Friday, September 25, 2015

My Packing Process

You thought I was done with posts about my time abroad, huh? Well, you were wrong! I've had this idea for quite a while, and decided it was finally time to realize it! It's kind of strange remembering all this stuff now, after having been back in the US for so long, but here goes nothing!

As I've been travelling so much in recent months and years, I've begun to pick up new travel and packing habits. It occurred to me that somebody might find these useful, so I decided to record my packing process for a specific trip and share some tips about it.

I first realized that I needed to revise my packing procedure during my first big trip outside of Ireland, to Copenhagen and Amsterdam. I brought a backpack and a very small rolling suitcase. As I packed I was really proud of how little I brought (the trip was a week long, after all) but out of the group I was travelling with I definitely had the most stuff. *sigh* So I decided to follow their example and figure out how to travel with less! Carrying even that much was frustrating for the style of travelling we were doing, walking A LOT and taking public transportation everywhere. I think the main thing you need to remember is: you never need as much as you think you will, and as long as you're travelling to a city you can buy almost anything once you get there!

I wanted this to be a really practical explanation, I've learned a lot the last few years moving back and forth from school and doing other travelling. Practicality is most important to me, as I think you'll see in these pictures. I didn't bring a lot of extra clothing, and I brought hardly anything in the way of makeup and cosmetics. Those things just aren't a priority for me, so packing lightly means leaving them behind.

These pictures are from my last trip while I was abroad (to Edinburgh, Scotland).

First, I gathered all the stuff I needed to pack, including the clothes I was planning on wearing during travelling. I like to set them aside before I pack, to make sure I have enough clean clothes and because it takes less time to get ready in the morning. This is especially helpful when you have a 6:30am flight (during my time abroad I became unfortunately familiar with how to get to the airport at 4:30am...)
I like to gather everything, then organize and pack it last

As I gather things I also write notes to myself about items that I can't pack until morning, so I don't forget them. I find this especially helpful for electronics chargers, which I usually use overnight, and my mouth-guard that I have to wear every night as well.
Yes, I even reminded myself about breakfast. Who knows
whether 4am Leah would have remembered?

Like I mentioned already, I find it helpful to set aside the clothes that I want to wear while travelling. Remember to wear layers! Especially in the UK and Ireland, the weather is unpredictable. I wore a t-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt and a sweatshirt just in case. Keep in mind that the weather will probably change throughout the day too, it was much colder when I left my apartment at 4:30am to catch the bus than it was at 2pm hiking up a cliff.

Obviously, remember all your important travel documents. I had this (admittedly dorky) little pouch I wore around my waist while travelling, it was essential for keeping my cash, ID and boarding passes handy and safe at the airport.

I don't regret using the fanny pack (like I said, I care more about practicality), but for the future I might try to find something that looks a little more attractive. That way it doesn't get in the way of nice pictures like the one below, and I would be more willing to wear it the whole trip rather than keeping it stuffed in my backpack like I usually did.
*sigh* I look like such a tourist with my fanny pack. This is the aforementioned cliff
that we climbed our very first day in Edinburgh.

This is all the clothing I brought with, not including the clothes I was planning to wear. Clothing isn't heavy, but it is definitely bulky. I elected to bring very practical clothing, and also as little as possible. I don't mind if I have to re-wear a few things for the convenience of having less to carry. This is before packing it.

And this is after! Vacuum bags work wonders. Everything in the previous picture is in that little bag that's now about the same size as my sandals. I have a few bags like this that don't require a vacuum to seal, you just zip the bag closed and then squeeze all the air out of it. I think this one is actually Ziploc brand. I bought mine at the AAA Travel Store and at The Container Store, although I'm sure you can probably find them other places as well. I've used mine SO much, they're definitely worth the investment if you travel a lot. You can reuse them several times, and they're not very expensive to begin with.

Here are all my toiletries and other little bits and pieces. Of course, if you're travelling with only a carry on, make sure all your liquids are small enough!
I gave up trying to rotate this picture. I think you get
the idea!

This is after I gathered them together. I love this bag that my brother gave me for holding this kind of stuff. The liquids are in a clear quart bag for airport security, and everything else I threw into the bag so it wasn't floating around in my backpack.

