This is what I call a throw-away blog post, but I’ve been meaning to write down these little reminders and I might as well do it here. Maybe they’re obvious, and I think I’m talking mostly to myself, but they’re things I vowed while traveling never to forget again. (A lot of it is about packing.) In addition to the trip tips, there’s a triptych above.
1) Bring a hat! A packable, crushable one with a with a nice wide brim. I wear one all the time when I’m wandering around outside around here. Why did I suddenly think it was optional? Similarly, sunscreen. I’m sure no one but me would forget this, but since I did, I’m adding it to my list. It’s basic. Also basic: an all-purpose bandana and some gentle wet hand wipes, anti-bacterial or otherwise.
2) Carry a water bottle. The one time I forgot mine while traipsing around in a city, I was yearning for a sip, and then of course you end up having to buy water, and it’s overpriced and packed in one of those ubiquitous plastic bottles that are the scourge of the earth. If you always bring your own, even at the airport, you can empty it before you go through security, then refill it at a water fountain. Also, make sure you get a good one that seriously seals, or you risk a mini-disaster such as my daughter had, in which her bottle came slightly open and leaked all over the contents of her purse.
3) Light wool undergarments and tee shirts are your friends, and not so many pretty blouses and wardrobe changes. I thought I had packed very sparingly and it still turned out that I could have eliminated at least a third of what I brought. Err on the side of too little, rather than too much. It feels good to be unfettered.
4) I recommend a thin, light water-repellent rain jacket that folds down small enough to stash easily into a purse or day pack . I bought one before we left (at Monte’s urging) and it turned out to be a very good investment. Even lighter and more useful than an umbrella.
5) Speaking of purses, use the one big versatile purse that you’re used to. Inside, I had a removable but clipped-in pouch for passport, credit cards, and cash.
6) Don’t ever forget the little notebook and pen! Monte might disagree with me, but you can’t just rely on your cell phone to make notes and remember things. Sometimes the electronic devices are a barrier or distraction, less so than a subtle little scribble on a page. (It’s just my opinion, yes.) There will be many things you want to write down: the names of places and people, tidbits of information, phrases in the language you’re struggling to use, and the odd things people say all along the way. Yes, I love to collect random quotes as I travel. It’s fascinating. Found poetry sometimes.
7) Speaking of electronic devices, digital translators can be useful in certain contexts, but there is no substitute for diving in and trying to have an authentic conversation, mistakes and all, especially if you are lucky enough to be with an Italian speaker who is willing to make the effort with you.
8) Bring tea bags, individual little packets of instant coffee and dry oatmeal, chocolate bars, nuts. There are times when you’ll be grateful that you have these. Very convenient, and might save you a surprising amount of money. (I’m thinking especially of Norway here, more about that in a moment.) Also, Monte and I always carry a few Cliff bars or something like that, which we don’t enjoy, but they have nutritional value. We always say that if we break down and eat the Cliff bar, we know we were really bonking. (Apologies to Cliff bars and people who genuinely like them, and I know a few who do.)
9) Bring a supply of plastic bags, a few different sizes, but the small zip-lock quart ones are quite versatile. I know: plastic again, but this is a matter of use and re-use. There were so many times I wished I had one to help me get sorted out: for toilet articles, those wet wipes, snacks, trash while traveling, etc. (We finally broke down and bought a box in a supermarket in Norway. Yeah, Norway again. I can’t remember the exact conversion from kroners to dollars, but they were extremely pricey goods.)
10) On the subject of Norway, everyone warned us it was expensive, and it is. It’s also a beautiful and interesting country. At some point you just have to recalibrate and accept that you’re having a Norway experience and this is what it costs. Go for a walk in the white light of midnight. Skip dinner now and then. Split a small pizza and don’t compare it to the one you had in Naples. Buy bananas, sardines and sandwich items in the market. Pull out those nuts and Cliff bars and instant coffee packets. Splurge sometimes and enjoy yourself. When are you gonna be here again?