Packing For Heat

28 Jan 2008

My bag weighs less than I do, which is a nice change.

In fact, I can lift it with the little finger of my left hand. I cannot shake the feeling that I've forgotten multiple vitally important objects. Even repeating "I have my passport and credit card, and nothing else is a showstopper" isn't enough to reassure myself.

I haven't drilled holes in my toothbrush, but only because I didn't have a drill. Everything else is optimized, particularly the geek gear. I'm not even going to Pantip this time; everything I can actually use, I own.

Apart from the last-minute addition of the Jesus Shirt, every item of clothing I'm carrying is made of quickdry technical polyester. This stuff is expensive - I'm not over paying $50 per pair of underpants, and $120 for a shirt - but it's worth the money, and it's absolutely impossible to get out here. The best place in the world to buy travel gear, based on my limited but ever-expanding survey, is Rundle Street, Adelaide, South Australia. I balked at the prices before our initial bailout; I wish I hadn't.

I'm developing an appreciation for classics and instructive texts, because they take me longer to read, thereby providing more hours-per-kilogram. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance nearly took me forever; I'm simply not convinced that it has anything useful to say. It's perhaps missing the point to criticise philosophy by saying that it's not useful - one could say the same thing about any field of human endeavour not actually concerned with tractor design - but this doesn't mean anything. It's marketdroid speak for another age. Like religious texts and song lyrics, it's so amorphous that anything you take away from it, you actually brought with you in the first place.

The book's afterword hints that even the author knows this. The book is a "culture-bearer"; it doesn't tell you where to go, it tells you where you're already going. And it was written twenty years ago, in America. No wonder my reaction to the bits that actually purported to be useful was, "Duh".

So if it hadn't been an ebook, it would have been an easy choice to ditch it. I did have to make some harder choices:

Left: Makes me look like a drug dealer

Right: Makes me look like a terrorist

Winner: Left

Right: Makes me look respectable

Left: Makes me look like Jesus

Winner: Left

We didn't just load the backpacks, either - we packed all our stuff into suitcases and garbage bags, and stashed it in corners of the flat. We're subletting it while we're away. It was almost exactly like moving out, complete with the last-minute rush and the tangled chain of dependencies.

Perhaps it's that purging of material goods that makes this trip feel so much like the first one. We're staying in the same guesthouse, drinking at the same coffeeshop, and both of us are finding the lines of our memories blurring in a not-altogether-pleasant way. If IÂ squint IÂ can see myself standing in the corner, wearing a battered blaze-orange singlet and getting shocked by the third internet machine, the one with the faulty ground connection.

The jetlag doesn't help; last time we did this, it didn't start with a redeye flight and a nine-hour time difference. Still, at least I'm remembering my Thai.