Finally, a few things that weren't strictly practical. I never travel without my journal and my camera, and Jet was my travel companion for my months abroad (he was also a gift from my brother!) Usually I would bring a book or something to occupy myself during the trip, but I decided against it this time to cut down on what I had to carry. Also, usually these shorter trips were so busy that in the evenings I didn't have energy to read anyway. I had my journal to write in, and I also had my phone with a few audio books and podcasts downloaded on it. I discovered that while I'm travelling I often prefer to listen to something instead of read. It's better if you tend to get motion sickness, and it also allows you to look out the window at the scenery while listening. I think sometimes I over-pack "entertainment" stuff, so I want to be more intentional in the future about what I'll actually use.

This is the final product of my efforts! Everything I pictured is inside the backpack, and the other pile is what I prepared to wear in the next morning during my travels.

Packing lightly was a necessity for me on these trips. We usually went straight from the airport to sight-seeing, and on the final day we also took our stuff with us when we checked out of the hostel in the morning. Often you can't leave your stuff at hostels before or after check in, and even if you can picking it up later takes extra time that could be spent doing something interesting instead. Obviously this isn't relevant for every trip, but packing lightly always makes things more simple, no matter the situation!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fall Semester Update

Well, yet again another school year has begun. Except this year it's the last time, maybe ever! I'm trying not to think about that too much.

Convocation is a very senior-y event where
we wear our graduation gowns and attend
a ceremony
As always, it's been an interesting blend of exhausting and exhilarating. Every year moving in and getting all my stuff to my dorm is a process. Overall move-in went well though, being a senior and having friends is great! One friend picked me up from the airport and dropped me off at my dorm, which is a big deal; in the past I've paid $20-30 for a ride or lugged all my stuff on trains and buses. Not fun. Then a few days later another friend with a car helped me retrieve some of my stuff from across campus. (Thanks Ashley and Katie!)

I still feel a little unorganized and strange about being back at Wellesley, and I'm having a bit of trouble getting back into being responsible with my homework. I had forgotten how busy my life is at Wellesley. I wasn't really involved in any extra-curriculars while I was abroad at Trinity, and my classes took up much less time. I'm hoping that soon I can have a better grasp of what's going on and start holding myself more accountable to get things done in a timely manner!

One thing that I have been doing pretty well at so far is getting up earlier. I have ALWAYS wished I were a morning person, and I've finally decided it's time to try and get into that habit. It wasn't so bad over the summer having to be at work at 8 every morning, so I don't know why its always so hard during the school year. So far I'm doing pretty well at getting up early enough to have a leisurely breakfast and time to get ready before class. Not every day, of course, but just establishing what I want to be my new normal has been helpful. I'm hoping to keep that up as I get busier, it really does make for a more pleasant start to the day.

So, an update on my majors and my classes for the fall! I don't know if anybody's necessarily interested in this, but I'm going to share anyway.

I am officially a Computer Science major, and have been since my sophomore year. I've known that I wanted to do that for a long time, and I intend to make that my career when I graduate. However, I decided last spring to declare a Classical Civilizations major also! (Classical Civilizations at Wellesley basically consists of an ancient language, in my case Latin, and Greek and Roman history courses.) It has been an interesting journey to making that decision, if you're curious feel free to ask me about it :) Hurray for Liberal Arts colleges!

And finally, my classes for this semester. As you can imagine, it's a very interesting and diverse group! For my Computer Science major I'm taking two required courses: Algorithms, and Languages and Automata (it's not really worth me explaining them any more than that...) For my Classical Civ major I am taking an advanced Latin class (it's called Roman Poems and Poetry Books) and a course on the Archaeology of the Biblical World. That one is actually a religion class, but since the Classics department is relatively small they are great at accepting credit from other departments. Both of those classes are very interesting, but also labor intensive for me. While technically I suppose I'm a humanities major now, I still don't consider myself a humanities person. I feel more at home among problem sets and lectures than papers, readings, and discussions. For I think the first time ever, all the classes I am taking this semester count towards my majors, so I feel good about that!

I guess I can't really consider it the beginning of the semester anymore after 3 weeks of classes, but I'm still getting into the swing of things and the summer weather doesn't help it feel like fall! There's a lot I'm looking forward to this year, and a lot I'm dreading, but I'm excited to see where the journey takes me.