Once You Pack, You Never Go Back

If you read my first blog for Tan Your Mind, you’ll know that this is my first backpacking experience. Ever.

All my previous vacations have been five-star, all-inclusive resorts with bellhops and infinity pools. I have had many exciting, outdoor adventures during these vacations, but the day always ended with a fluffy king-sized bed and no mosquitoes to be found.

Fast-forward to a reality check. Sitting here, in Thailand, in our jungle bungalow (which I’ve affectionately named our “jungleow”), in a relatively remote farm in the little-visited Phrae province of Northern Thailand, I am starting to realize how much I actually like this style of travelling.

first time backpacker

Abra’s ready to get off the train with everything she brought. (Outpost / Michael Fraiman)

On this trip, I don’t have a suitcase with wheels, a hard-shell piece of luggage or a separate bag just for hair and makeup. I would usually be carting around enough stuff to supply a small village, but on this trip, less is more.

My biggest fear, before my first backpacking trip, was how I would organize all my stuff. As an obsessive-compulsive, A-type personality, I am a huge fan of totes, organization and colour coordination, which is why I was so relieved when I saw Osprey Packs was providing us with packing cubes for the journey. I confess, before this trip, I didn’t know something like these existed, but they’ve helped me compartmentalize and organize all my gear into specific categories and saved me a daily headache.

osprey packs packing cubes review

Osprey Packs’ packing cubes are a game-changer. (Outpost / Michael Fraiman)

I’ve securely nestled my mini shampoo bottles next to my body lotions; elsewhere I have all my socks and underwear stowed together. My document case protects my passport and money, while my garment bag keeps my shirts fresh and in order. In my old, bulky pieces of luggage, I’d throw everything (clean and dirty alike) into my luggage together: unfolded, wrinkled and impossible to find in a crunch.

The idea of zipping up just one pack each morning and throwing it on my back is much easier than keeping track of numerous different bags of all sizes, losing items in between and trying to haul them around while navigating stairs, elevators and bumpy terrain. Backpacking means convenience, of course, but it also makes travelling easier. I have grown fond of the minimalist approach of packing only what I truly need in a pack, wearing clothes and using items mindfully instead of wastefully each day.

first time backpacking story

Who wants to hike with a purse? (Outpost / Michael Fraiman)

And then there’s the purse. Sorry, purse, you’ve seen the last of the beach; hello day pack that zips off from my larger Osprey backpack. Gone are the days that my purse tips over during “take-off” and my body spray goes rolling to the back of the plane (which has actually happened to me); besides, exploring a new city or jungle with straps hanging off your shoulder, keeping one hand over it, is way less convenient.

There are parts of backpacking that I don’t love, of course, such as a new level of back sweat I’d never realized I could accumulate and the weight of the pack (which, okay, may be my fault… I could have packed lighter). That said, they’re small prices to pay for a new view of travelling, convenience and organization. Now that I’ve packed, I’m not going back.

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