Author, Matthew Goodman was asked by Random House in the interview about his book, Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World:
RHRC: Nellie Bly carried only a single handbag [KB: carpetbag, not handbag at least not by today’s definition – think Mary Poppins] for her trip around the world. How would you pack for such a trip? What would you consider the essentials to be brought along?
As a prompt, I posed the following question and promised an answer by July 10th:
How would you answer the question?
I apologize for missing my self-imposed (but publicly shared) deadline of July 10th by five days. In actuality, on July 10th, I was unpacking from a quick overnight for my niece’s graduation and then repacking for a retreat weekend that I am was enjoying this past weekend. However, here is my answer to Random House’s question of Mr. Goodman:
Using modern standards, I’d take a carry-on size suitcase with wheels that turn in all directions. I think the carry-on size is about the same as Nellie Bly’s carpetbag.
I would also need some kind of a small day bag or pocketbook with a crossbody strap to keep on my person with money and documents as well as my cell phone.
Nelli Bly didn’t just jump on a steamer and go. While she may not have needed a passport or visa or vaccinations, she and her team gave her an itinerary. It was not exactly spontaneous.
My carry-on suitcase is already an advantage over Nellie’s soft-sided carpetbag. It glides easily on its four roller blade wheels and because of that, I cn make it heavier than I might if it was in a carrying bag. However, since I’d still need ot lift it over curbs and into overhead bins, its weight needs to be reasonable; on the lower end even, especially if I want to buy things abroad. I’m partial to scarves, pins, and postcards, which are quite small and take up little space, but preparation is everything for any size journey, big or small, long or short.
I’ve also planned this excursion based on unlimited fund, meaning that I’ll have access to some kind of communication device, smartphone or satellite, whichever proves most reliable. Internet access for information, Instagramming, and blogging, and writing, of course, in journals or as notes for my book. There’s always a book. My smartphone will have maps and itinerary confirmations, emergency contacts (backed up with paper copies), and whatever modern world information and resources are necessary.
What are my essentials to pack?
How long will I be away? Will I need to dress up? Are there any cultural dress codes that I need to be aware of? Is there anything I should avoid wearing?
Let’s assume, instead of Nellie’s three months, I’ll travel for three weeks using a combination of plane, train, and public transportation. Since I don’t believe in disposable clothes, I’ll have to account for washing. Most hotels and hostels have washing facilities, and since this is 2019, I can buy washing supplies as I go, and if they’re too cumbersome to carry, I can leave them in the public space for the next person. I can also wear some items of clothing more than once between washings, but I will need a bag to keep the dirty laundry in while also keeping it away from the clean. I don’t normally go in for shoe bags, but if I have more than one pair of shoes to travel with, they will need a clean space to be packed in, so I’ll need one shoe bag per pair of shoes: dress shoes and sandals if needed; I’ll wear my sneakers daily (just like I do every day when I’m home).
I think four or five days worth of clothes that can be mixed and matched and swapped out to create other different looking outfits. I’d bring about seven days of underwear and socks. For me, two bras would be enough plus one to wear. This of course, depends on how hot it gets. It may just necessitate more frequent washing. Layers are essential: cotton t-shirt, 3/4 or long sleeve overshirt, lightweight cardigan sweater, and a foldable jacket if needed. This can remain in the front pocket of the carry-on for when it’s needed. When we went to Ireland in 2017, my daughter packed all shorts since it was August despite my telling her it would not be the same 90 degree temperature it was in our home state. She was freezing when the rain came down and the wind blew. My advice: check out the average temperature and weather expectations of anywhere you’re planning on traveling to.
For toiletries, the simpler, the better: Deodorant, q-tips, hairbrush (if I don’t bring it for my short short hair, I will need it desperately, and it doesn’t take up that much space), feminine hygiene products, hand lotion, Tylenol, and of course, my medications – enough for the entire trip (with copies of my prescriptions in my travel document case).
Chargers for all of my electronics, including investing in a solar charger just in case I’m in a place that has no electricity. I wouldn’t be planning on it, but you never know. I’d also have international converters/adapters. My essential electronics include my smartphone, Kindle Fire, wireless earphones, camera. My essential non-electronics include a journal and supply of pens as well as my sketchbook and mechanical pencil. I don’t think I’d carry my colored pencils. I’ve found that when I’ve brought them, they sit in the bag. I can sketch without them and write down the colors to use later on, kind of like a paint by number.
Definitely umbrella and sunglasses. A neck pillow (if there’s room enough) and an eye mask for sleeping on the train. I like to bring my own tea. Obviously some countries do tea extremely well (United Kingdom, Ireland, India, China), but for those other destinations and train station cafeterias, I prefer my own. I also like to have a scarf with me. It’s good for dressing up an outfit, covering a stain, rolling up as a pillow, and curling up under as a blanket if it’s too cold as all transports tend to be.
As I come to the end, I feel as though I’ve forgotten something. I must have forgotten something. Please remind me in the comments of what I have forgotten or what you’d bring in place of my listings or in addition to – I’d love to update my plans!