Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bringing It to the Beach

I still remember the first time I went to Boracay back in 1998; before the calming sound of the sea was drowned by house music and the palm trees outnumbered by advertising banners.

Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you that I’m a bonafide city dweller. I enjoy (and depend a lot on) the conveniences that modern urban life offers. Yes, I was looking forward to seeing the famed white sand beaches of Boracay (no one called it “Bora” then) but, I was admittedly more troubled that I may not have clean running water and electricity to take frequent showers and have the option to turn on the air condition if it got too hot.

Boracay then already had a pretty good night life reputation. And, since I’m not really a beach person (the last time I was in a beach before this was back in 1992 because it was a P.E. requirement) I was clueless as to what people wore when they partied on an island.
So, with all this going on in my head the night before my flight, I struggled to finish packing. And, when I finally finished at around 2 a.m., here’s what I thought I needed for 3 days in this tropical paradise:

- 2 pairs of swimming/board shorts – I figured I could wash and dry the first one I wore and wear it again on the third day

- 4 round neck t-shirts – one for each day plus a spare in case I got too sweaty and needed to change

- 3 collared sport shirts – one for each day

- 2 short sleeved polo shirts – for partying at night

- 3 pairs of walking shorts – one for each day. I didn’t think I needed a spare because I thought I could repeat wearing a used one in case I needed to change more than once for some reason. I couldn’t do this with a shirt because used shirts normally stink and get too wrinkled to be re-worn

- 2 pairs of boxers – for sleeping, and as spare underwear

- 2 white undershirts – for sleeping

- 1 pair of jeans – for partying at night

- 1 pair of khaki chinos – in case the place we would go to did not allow jeans (I told you I was clueless)

- 2 pairs of socks – for my rubber shoes

- 1 pair of rubber shoes – for long walks or outdoor activities

- rubber slip-ons – flip flops were really just pambahay then

- leather sandals – to wear after changing from swimming and for walking around outside the sandy areas

- 6 pairs of underwear – 3 for swimming, 3 for daily use

- 1 beach towel plus 1 regular bath towel

- my toiletry bag which had
> sun block
> a small bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap
> sachets of conditioner (my wife, who was then my girlfriend, told me this was indispensable so that your hair wouldn’t dry up and look nasty after swimming)
> razor and deodorant
> lip balm (your lips can get sunburned too, you know)
> toothbrush and a giant tube of toothpaste
> a nail clipper

- A first-aid kit for basic medicines and first-aid items (e.g. paracetamol, anti-diarrhea, anti-allergy, band-aid, iodine, cotton, cotton buds and alcohol)

- a flashlight and a Swiss knife

- my Discman – no iPods back then

- some junkfood – okay, it was A LOT of junkfood

and finally, my shades.

I had to stop myself from bringing a sleeping bag, just in case the beds weren’t clean. I put this beside my giant backpack (think Mt. Everest expedition) just in case I changed my mind in the morning.

Much to my surprise, though, Boracay was pretty civilized. The resort we stayed in had cable!
How much of the above did I really use -- maybe just 30%. The rest served as a (heavy) lesson in overpacking. I could have avoided bringing my house if I bothered to find out more about Boracay.

So, when planning for what to pack for your trip just remember the two Es of packing:

a) ENVIRONMENT – Check the weather. Where are you staying (e.g. hotel, resort, etc.)? Would they have the basic amenities (e.g. clean linen, towels, toiletries, etc.) so you can spare yourself from bringing these bulky items.

b) EVENT – What will you be doing? Who will you be with? How many days and nights will you be staying for? Are you going to do any outdoor activities? Will you be doing a lot of partying?
Now that I’ve cured myself from overpacking, there’s more space in my luggage to go overbuying.

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