Monday, October 22, 2012

Trial Run!

TJ and I recently returned from a week in Portland, Oregon. Originally we planned the trip to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, but with plans falling into place for our big adventure, we finally realized that this would also make a great practice trip. So, with the exception of the two days right around our actual anniversary, that's what we did - backpacks, hostels, lots of walking, and all.

The obvious place to start was making sure we had backpacks ready to go. This summer, we spent hours researching and trying on the different backpacks we were considering. The trying-on phase was fueled by the opening of a new REI right down the road from us, so a regular date night for us was hiking up and down the aisles of the store with backpacks full of beanbags for a couple hours. Yes, we're those people.

Ultimately, we settled on two backpacks that fit our needs and - more importantly - our bodies. I tried on almost every pack in the store before going back to the very first brand I tried. It was only in stock in a bright red men's pack, so I hunted down a women's pack that came in green and ordered it sight-unseen. Fortunately, it was love at first sight between me and the Deuter ACT Lite 45 + 10 SL.TJ had a much bigger selection and eventually went home with a grey Osprey Atmos 50 pack.

The verdict after traveling with them for a week? Two thumbs up. Traveling with a backpack is very different from traveling with a suitcase, but we survived the initial learning curve and embraced the benefits of this new kind of travel. We were even able to use both packs as carry-on luggage for our flights. The only exception was a small plane, where the attendants gate-checked all the larger-sized carry-on bags. We learned to buckle the waist belts backward across the pack and cinch down the shoulder straps to minimize the chances of a strap getting caught on something. It must have worked because our packs were safely waiting for us when we got off the plane at our destination. Hopefully we won't have to deal with that on the larger planes that usually handle international flights.

We'll definitely do a few things differently next time around. The top of our "lessons learned" list was a big "Bring fewer clothes!!" note. We thought we were packing light, but after a little bit of shopping in Portland, our packs were at capacity (Well, maybe. Our concept of "capacity" changed throughout the week.). While there are probably a few things we'll have trouble buying in Asia (shoes for our relatively large non-Asian feet come to mind), we'll have to remember that we can almost always buy more of something when we get there. We were also reminded that many hostels have men's restrooms and women's restrooms, which means that having a set of toiletries for TJ and a set for me makes more sense than we first thought. It'd be nice to cut back on weight by carrying one tube of toothpaste, for example, but it's not much fun to have to wait for the other person to get back before you can start getting ready.

I imagine our packing/traveling strategies will change drastically over the few months that we're on the move, if the things we learned over one week in a domestic city are any indication. Our goal is to avoid bringing too many things we don't need in order to leave room for the things we are sure to forget. Anything questionable gets put on the buy-when-we-get-there list!