I make lists and hang clothes appropriate for jungle, desert, capital city, or snow scene on a rail by my huge wooden packing chest made specially to fit a landing space and to take all my assorted cases. Basics I always take include a mini torch, swimsuit, zipped pack-flat extra suitcase, black padded rain jacket, toiletry bag complete with Swiss army knife, wax earplugs in an eighteenth century patch box - vital to block out the dawn chorus on safari and anything that goes bonk in the hotel night - and a champagne bung. Hotels sometimes kindly present a bottle of fizz and even I can't usually finish it in one go.
Travel writing, they say, provides a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget and my fairly classic high-street store clothes jazzed up with striking ethnic jewellery have to grace the Ritz or the commodore's table. Some clothes do double duty - I once wore a shortie lace nightie to the QE2 captain's cocktail party. Hating shopping, and with no time to buy en route, I try to be self sufficient and take everything I think I could need.
I always use soft-sided wheeled cases. Zipped sides can let in moisture. En route to Ethiopia, corrosive chemicals in the plane hold ate holes in the erogenous zones of my clothes - and Addis Ababa is not the spot for a quick fashion fix.
While I usually wear soft cardigan jacket, tunic shirt, and comfortable trousers for long flights, going to Antarctica in December, I wore a thick jacket, fisherman's sweater, shirt, cord trousers, gloves, scarf and apres- ski boots. Passing through Santiago in eighty degree temperatures, I stood out among the coolly clad locals.
Hand luggage contains cameras, film, spare batteries, several notebooks and writing blocks, favourite paperbacks kept for long trips, and emergency toiletries. I never take technology.
I find the carousel roulette of waiting for checked luggage to reappear, a reorientating limbo between the plane's artificial cocoon and the blast of reality outside the terminal doors. Occasionally luggage goes astray. In South Africa, staying at the Mount Nelson hotel, I was refused service at all the restaurants since I only had a travel stained t-shirt and jeans. So, wrapped in the hotel bathrobe, I lived off room service till my case turned up.
THIS IS THE LAST PACKED LIFEReuse content