Chapter 15: Pack It, Pack It Good

Uncle Jimmy!

Would you believe that I came to Europe to live for four months wearing only a large backpack?

OK, technically that is a lie. I also carried a smaller backpack with me for electronics. But basically, I crossed an ocean with literally just the clothes on my back.

On our previous trip, we both over-packed, and more than just a little. We were ignorant in the truest sense of the word, and didn’t know what we would need based on weather, side trips, and whatever we would find in Barcelona.

Now, before I describe my now, let me tell you about our learned mistakes of the past. Starting with shopping in Morocco.

When we first landed in Spain back in 2017, we each had a large carry-on, a “personal item”, and a single, shared large case that we stowed in the belly of the plane. All full to their brims. Well, in Morocco, we decided to shop. A lot. We bought a big carpet, two large tapestries, and many numerous ceramic do-dads. All of which required us to buy yet another large suitcase.

Now, had we just stayed in Barcelona, this might not have been a huge problem. But during the second half of the trip we were going to be nomadic and wander. It’s hard to do that carrying so much baggage around. Especially without the help of a camel. So we needed to ship stuff home.

We learned two things the hard way: it’s really damn expensive, and Spanish service can be really damn slow.

The expensive part is pretty straight forward. A seventy pound bag that is the size of a medium dorm refrigerator takes many euros to move across the sea. Many, many euros. Shipping felt as expensive as all the items we put into the package. So lesson number one, take into account the price of moving goods when buying them.

The second learned lesson was painful. We had arranged for the bag to be picked up at our apartment in Barcelona. It wasn’t. First time, they claimed that the address didn’t exist. The second time, it was a matter of timing, as in they couldn’t get to us before we left and flew to Vigo, Spain. Which meant we needed to absorb additional airline baggage fees to get it across the country. So there we were, with two very heavy and large bags (complete with McGuyvered rolling devices), two hefty backpacks, and two smaller personal bags each. Trying to get to the airport via subway, standing in numerous lines, and then schlepping everything to our new flat in Galicia. In a town, by the way, which was as hilly as San Francisco. There to try to get our shipping company to pick it up from another city.

First try … again with the “address doesn’t exist” statement. But finally, a small grumpy man found us and picked up the overloaded bag. Which we were sure we’d never see again, such was our mindset at the time.

Those lessons taught us to completely re-evaluate how we packed for this current trip. We each now have a single, larger backpack of the exact dimensions allowed by the carrier. With a maximum weight of 17 pounds. And we each also have a smaller backpack, limited to 4.4 pounds. And everything we brought with us fit inside the two. So check out them apples!

What I decided when packing back home was to only take things that (a) I could not easily purchase overseas, and (b) that packed in as tiny a space as possible. For instance, I found hiking pants that are incredibly thin and light. Almost weightless, yet super strong and almost stylish. Four of them take up the same space as a pair of normal jeans. Same thing with shirts and all of the other whatnot. Went small and limited the quantity. We do have a washing machine here after all. And money to shop.

Yes, there were many things that we really wanted with us, but couldn’t bring. Some for the apartment, most personal. But it’s incredible what you can find in local consignment shops. Items so inexpensive that we won’t find it difficult to donate or toss when we leave.

What I’ve found thus far, (and I can really only speak for myself), is that I haven’t found one moment of “crap, I really should have packed that”. Carrying those combined 21 pounds on my back through the airports and the streets was more than enough.

Now, part of my extravagance this trip was that I brought along a lot of photography equipment. Things I couldn’t have purchased here. My mirrorless camera body, two telephoto lenses, and two prime ones. Yea, I know. I’m not going to be published in National Geographic and I shouldn’t have brought so much, but this is something I really want to enjoy here in Europe. Serious photography. My camera setup last time was pretty rudimentary, and the results sadly showed. I want this trip to be captured as best as I can. Which means a few extra pounds of gear.

Bottom line is I think we/I did it right this time. I truly dislike baggage check-in lines, especially in Europe. And I despise feeling like a pack mule. So by only carrying just what I needed on my shoulders, well, it worked out kinda perfectly.

OK, more soon. Real, actual adventures. I promise! Stay tuned.

Love, Rick

LETTERS TO A DEAD UNCLE

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