Packing

Packing for this trip wasn’t too difficult. It’s always easier to pack for a trip where you’ll be in one place for a while. Had I been planning to backpack through Guatemala or elsewhere in Central America for six weeks, the weight and volume of my things would have been a larger concern. Still, I wanted to be able to carry everything fairly easily. So, I packed in my medium-sized North Face backpack – the one I’ve been traveling with for years now – and a duffel bag. I also brought along a smaller backpack (I picked it up at a thrift store) that’s perfect for day trips.

My clothes are good for layering, from a swimsuit and running clothes to a few long sleeve shirts and a heavier sweater. Xela is at 7,800 feet and it’s the rainy season, so the weather is cold (but not freezing) and a lot of water falls from the sky. Then there are toiletries and snacks – for the trips and for when I’m just tired of tortillas. I also brought a few notebooks and a Spanish dictionary and a phrasebook. Books I brought included Rigoberta Menchu’s autobiography (about Guatemala), the Bourne Supremacy, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (about the former Yugoslavia), In the Wake of the Plague (about Europe), and of course, Lonely Planet’s Guatemala guide book. At the bottom of my duffel bag is my epidemiology textbook, in case I get tired of studying Spanish and want some stats for a change.

The largest single item I packed is a used Dell laptop I picked up for $100 on Craigslist. I figure if it gets stolen, it’s no great loss, but it will allow me to write about my travels as I go. And if I get through the trip with it in one piece, I can sell it in Xela or Guatemala City or back in the states on Craiglist, likely for as much as I bought it for. It’s much nicer to write at a relaxed pace when I get the chance, save the documents to a tiny thumb drive I carry in my money pouch, and transfer it to a computer at an Internet café.

I’ve got two digital cameras – one a point-and-shoot that fits in a front pocket, the other a slightly nicer point-and-shoot with a more rounded profile and a decent zoom. I decided to leave the larger one at home for two reasons: the larger camera is more likely to get stolen since it’s harder to conceal by slipping into a pocket, and it eats up AA batteries at a steady clip.

As I travel, I keep a small notebook with me – it’s about 8 inches tall and 4 inches wide. It’s the perfect size to keep handy and jot down observations: the way the mist came over that mountain, the way the cobrador swings in the back of the chicken bus…

I finished packing, sewing up a few holes in my backpacks, and sending final emails at about 1:00 in the morning the night before my flight…

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06 2010

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