Since returning from my TEFL Certification course in Costa Rica in mid-July, searching for teaching opportunities abroad had become my new full-time job. However, within one week I have gone from frustrated and unemployed to frantically preparing for my new position as a traveling English teacher in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary.
Packing strategy, which is not my strong suit, will be key for this position, requiring weekly travel to countless cities within four countries over four seasons. Fitting 10 months of professional, casual and active clothes, not to mention shoes, into one checked bag and a carry on proved to be a daunting task. But, a few painful elimination rounds later, my bags are packed and en route to Budapest, Hungary (along with me, of course).
This may have been my greatest packing challenge so far, but it’s not my first. Between a semester abroad and a few other lengthy trips, I’ve made note of some items that I shouldn’t have left behind. It didn’t help much with dilemmas like only having room for two pairs of jeans, but it was helpful to remind myself of items I longed for last time I lived out of a suitcase.
1. Watch – Carrying my iphone with me at all times and all places just for the sake of telling time proved to be stressful and just plain annoying. I was constantly afraid of it being stolen or lost, and I had to dig to the bottom of my bag whenever I wanted to check the time. This resulted in me constantly pestering the wise watch-wearers, whose ranks I have now joined.
2. Quick-Dry Backpacking or Camping Towel – Nothing is grosser than a mildewy towel, except for a mildewy towel that then needs to be put back in a suitcase with your clean clothes. My biggest mistake on my last trip to Costa Rica was packing just one regular towel. Anytime I traveled anywhere for the weekend or went to the beach, I had to use a t-shirt to dry off until I could laundry again because packing my damp towel for my return left it smelling like a dead animal. My new backpacking towel may not be as fluffy, but it’s much more practical.
3. Band-Aids and Antiseptic – Every trip I convince myself I won’t need them. Then the largest sightseeing-imposed blisters of all time pop up on my heels, or I become a gruesome casualty of the treacherous San Jose sidewalks. I like to be optimistic, however I feel it’s wise to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst in order to avoid bloody and embarrassing trips to the pharmacy.
4. Rain Boots – The only thing worse than wet towels may be wet feet on a cold day. I found out the hard way that rain boots aren’t always easy to find or cheap to buy, and certainly not cheap to ship. Two separate packages and two weeks after my first near-frostbite experience in Switzerland’s rainy February (thanks Mom!), my feet were finally dry. Unfortunately, my rain boots didn’t make the cut this time, and I am already feeling regret in the pit of my stomach and damp numbness in the end of my toes.
5. Budget Notebook – I’m all for living on the edge (that’s part of the reason I love to travel), but wondering whether or not I am about to overdraw my dwindling bank account at each ATM visit is not the thrill I’m looking for. When access of your balance is not always accessibly, it’s reassuring to have record of exactly how much cash you have to work with. An added bonus is that $6 impulse gelato purchase will be harder to make when you know you have to write it down later.
6. Deck of Cards – It is crazy how much transit and wait time you can pass with these 52 little pieces of paper. Also, I feel like the possessor of a deck of cards has a built in way to meet people. Because, really, who doesn’t love a good game of Euchre, War, or even Go Fish on a three hour train ride?
Even now, as I sit in the airport awaiting my transatlantic flight, I already have a mental list of all of the things I regret leaving at home. But really, if I wanted the comfort of having everything I’d ever need with me all of the time, I should have just stayed home. So here’s to learning to live with a little less for while, and also to Swiss Air letting me sneak on the plane with my quite oversized carry on…