless you don't have it with you!
And this brings me onto the subject of equipment buying. I thought a while back, in my 'travel to third world countries naivety', that at my advanced age of 35 years, with a dodgy back and a bad case of vanity, a rucksack with wheels would be best. In theory, it's a fab idea, at least you can choose whether to carry the damn thing or whether to pull it. But of course, there's always a catch: the back system for these packs tend to be mediocre at best; don't fit right, and the wheels add quite a lot of weight. Now, what I want to know is, why can't anyone invent a backpack with wheels that has a good back system as well? Wouldn't that be the logical thing to do?
THEN, a little later, I found that Berghaus have invented a rucksack with wheels that does have a good back system, however, they stupidly neglected to add a pull-out handle to the top of the rucksack, which means you have to slouch down to pull the bag along on a flimsy little loop that isn't even padded. I'd like to know who came up with that wonderful idea.
So, after holding long and torturous sessions with my grand support team of wise - and very patient - women, driving shop staff crazy with my many questions and musings, and just ignoring the whole issue for a few weeks, I seem to have finally found a midway compromise. A very kind lady advised me of little fold-up aluminium trolleys with wheels that don't weigh much, and can be used to cart rucksacks around in urban areas. Sounds like the best of both worlds to me.
Then take the issue of walking boots and general outdoor clothing. If it's comfortable, it tends to be hideous with all the wrong colours; and the beautiful things either don't fit, or are totally impractical. Why can't anybody invent comfortable, functional things that are beautiful as well?
I know, I know, in the grand scheme of things none of this really matters. It's what my friend Kassandra calls 'Jammern auf hoechstem Niveau' (German for 'moaning on the highest plateau') and it's of course totally pointless and self-indulgent and all the rest of it, but it needs to be expressed and maybe it just serves to disguise my unconscious angst about more serious issues to do with this trip.
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