It’s summer vacation for many, and many of those go on actual vacations. I can’t be the only one who overpacks. I know I’m not. I’m certain that we will continue to overpack, and maybe this list will help you identify what some of your essentials are. If your essentials are different than mine, please share them in the comments.
Check out these two links for other travel essentials:
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!
Attending the dedication and unveiling of this new statue was an incredibly moving and surprisingly learning experience. I thought I knew who Harriet Tubman was and her place in history, but in listening to the speakers, the experts in African-American history and the history of Harriet Tubman in particular, I was more than a little surprised at how insufficient my knowledge of Harriet Tubman was. My knowledge was merely on the periphery, and lacked a more indepth substance of her life and who she really was. I was pleased to have had the opportunity to impart this new found information on someone at the statue the following day.
Unless we’ve taken electives in high school or college that focus on the African-American experience, much of this substance is missing. I knew the basics. My daughter is currently studying for her seventh grade finals which include the Civil War, and I don’t think that Harriet Tubman is included much beyond those bare facts that I remembered. Her knowledge (and mine prior to this event) could fit into a thimble.
This would be a travesty in any study on the plight of the slaves, but it is even more so in my home state of New York, where Harriet Tubman eventually made her home.
Put simply, her life was a miracle. She was born on a Maryland plantation where her parents were slaves and where she was forced to work as well as being loaned out. She was named Araminta and called Minty. He didn’t change her name to Harriet until later on in her life, naming herself after her mother.
She was hit on the head by a large object by a slave owner in town. She was unconscious and bleeding, and it is believed that she sustained a concussion. From that time on, she would involuntarily fall asleep at all sorts of unpredictable times. She also had dreams and visions that she took as signs from G-d, calling them revelations. He guided her and she her people to the promised land of the North. She was often referred to as Moses because of her embracing of the Bible’s Exodus story.
She was illiterate, and never learned to read or write. I think that her statute outside a public library is such a testament to how far you can come and who you can be when you use whatever skills you have.
She made thirteen trips back and forth to get slaves north, her final rescue in 1860. Because of the Fugitive Slave Act, she brought the slaves in her charge including her parents further north to Canada, to St. Catherine’s where they lived for a time but found it too cold.
One of the things I didn’t know was her role in the Civil War after her time with the Underground Railroad. She was a cook, a nurse, scout and a spy. She carried a pistol. She guided a raid that liberated seven hundred slaves at Combahee Ferry, and that was after helping John Brown plan and recruit for his Harpers Ferry raid. Despite her service for the Union Army, she didn’t receive a government pension until 1899. She was also involved in women’s suffrage with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
She was unstoppable.
William Seward, in addition to buying Alaska, was the governor of New York and the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln. On the night of Lincoln’s assassination, he was also attacked as part of the same plot, and stabbed several times, but survived the attempted assassination and brutal assault.
He was an early abolitionist and provided monies for their works including the Stephen and Harriet Myers home in Albany, NY.
He and Harriet Tubman became close friends. Seward sold Harriet land in Auburn, New York where she settled and moved her parents there when it was relatively safe and St. Catherine’s became too cold. I’m not sure they found the Upstate New York climate much warmer than southern Canada. The land she owned became a refuge for her family and other former slaves. She sold some of it for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and founded a home for the aged for African-Americans. She lived there until her death in 1913. She was buried in Auburn with semi-military honors.
She and Seward had become so close that she trusted he and his family to care for her niece while she continued her work as conductor on the Underground Railroad and her Union Army service, although the girl may have actually been Harriet’s daughter.
It was this friendship that formed the inspiration for the statue at the Schenectady Public Library.
My passport expired on May 31st. My passport lapsed once before, but other than that very brief time, I have had a passport since approximately 1986. I remember checking it’s validity when President George H.W. Bush tapped Dan Quayle to be his Vice President. Remember potatoe? I thought we could not get anyone stupider to run our government, and then the Republicans in 2015 said, “Hold my beer!”
In looking back at my twenty-one year old self, a mere child compared to the knowledge I hold now, it was epically short-sighted and judgmental, especially towards VP Quayle. That’s not to say that I’m no longer judgmental. I do try to be a bit more even-handed in my judgment calls and personal opinions on people in the public sphere. In looking back on Dan Quayle, he wasn’t a terrible Vice President. He was non-descript. I was just out of college when he and Bush were elected, and despite my working for the federal government I really didn’t have a whole lot of attention spent towards the upper levels of the Executive Branch.
