As I prepare to depart for Kazakhstan for a year, I am dealing with the myriad of issues that come with international air travel. For one, whereas in the past international travellers were allowed to take 70 lbs. (32 kg.) of luggage, effective August 15 we are only allowed to take one 50 lbs. (23 kg.) bag for free… at least on United Airlines flights. As someone leaving the country for nearly a year and headed to country where the weather supposedly drops to -40 in the winter I see this as a serious issue. I am left to decide which is more cost effective: 1) buying lots of clothing there or 2) paying $70 to take one additional 50 lb. bag. Considering I have no money, neither option is particularly desirable or feasible, although option (2) appears to be the lesser of the two evils. I should note that fifty pounds is also the weight allotment for domestic flights. This past summer when I flew from Philadelphia to Indianapolis my baggage was overweight by three pounds when it was stuffed with shorts and t-shirts. I only managed to avoid a fee by putting on a hoodie, shuffling a hardcover book from my suitcase to my carry-on, and tying a pair of sneakers to the outside of my carry-on. It wasn’t ideal but I could make it work for an eight-week summer program. It’s not going to be quite the same for a year in Kazakhstan.
Since I always like a challenge, I am writing and re-writing my packing list to minimize the amount of stuff of I am taking. For one, I am trying to keep in mind that my past experiences overseas have taught me that Americans have way too many clothes. From what I can tell, many people I have greatly admired abroad in various countries are able to get by on a couple very classy outfits that they wear several times a week. Another way I am cutting back is trying to be realistic about my running/exercise expectations and, therefore, the amount of related workout clothing I take with me. In addition, I am cutting out some luxury items I planned to bring like Aveeno products, protein powder and/or peanut butter, and books for leisure reading.
Why the protein powder/peanut butter you may ask… No I did not become a bodybuilder over the summer. I did however categorize myself as a vegetarian on my host family information form and I will need to ensure that I continue to get enough protein. I figured at least initially marketing myself as a vegetarian and then easing into some meats is much easier than explaining all my meat-eating idiosyncrasies in a foreign language right off the bat. In no specific order my weird meat eating preference include not eating lamb or mutton, not eating meat on bones (wings, rotisserie chickens, etc.) and not eating animal organs, fat or skin. I guess that doesn’t leave much, but I have survived for this long, so I guess I will make it, even without the PB and/or protein powder, for another year 🙂
Another random thing that will be in my luggage and I cannot do without is gifts for my host family. A couple of days ago Vera Bradley had a great sale and I attempted to stock up on a bunch of the zip-around wallets in the sale prints for my host sisters and mother. Of course, since I opted for their free shipping, it now looks like the packages are not even going to make it in time for my departure next week. I called VB and talked to their customer service today. They said not to cancel yet, but I am not optimistic. For my host father I have a Pitt T-shirt, however I might run over to mall and get him a tie or baseball cap too. I am not sure if he, as a grown man, will get much mileage out of a t-shirt. I am not really sure if these gifts are good enough, so I welcome any feedback that people have. Obviously I am restricted somewhat by the weight that any potential gift item would add to my baggage.
Finally, I just want to say that for the eighth consecutive year I will be relying on my jumbo-sized, bright yellow, wheeled LL Bean duffle bag as my main piece of luggage. These things are awesome! I haven’t gone away for any significant amount of time since 2003 without mine. I highly recommend this for anyone looking for good, durable and fairly inexpensive luggage.