Is it too late to change my mind?

Remember when I purchased a spur of the moment ticket to Venezuela?  Yeah, me too.  Now, just over a month later, I think to myself [almost daily] what the hell was I thinking?

I think it’s finally starting to set in that I am going to South America. I’ve spent several hours researching the kind of things I want to do.  Hiking and biking for sure.  Galapagos Islands?  Possibly?  City life in Buenos Aires–why not?  Seeing Angel Falls–that was the inspiration for clicking on ‘buy now’.  I still don’t have a return date.  I still think this may turn out to be an epic blunder, but the one thing for sure is that I know I am leaving on June 2. My last day of work is June 1 [making those last $$$ while I can], and a still have an, as of yet, new with tags backpack that contains nothing but air, similar to this one from REI [mine is UT orange]. 


I’m not going to list every item I plan to put in my backpack because we all know to pack socks and underwear, shirts and pants.  But what about that other stuff?  Do I need my laptop? Or cell phone.  Should I just buy paperbacks or move over to the digital Kindle.  How will I listen to music? These are the real important questions.

Post updated:  After several requests for a ‘packing list’, I did my best with this after I returned version.

These item convinced me I was a packing genius.

Packing cubes

I will never, ever not even for a day, travel without packing cubes again.  I discovered these babies in 2006 prior to my Italian adventures and these changed how I pack my bag now and forever more. Instead of rummaging through my bag  to find some random necessary item, it is quick and easy to find it as long as the cubes are organized in a way that makes sense to you. If you don’t have them believe me you need them.

Keen Sandals

I bought my first pair prior to leaving and have since gone through 2 other pair and I have another pair waiting to be broken in as soon as the current  pair bite the dust [it won’t be long].  These sandals are durable, waterproof, have a closed rubberized toe so that when you  I inevitably stub my toe on roots or cobblestones, it will only hurt my pride.

My first aid kit
I usually go overboard on packing my first aid kit and going to South America was certainly no exception.  However, the meds you can get in most countries are much much cheaper than in the US and they also have meds not available in the US that work amazingly well [See Magic Pills].  I also overstock on the supplies, but every single item in there is something I’ve used at least once.

Sleeping Sheet

I originally was going to buy a silk sleeping bag liner, but those things border on $100. Instead, I bought a leopard print queen size slinky microfiber flat sheet and sewed it up at the edges.  Yes, I used it for sleeping. I also used it for my Halloween costume, and then restitched it back into a sleeping sheet.

These items seriously made me question my sanity

Travel wash bag

The awkward size took up too much room. I thought the hook at the top would be practical but most places did not have somewhere for me to hang it. I carried it around for 16 long months because I do use it when I go hiking.

Expensive travel clothes

I was so excited at this big trip I went out and bought a bunch of fancy travel clothes. Patagonia pullover? Check. Silk base layers? Check. REI parka? Check. Fancy hiking boots?  Again, check. If you are an adventure traveler you may need this, and to some degree I am and will probably always be one but if you realize that hiking is not an activity for you, spend the $500 on something you truly enjoy.  You’ll come to hate lugging around heavy hiking boots, leave them under some hostel bed, and then wonder why you buy nice things.

All that aside, I did wear [and return home with] every single nice adventure clothing item I took.  I still wear the same parka 7 years later.  It’s good quality stuff and will  last a long time.  If you prefer high heels to hiking boots, buy them at home. You’ll get a lot more wear out of them.

Rain poncho

I had a hiking jacket and another waterproof windbreaker. Why I thought I needed a 99 cent poncho was beyond me. I finally put it in the trash around month 9 after living in the desert for 3 months. I saw some kids playing with it and thought ‘well, at least someone is using it.

Multi tool

I used the knife function frequently.  But the other tools never even saw the light of day. Next time I’ll just bring a knife.

Sewing Kit

Yes I had one. Yes, I even used it more than once, but every time I needed something sewn or patched and I was in a city, I just dropped it off  at a seamstress store and she fixed it for something like 50 cents much more quickly and with better quality than I could have done.

Mini flashlight on keychain

I had a head lamp, which was recommended by many and I used it quite a bit, even if just to enter dorm rooms at night.  I mainly used it on the beaches.  Nice to have. Small. Compact. But definitely not necessary. I never used the mini flash light on a key chain because I rarely had keys.


I didn’t go crazy with the electronics.  I took a small point and shoot camera [FujiFilm Z70; it’s waterproof], my Canon digital Rebel, 2 lenses + flash, a unlocked cell phone I got off e-bay, my Zune, a couple of flash drives to save photos to, and chargers for each.  It was still too much, but part of that was due to 2010. These days I take my iPhone, a small back-up camera, chargers and an emergency power source, and that’s it.

Backpacking Things

  • Thermarest compressible pillow
  • 0 degree sleeping bag
  • down vest [white]
  • waterproof parka [red]
  • Patagonia long sleeves fleece [black]
  • 1 pair of waterproof hiking pants
  • fleece gloves
  • ear wrap
  • light weight rain jacket
  • plastic poncho

Clothes + Shoes

  • Asolo Hiking Boots
  • Merrill Trail Walking Shoes
  • Asics tennis shoes
  • Keen Sandals
  • Clark’s Sandals
  • Flip-flops
  • 5 pairs of wool socks
  • 5 pairs of regular socks
  • 10 pairs of underwear
  • 5 bras/5 sports bras
  • 2 bathing suits
  • 8 ‘nicer’ shirts
  • 5 t shirts
  • 3 long-sleeve t-shirts
  • 1 pair fleece pants
  • 1 pair thermal underwear pants
  • 5 pairs of pants [mostly khakis]
  • 2 pair of zip-off pants
  • 2 skirts
  • 3 pair of shorts

This was way, way too much stuff.


  • travel brush/mirror
  • small make up kit
  • nail kit + polish [Why?]
  • toothbrush/toothpaste/floss
  • lotion
  • shampoo/conditioner
  • razor + refills
  • powder
  • deodorant
  • lip balm
  • soap
  • feminine hygiene products


  • washcloths x4 [did not need]
  • quick dry towel
  • extra shower flip flops [did not need]
  • swiss army knife
  • guide book [South America on a Shoestring]
  • 3 paperback books [for trading en route]
  • copies of passport/visas
  • snacks [good for the first few days]
  •  bucket style hat [for sun protection]
  • notebooks x2
  • travel journal
  • pens
  • first aid kit
  • head lamp
  • water bottle x2 [one would have been sufficient]
  • sewing kit
  • hand sanitizer

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