The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

The Picket Fence

by Sherryanne De La Boise

The Ordeal of packing

It takes me several days of trying on outfits to pack. This includes several trips to the local GoodWill, as I have taken a vow not to purchase new clothing (other than underwear) and avoid manmade materials, which is a good excuse not to have to cram into yoga pants. Once, I took one of those you-can-tie-it-into-sixteen-outfits dresses. Ripped it the first wearing. That cut down the number two modest and 14 with embarrassingly high slits.

I have a loud plastic rolling suitcase, with the names of capitals emblazoned upon it. Noses turn up when it arrives at the nicest hotels, but no one ever tries to  mistakenly take it, like they have with my matched set.

Luggage restrictions are a suitcase weighing 50 pounds (five pounds of which are Halloween candy and instant Starbucks)plus a carry-on. I fill the carry-on with the research books I will need, weighting in excess of 50 pounds, a swimsuit (purchase of which would be a whole series of articles), camera equipment, change of underwear and night cream. Anything else can be acquired, if the checked luggage was lost. This proved to be not true on our expedition to the North Pole.

Gave a man on that trip my extra set of long underwear, two pairs of socks and a sweater after his well-intended wife had taken his suitcase to the wrong airport. By the time the mistake was realized, it was too late, and Santa's shops don't sell clothing.

My first trip to the far north of Canada, I had been forewarned that my bag would be weighed. Carryon was limited to 12 pounds, so I crammed all my books into my coat pockets and my purse. Never anticipated that they would put ME onto the scale. The look on the clerk's face was priceless, as I weighed in at 257 pounds.

Travelling to Raja Ampat requires six weeks of clothing along with scuba gear, which takes up too much room in the suitcase. Most divers will pay for an extra checked bag, but I cannot have a second one on the Indonesian and PNG flights. So, I am going to wear my BC (scuba vest) over my ankle length dress -yes a dress- over loose pants. It is very comfortable for sleeping in public. Plus, there is no culture that has problems with a woman in a long dress over pants. Although walking through immigration in a scuba vest was amusing.

On the advice of a friend who has been to Raja Ampat, I should not take my usual five pounds of Halloween candy bars. She advises to bring school supplies. I get lovely pencils, 16 pens that read  I Luv Chicago, 12 pull-back-and-let loose cars, and a dozen pretty hair ribbons to gift. Am a bit nervous about the collection, but when they are gone, I will have space for my aquisition of treasures to bring back.

In my opinion, the best gifts are jewelry (clean out the box of the junky stuff), candy bars, pull-back cars, shirts with logos, books with my name in them, card games, extra pairs of shoes and polaroid pictures. I bring an instant camera and give away the pictures just taken. Even nomads, who outdo Marie Kondo in lack of material possessions, like to have a picture.

I have learned to be careful about gifting. Had acquired too many things on the NorthEast passage trip (across the top of Russia in a German ship) and needed to give away my clothing to be able to close my suitcase. At the last few remote Siberian villages, as fast as I could give away items, the recipients arrived back with beautiful treasures to reciprocate. I was not going to start a Cold War by refusing generosity from Russians. But the suitcase would not close. My husband also had to wear several extra layers to get us home.

My husband is thrilled to be traveling to Raja Ampat, a place where no one knits. After 10 Icelandic sweaters, 3 pairs of muskox shorts from the Inuit in Greenland, 14 felted birds from Siberia and 10 Alpaca sweaters from Peru, he is sick of carting home knitted gifts.

The joke is on him, because the Chief of one of the tribes we visit will gift to me a seven foot long, eight inch wide bis totem pole (a canoe) to bring home (It has been residing in Mother's living room). Ended up purchasing a ski bag. The vessel we were travelling on had an onboard upholsterer who extended the ski bag to seven feet. Wrapped the scuba vest around the canoe as packing material. What would have cost me $1,000+ to get home (because it would be billed by weight and dimension) only cost $150. For the airlines, skis are a fixed rate.

The house is vacuumed, with fresh sheets and towels, and I am ready to leave town.