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We’ve now been traveling for more than four years. From two checked suitcases each we graduated to one checked bag, with our carry-ons packed as tightly as possible. Now there’s always space left over. I still check a bag, though. Eight months is a long time in climate that ranges from hot and wet to cold and rainy. Eight months may be underestimating how long we’re gone this time, but that’s how long we plan to stay in New Zealand and Australia.

Even though I knew what I wanted to pack, it took me all week. It’s much harder to pack when you have more than you need in drawers and closets. Once you’re on the road it’s just a matter of rolling and folding and shoving it all back into the suitcase. In the guest room that became my staging area, I packed the guidebooks we’ve accumulated thus far (4), and a memoir on Australia.

Next, I packed the least crucial elements, my wetsuit and mask, because I really want to go snorkeling in Australia. I experimented with an alternative shoulder bag, but went back to my mini-backpack. Next came arts and crafts. Now that I make oddball jewelry out of things I find on the beach, I want to have a few tools and materials so that if I find something on the beach I can make stuff. After contemplating the giant mess spread across the studio (former lab space), I packed up hundreds of pieces of beach glass that I’ve accumulated, picking out a few pieces to work on in the short run. I set out a small zipper bag to hold tools, deciding that when it was full, no more tools would come along. By the third day I had stowed away my materials so they won’t be too dusty when I return. I have piles of beach glass, beads, watch parts, seashells, and plastic cowboy, Indian, and superheros that have come from beaches around the world.

In went multiple bottles of sunscreen, bug spray, and vitamins all non-negotiable, and the rest of day four was spent emptying out my travel accessories and restocking. I tried to minimize the things that I can purchase there (soap, shampoo, deodorant), and take things like over the counter pain relievers that can be very different. Once I decided on a flashlight and not a clip-on reading light, an extra chapstick of my favorite brand and backup dental floss, the day was over.

The next day I chose a cap rather than a straw hat, though one scarf rather than two hung on as a question until the last minute. Shoes are another hurdle. One pair has to be waterproof, while another has to be able to go into the water. Which should be the third pair? More sandals, sneakers, flats? I went with flats, common for most people, unusual for me (I usually go with two pairs of sandals. Truth is, I wanted to bring my newest shoes that I just bought in Colombia. They’re covered in mola-style fabric, really pretty. The bed was piling up with possible shirts and pants. The shoes were wrapped and stowed and that was it.

In the morning, I realized that it was really time to pack up. I started with two beach tops and two bathing suits. With one last evaluation, I went with two long sleeved button down shirts, one of which is 100% cotton, the other a built-in sunscreen shirt. Two long sleeved t-shirts because New Zealand is never warm, then short sleeved (2) and t-shirts (3), a sleeveless top, shorts, and capris. My travel slacks were set out to wear to Lima. My travel tunic and leggings went in the carry-on for travel day. Underwear goes in it’s place and I take six cotton hankies to cut down on Kleenex.

The final packing day was dedicated to electronics, making sure my tablet, phone, and laptop were charged, the cables packed. New batteries went in the flashlight, and I squeezed in the travel scrabble game. Paperwork to take included printing itineraries, copies of all important cards, and my passport, as well as storing copies on a jump drive to take along. I made back-ups of files from the past six months and left them on the storage device in our office in Peru, then spent a while tracking down our yellow-fever vaccination documents. I don’t think we’ll need them but you never know.

Last minute additions included a pair of insoles, flip-flops, and an alpaca sweater. I had room in my carry-on for some snacks and lunch on the road to Lima, a big bottle of water, and go-cup of coffee for the road. (I sent the cup back home with Carlos.) That’s how you spend a week packing for a long trip. By doing all my picking and choosing over a week, I managed to be ready to go promptly at 9 am on Saturday, when Carlos and I left for Lima. We were at the hotel by 1 pm, and he turned around for the trip back to Barranca. He would be home before sunset, the safest way to drive in Peru. Meanwhile, I would spend the night in Lima and head to my flight at 7 am on Sunday, packed and ready to go.