The Unicorn of Shoes: How to pack for six months of unknown

IMG_2827-0.JPGPacking for a six-month trip is a challenging task, doubly so when you are a person who hates to schlep stuff.  Like, hates it.  I have this vivid memory of trying to navigate from the Gare de Lyon to the Gare de Something Else in Paris after a cross-country, cross-Atlantic red-eye with all my gear for a summer in Russia.  I had two rolling Leviathan-esque suitcases of the old-school, Samsonite-with-a-leash variety filled with granola bars, books and jars of peanut butter (because I had it on accurate authority that there was no food in Russia in 1993).  They weighed at least 90 pounds each and their wheels were a tease, serving only to make you think the suitcase would roll casually behind you when in reality the bags simply shimmied precariously, throwing themselves on the ground at every sidewalk crack.  I hadn’t eaten since Houston so I had to drag my two albatross across the station to buy a salad which ended up covered in pickled corn (ah, France) and then back past an alarming array of skinheads to my platform.  In the end, a French soldier took pity on me and dragged one ball-and-chain to my train, getting only a damp smile in thanks.

So no schlepping.

My goal, which Eric is tolerating with an isn’t-she-adorable smile in place, is that we go with two carry-on sized rolling bags, two backpack-suitcases and four airline-approved “personal items.”  This is so, on the not-so-off-chance that we find ourselves with two puddles of children, Eric and I can handle the luggage ourselves.  Since the weather is mostly tropical, I can survive on some basics.  I’ve got four skirts/pants, a short stack of shirts, one sundress, a bathing suit, two light sweaters, and one full set of North Face high-performance mountain-climbing gear (only to be worn while climbing mountains, and on laundry day), all aimed at the indefinable sweet spot between “I am a homeless vagabond that no one would allow into a reasonable restaurant” and “I’m rich! MUG ME!”  And a credit card for replacing these when I’m tired of them, like I did when we landed in New Zealand six months into our year of backpacking, when the shop girl had to read the tag at my neck because I was wearing that new shirt out of the store and never seeing the old shirt again.

The biggest issue is shoes.  I need shoes for jungle treks, walking reefs, hiking Macchu Picchu, nine-mile city walks, playing futbol with Jack and attending dinner parties (once we make friends, which I assume might happen at some point).  It’s like searching for a unicorn.

I’ve resigned myself to requiring four separate pairs — trail runners (bam! hiking and running in one), Mary Jane water shoes (bam! coral reefs and long walks), a pair of nice Clarks sandals with a slight heel (bam! city walking and dinner parties) and flip flops (because as a San Diegan, I can’t legally travel without them).

It all seems to fit so far, but there aren’t any electronics yet, and the uncountable tangles of cords and chargers required to keep them working.  Alas, I can’t practice-pack those because the person in charge of procuring those items will likely complete his task the day before we leave. At which point my bag plan will collapse around me.

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