That continued for quite some time. Despite each of the following Presidents’ difficulty and shortcomings, I slept well. I trusted what was in their hearts in spite of the disapproval of some policies by them and the Congresses that opposed them.
Now, we have a malignant narcissist running our country into the ground. I’m not going to get into the legalities or the politics of impeachment or armchair psychological diagnosis of dementia or any other possible cognitive or personality disorder. We do know that anything can happen because of the President’s lack of knowledge on many issues and his pettiness and impulsiveness and I live each day in fear for myself, but moreso for my children.
However, other than the security of an escapist sense of protection; a shield against the unknown and the rising anxiety, not only in me, but in the country, the expiration of my passport is a cryptic feeling; not bittersweet, not unambiguous, a little sad, a little motivating to get it renewed, a little feeling of captivity; of being a prisoner in my own land. I’m stuck.
Now, in a country the size of the United States it’s not as though I’m trapped in a 10×10 cell or even a two acre plot of land. I have the entire expanse of the width of the North American continent, so there is definitely a bit of privilege slipping out into my bluster.
We’re planning a family vacation, and with one child already on his own, I’m not sure how many more of these will be available to us. We really love spending time with our kids, and I miss them when they’re off with their friends.
One of the places on our list of possible destinations is Toronto, which is closer to us than many of our states.
I need a passport to get there, to cross the border into Canada. It has never felt more like a foreign country than it does now. I traveled to Canada many, many times as a child and young adult. We had (and continue to have) family there; my grandfather and his family were from Toronto and I have many cousins still living there. For a time, I had considered moving there to go to college, but that didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. I certainly wouldn’t have needed a passport back then. Even though we are not planning on seeing family during this trip, Canada, and especially Toronto and Niagara Falls still feel like going home. While so many things change, the awe of being a tiny part of this foreign land is like breathing new air.
So here I sit, contemplating a haircut, a special outfit for my photo, and popping into the post office to get a renewal application, and then sending it in as soon as possible. I do know that whether or not I use my passport or if I just carry it in my purse, it is the freedom that it grants that lets my heart rest easy. And gives peace of mind. And perhaps, one day will lead to adventure again.
Earlier in the month our family was having some difficulty deciding on a vacation destination. Our original plan was to take nine to ten days, but our son couldn’t get the first day off (or approved yet) and a very close friend is getting married during the second weekend. Consequently, our time away was cut down to five days. That’s still a decent chunk of time, and we are very grateful to be able to take our kids somwhere special.
I made a Facebook post solicitating suggestions from my friends. I gave them three criteria:
1. Nothing south of the Mason-Dixon Line
2. Nothing west of the Mississippi
3. Able to enjoy ourselves for 5 days with no air travel.
I’m sharing what places were suggested along with some links to the area tourism and travel guides.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Nashville and/or Memphis, Tennessee
Ontario, Canada – Toronto and Niagara Falls (or Niagara Falls, NY)
General Travel Info
Prompt: Author, Matthew Goodman was asked this by Random House in the interview about his book, Ninety Days….
How would you answer the question?
RHRC: Nellie Bly carried only a single handbag for her trip around the world. How would you pack for such a trip? What would you consider the essentials to be brought along?
My answer follows, and as with many of my writings, it veered off the very specific topic of what essentials should be considered to bring along. I may give this a go as part of my summer writing. It would be nice to see if I can stick to a limited topic and a deadline, so lets’s give it a deadline of July 10th. Sound good? It must be; I just felt my anxiety do a little somersault.
I’ve traveled alone only a handful of times, and in those times, only once was I not meeting someone else or staying in somewhat familiar surroundings. That one time was the adventure of a lifetime, and I learned a lot about myself and my abilities. Unfortunately, packing was not one of those things that improved over time. I always take more than I need and more than I should.
Since that first whirlwind solo trip across the Atlantic to meet my college roommate, I continue to keep a list during and after each trip of all the things I brought that I did not use as well as all of the things I forgot. The former list is always much longer than the latter.