My Great Leap Packing light - for a move to live as an expat in Vietnam

Published on July 23rd, 2011


Packing Practice


Evidence of a budding “flash-packer”

With little more than 12 weeks til blast off, the time will no doubt soon begin to blur and I best start to get serious about just what goes, what stays, and what gets sold, given to charity or tossed out.

Normally when I travel for 3-6 weeks I pack only a small rolling backpack that holds just 24L.  But for moving lock, stock ‘n barrel – my electronics ALONE fill that pack (incl. my new 17″ laptop, my Asus netbook, the new DSLR camera, my little Lumix point ‘n shoot, plus the Kindle and the iPod Touch and portable speaker set – not to mention all the cords, mice, portable hard drive, chargers and batteries that go with ’em.)  So clearly I’m gonna need an additional backpack for clothes and other miscellany.

Clothing-wise, I’ve been lately very diligent about selling my better clothing discards on consignment at Funky Jane’s here in Seattle (I get 40% of what each item sells for, and I’ve already banked over $200 – which… could easily feed me for TWO MONTHS in Vietnam!) You can only bring in 12 items at a time and I’m generally only able to get up there but once each week. So now that we’re into summer, I need to seriously separate what clothes I’ll take, and what I need to tote up to Funky Jane’s over the coming weeks.

So today I waded through all my summer duds, setting aside my usual travel clothes kit: 1 long crinkle skirt, 2 pairs of capris, 1 pair of long pants plus a few T-shirts that I normally limit myself to for a short trip. But now we’re talkin’ MOVING PERMANENTLY overseas, plus I’ll surely need some “teaching” clothes, etc., so I dare say I best bring along a few more clothes than usual.


A girl’s gotta have sparkles, no?

Going through my closet, I tossed each item into a “for sure” pile, a “maybe” pile, else back on the rack set aside for Funky Jane’s. The “for sure”s will likely later be further whittled down (I tend to cull in stages as my trip departure draws nearer and the reality that it all has to go on my BACK kicks in.)  But for now, these include my usual travel standbys, plus I added a 2nd long skirt along w/ a 3rd (short black) skirt for teaching. Pants now include 2 capris, 1 long pants plus (and this is HIGHLY uncharacteristic for the TravelnLass) a pair of capri JEANS! Normally jeans loom far too heavy/hot for the off-the-beaten-path travel I do, but hey – we’re talkin’ LIVING in Asia, and a girl’s GOTTA have a pair of jeans, no? Also unheard of for me, I tossed in 2 cotton sun dresses (again, I figure I’ll need something a bit more respectable for teaching.) And for tops – I went a little crazy and lost count of the t-shirts, tank tops, blouses I tossed on the “for sure” pile.

I know, I know, it’s not like I can’t buy clothes in Vietnam (indeed, I understand most things are much cheaper there), but still…  Did I not mention…I’ll be LIVING abroad – for MONTHS, even YEARS???  And a girl has her favorites after all.  So I couldn’t help but toss in a few “fun” clothes (like my black mesh sleeveless top with the sparkly red star on the front,  and my favorite pink voile Asian t-shirt.)

And the good news?  It all fits into my new ($8 at the Goodwill) High Sierra rolling backpack (50L w/ a nifty zip-off front rucksack.)  All the clothes plus my lightweight tripod, toiletries, sleep sack, travel towel, binocs, etc. – yay!  No doubt there will be lots of tossing, adding and shuffling between the packs as my departure draws nearer.  But for now, at least I know I’m on the right track and will be able to tote it all to Vietnam without hiring my own personal trans-Pacific barge.


EVERYthing for life as an expat

The pack on the right in the pic is the smaller 25L pack (that I normally take sans the rolled fleece on top, plus a Katadyn water filter bottle.)  That now holds all my electronics.  While the new 50L pack on the left has the detachable rucksack on the front, and both have enclosed backpack straps and wheels.  The little one will go carry-on, while the larger pack will get checked to Saigon (yikes! checked baggage, another first for the TravelnLass!)

I must admit, the new pack looks HUGE to me and I honestly think taking so much is over-the-top.  But once I’m settled in my own place somewhere in Vietnam, I’m sure I’ll be glad I have a few more “luxuries”.

Tags: ,

About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

2 Responses to Packing Practice

  1. Ruth says:

    Wow you’re organised, testing it all in your bags already! Glad it all fits.

    I’d definitely attest to the fact you need more clothes than a normal trip – 3 teaching outfits is the minimum I’d recommend and then only if you’re prepared to do a little handwashing during the CELTA (bear in mind the heat and humidity) or if you’ll pay a little extra for the speedy 1 day laundry service instead of the standard 2 day. Note teaching clothes require shoulders to be covered (or use a cardigan/shrug to cover up – fine considering the A/C indoors), though slightly above the knee skirts/dresses are ok (in the city at least).

    Having a couple of tops that make you feel good and/or you can wear out to dinner etc are on the list of things you really appreciate when you’re settled for a while.

    Before I waffle on for too long, I just want to add, though you may already have this covered, that one thing to bring a lot of is underwear. Vietnamese women are a completely different shape and size, and shops with Western sizes tend to have more like Western prices, as well as being few in number. If you’re planning on staying out here for a long while, this is not an area to skimp!

    • says:

      @Ruth – thanks much for the tip on “shoulders…covered”. Though I anticipated that my “teach” clothes would need to be a bit more formal than my usual backpacking style, I didn’t realize that sleeveless would be a no-no. Yes, I’ll bring a light cardigan for those sundresses – thanks!

      Also, the lass that interviewed me said that there was an ILA “dress code”, but only mentioned “leather sandals are o.k., but no flip-flops.”
      (a bit surprising as I rather thought Southeast Asia was the mecca of flip-flops even/esp. for locals.)

      And thanks too for the tip on undies – I’ll be sure to tuck in plenty.

Back to Top ↑

Show Buttons
Hide me