Saturday, January 22, 2011

Insights of a newbie

One of the lessons I've learned when becoming a good backpacker, is what to bring and what to leave home. Like I said before, when I first got to Africa I was carrying a 70lbs backpack, and had a "smaller" pack weighing 20lbs, that I used for a carry-on during flights, and for walking around town later. I really hated life while carrying those packs, plus my fishing pole, through the airports and to where ever I was going. When I was packing at home I told myself that I was smart, and only bringing the essentials. I laugh at that now. Who needs 5 pairs of shirts and 5 shorts in Africa? I even brought a pair of long pants, just in case it got cold. Other useless stuff included a big hoodie,( I only needed my light rain coat), a blanket, large amounts of soap and shampoo, and tons of other stuff that I can't think of right now. As of now, Both of my backpacks have been down sized, and the smaller one can fold up and go into the bigger one. I have all of 3 shirts, and 2 pairs of short plus one for swimming, A much smaller, thinner blanket, more like a sheet, sandals, and a pair of shoes that I brought, but are so far unused, and will probably be traded for nicer sandals, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray, and then a small pack that goes inside my main bag, that carries the odds and ends like extra contacts and tooth paste and such. This might not seem like much, but I have wanted, well needed, for nothing. Well nothing that is but a steri-pen. I was told to get one before I left, so I could sanitize any water, but they're being about $80, I thought I could go without. I've spent that much already on bottled water. I also get tired a lot less often when backpacking around now, and that saves on taxis and stuff, when I can just walk there.
Things that I think are essentials, but really aren't, include my small compact laptop that I use to blog and save pictures ect, and my camera. I feel like a dumb tourist when I use either of them in public places, like I'm trying to show people how much of a rich American I am, considering no one else around has them, but I just can't help it. The compromise is that I don't carry around either of them on a regular bases, resulting in far fewer photos than the usual tourist. There's been many times that I wished I had my camera though. On the other hand, today I met an old guy that loved that I was a backpacker like him, but didn't understand why me and a few others on the boat would go grab our cameras and take tons of pictures every time the occasion called for it. He asked why pictures were so important to me, and all I could say was that I wanted to show people at home what I was seeing. He didn't really understand that either, saying that I was here for myself, not anyone else, and if they wanted to see Malawi, my friends could either get here or turn on the discovery channel. "You got your memory and stories don't you?" Can't really argue with that.

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