I’ve had a few people suggest I write a blog post on packing, logically thinking that after 12 years of living a bicontinental life, I’d have this one down pat. The truth is, I don’t.
I must say, I have adopted fairly good clothing management procedures. I tend to forget what hangs in my closet across the Atlantic after a two-month absence, so I keep a colourful spreadsheet with shouty bright green cells that state Enough t-shirts!! And, You need black socks!! I do my best to adhere to my notes-to-self, but let's face it, if I have a favourite T-shirt of the month, shouty green cells mean nothing to me, the T goes into the suitcase.
And then, there are the things of convenience that lie on one continental shore, but not the other. Plastic wrap for instance. The Dutch have yet to produce stretchy, supple, just-the-right-amount-of-cling, plastic wrap, so, a few yellow boxes of the Canadian stuff land in my eastward bound suitcase beside the T-shirts, leaving just enough room for a few kilos of coffee. Yes, they do sell coffee in the Netherlands, just not this coffee.
So, what travels westward with me? Well, there was that cast iron wok I brought to Canada a few years ago. Yes, really. (I have a shouty green cell on my spreadsheet that states Don’t bring cast iron!) I’ve found the best gluten-free flour in Europe, and who doesn’t have a few gluten-free friends that would appreciate a sack of flour? Canada Customs states that each traveler can bring 20 kilos of hard cheese. 20 kilos! Even I don’t bring 20 kilos, but you will find a few blocks of aged gouda stuffed into my boots and shoes.
Here is an abbreviated list of items that have travelled between my Dutch and my Canadian homes, often in more than one direction: Bicycles; inflatable kayaks; tents; a gas barbecue; several cellos; a dog; a camp kitchen; a plate set; various bicycle bags; large painted canvases; Ottolengi's cookbook collection; clothes drying racks; a camp toilet.
A few flights ago the airline dropped my lovely, bright-red, hard sided, easy-rolling suitcase, Everything inside was intact, but the suitcase was ruined. A sign? Time to change my packing patterns? I bought a state of the art carry-on and endeavoured to find some packing discipline. This happened about the same time that I got hooked on paddleboarding. (You can see where this is going, can’t you?) I acquired a 12-kilogram inflatable paddleboard that, when deflated, and all rolled up, can be stuffed into Reebok’s jumbo gear bag, the one used by ice-hockey goalies…
Alright. Here are my real packing tips. Men, this goes for you too. 1) Merino wool is your best friend. Merino will keep you cozy and warm in the winter, cool and comfortable in the summer, and it hand washes beautifully in a bucket of cold water. Merino doesn’t absorb body odour, it wicks away an absurd amount of moisture, and it serves as rather good insulation when you fall off your paddleboard on new-years day. Layer it up, and you are dressed for a hike up the mountains or styling for dinner out a local bistro. It’s pricey, but one merino T will do the job of several cotton T’s, so keep your eye on the big picture. 2) Pack eighty-percent black and white for mix and match power, and throw in one or two coloured items for pizzazz. 3) Pack sensible shoes. You’ll be walking, guaranteed. Pack only shoes that can take you a few kilometres. Black, white, or pizzazz.
That’s it – have fun, and remember, you can purchase toothpaste in every country.
Hover over the pictures (or choose landscape on mobile) for some images of black, white, merino and pizzazz.