The general rule when packing for any form of vacation or trip is to look out what you initially think you will need; fail to get it into your suitcase or backpack without bursting the zip; get frustrated and angry; re-pack about half of what you initially looked out; break down and cry; then, go away and realise that you didn’t need everything you brought with you in the first place. It’s amazing how things that start out as being ‘essentials’ soon become redundant when space-saving tactics get deployed.
Despite this universal process, however, it still startles me what some people lug around with them from place to place. Some people I’ve met whilst on the road have genuinely been caught carrying around things less useful than the rocks at the bottom of a military commando’s Bergen during a training exercise. From wooden elephant carvings that they’ve picked up for a haggled bargain in Asia; to the entire cosmetics and allergies counter at a drug store; to the type of cultural clothing that should be illegal for anyone but a local to wear, I’ve narrowed it down to the Top 4 ‘most weird shit’ I’ve seen people travelling with that has led me to question, “what the hell is in your backpack?”
I once entered a hostel dorm in Toronto, Canada to find an English lad kneeling down and ironing a flannel shirt which he’d laid out across the dusty hardwood floor.
“I didn’t realise that the reception here had such useful amenities,” I said to him. “Why aren’t you using their ironing board as well, though? The ground is filthy. You’ll need to wash that shirt again before you put it on.”
“Oh no,” he said, “I didn’t get this from reception. It’s mine.”
“Very funny,” I said, giving him a pat on the shoulder.
“No, he’s being serious,” said his friend, lying on a bed in the corner and watching the spectacle.
“You carry a fucking iron about with you?” I laughed.
“What’s wrong with that?” he asked. Looking up at me.
“Where to start?” I retorted.
He frowned, clearly butthurt.
Fake Breast Implant
In March 2017, I spent one month in Auckland, New Zealand drafting my latest book. Lazing about in bed one morning after a pub crawl, I was startled when a foreign object fell from the bunk above me and landed with a thud down the gap between my mattress and the wall. I reached down and picked it up. It was a squishy, round, lump just small enough to fit in the clasped palm of one of my large hands. I initially thought that it might have been some sort of new-age alarm clock, it had fallen from someone’s bed after all, but ruling this out after further inspection I then guessed that it must have been a stress ball, albeit a rather large one.
“Did I drop something?” said the gay Greek teenager above me. He’d arrived a few day’s previous but I’d yet to converse with him.
“Yeah, man,” I said handing him the stress ball with a miffed look on my face. “Are you feeling under pressure at the moment?”
“What do you mean?” he replied in broken English.
“Well, that’s a stress ball, right?”
“No, it’s a fake breast implant,” he laughed. “A chicken fillet.”
“I’m sorry if this is a stupid question,” I said, puzzled, “but what the hell is that doing in your rucksack?”
“One of my friends works in a clinic and gave me it as a going away present,” he explained like it was the most logical things ever.
“Well, it’s very unfair that you get to fall asleep on a tittie every night when I don’t,” I laughed. “You’re not even attracted to them for Christ’s sake.”
“Are you finished in the bathroom?” I asked the old Chinese guy who I was sharing a dorm room with during a trip to Fiji in February 2017.
“Give me a couple of minutes,” he replied. “I’m just waiting on my kettle to boil.”
“Sorry?” I said, thinking that something had got lost in translation. “Not the kitchen, the bathroom.”
“I know,” he said in a tone which made out that I was the moron. “There are no plug sockets next to my bed so I have to use the one next to the sink. It also means that I don’t risk spilling the hot water all over my stuff. I’ve had the kettle for a while and it’s got a few cracks in it.”
“You mean to say that you carry around a kettle with you everywhere you go?” I asked him as he set up a little table next to the side of his bed. “That’s dedication to ensuring that your coffee gets made just the way you like it every time.”
“Oh, no,” he said. “I don’t drink tea or coffee. It’s so that I can heat up my noodles. I have them every night.”
“Every night?” I quizzed, disgusted.
“Every night,” he confirmed, opening up his rucksack to reveal packets and packets of the instant pieces of shit that held the same nutritional values as sawdust. With that, the kettle clicked off and he went about preparing his dinner.
“”I’m done,” I laughed, locking the toilet door behind me, putting my arse cheeks on the seat and letting out a massive fart and shit combo. Bon appetite.
Large Childhood Teddy Bear
“Have you seen this?” I said to the French guy sprawled out on the opposing bunk in our cramped four-person dorm, picking up the giant teddy bear lying on the sheets of the bed above mine. “Who the hell has enough room to lug this stuffed thing around with them? It must belong to a teenager who is on their first trip away from home."
Like clockwork, the door to the room then opened and a brunette Russian girl in her mid-twenties came in.
“Is this yours I said?” caught red-handed holding her prized possession.
“It is,” she replied. “Would you care to put Lisa back where you found her.”
“Sorry,” I guiltily responded, putting the teddy bear back down with the delicacy of how one would handle a newborn baby. “Can I ask why you have brought it travelling, though? Has it been passed down in your family from mother to daughter, perhaps? Or does it carry a lot of sentimental value for other reasons?”
“Not at all,” she said, dumping her bag and turning to leave. “I just like to cuddle with it at night.”
“I didn’t realise that we were sharing a room with a virgin,” laughed the French guy as she closed the door behind her.