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Monday, December 17, 2012

Tips For Travelling Over Long Distances

I was packing my bags tonight. It was 11 years ago I arrived in New York on a freezing March day and the steam was billowing up from everything just like you see in the movies. New York for me is one of those fascinating cities where art and life coexist to the point that they meld into one another. The fire truck sirens begin to sound like hip hop, the 6th precinct police station looks uncannily like the set of NYPD Blue and there goes agent Gonzalez to get coffee. I can remember being held up at knife point in New York outside the loft I rented on the corner of Broome and Crosby. A black man helped me into my apartment as I was trying to open the door to carry inside a desktop computer. I thanked him and he walked away. Later he returned to the door and knocked. He asked if he could borrow a quarter and when I opened the door he put a knife to my stomach and told me to give him everything I had. Unfortunately for the chap, I had only 50 Australian dollars on me and at the time the exchange was only 2 to 1 - and he wasn't interested in my credit cards. The poor bugger just held up the wrong guy. Later I was told to present myself at the 6th precinct where a fella that was called O'Rourke (I mean, how do they make it just like the movies!!!) had a thick moustache and glasses and he coughed and splattered all over the table and accused me of knowing my attacker and that I was involved in some drug related debt. I won't tell you what he said to me after that, but it struck me as disagreeable. I was then asked to look at almost three thousand pictures of similar looking men to the description I gave on an old donkey of a computer using a 56kbps modem. Every one of the photos had captions like 'wanted for murder' or some such thing. It was really the first time I understood that interaction in the US between art and reality that seems surreal to someone who comes from a country which doesn't really have a similar melding dichotomy between the people and the stories they tell.

 .... Back to travelling tips.....Tonight I tried to recall what I wore and one thing sprung to mind, boots! There are so few times in the Australian winter in most of our cities where you need boots. Tonight I packed two pairs of R.M Williams riding boots (chelseas), one pair of Berluti Warhol's, no loafers, one pair of sneakers. I am keeping it light this time. I want to force myself to purchase something whilst I am over there. When it came to jackets I took a navy blue Corneliani jacket with a zippered waistcoat built in, one cream flannel evening jacket (the wool came from Will Boehlke at A Suitable Wardrobe if you ever saw his post about getting it made to order in Somerset, England), one big brown faux suede and faux fur lined jacket, one Harris Tweed jacket with suede lapel and mandarin collar. Pants wise I went for one pair of red wool, one blue birds eye wool, thermals and jeans. White jeans. I like them in the winter. I am totally not sure if I am unprepared or not, but one thing I do remember is this - no matter how light you pack, one or two items will be the majority of what you wear the entire trip. You will come back to them time and time again as your comfort clothes and bugger all the rest of them unless it's for something specific. All that jibber jabber aside, here are a couple of tips I have to offer for when I travel.

  1. Take a 6 point power pack so that one adapter will convert into 6 power points. Might look ridiculous in your bag but your girlfriend will thank you when she can blow dry whilst you charge your phone and hers.
  2. Take a shirt bag and use it as a wash bag.
  3. Use your old shoe bags as clothes bags as well as shoe bags. Okay, so you buy your expensive loafers and they come in nice little shoe bags with draw cords. These are the most ideal bags for stuffing underpants, socks, shoe horns, knick knacks and so on.
  4. Take a padded envelope for your bow ties, ties and pocket squares.
  5. Load and unload. It's always good to bring the bag up to full, then think about it, then pull stuff out. The very act is annoying and it makes you think 'I don't want to be doing this all the time, especially not with this item here....'
  6. Be sparing with your toilet. Honestly, if you are at a hotel, they usually have decent products in the bathroom. If you are staying with friends, they usually have ear buds. If you are travelling somewhere built up, whatever it is you need is best not packed but picked up or borrowed along the way.
  7. Pack for the flight from hell. That means whatever it is you are taking on the plane should take into account screaming babies, dry eyes, dehydration, body odour and, well, it must be said, no man should spend too much time in one set of underpants. You know what I mean. If you don't, well done for having super plumbing.
  8. Eat well on the aeroplane. It is the most shocking aspect of an international flight that altitude plus the crap they serve as food can make you look like a bloated fish at the other end. That being said, it gets so boring sometimes that that crap seems to be an oasis in a desert of boredom.
These little tips especially apply to poor old Europeans and Americans who are coming to Australia. We Australians are at least used to having to suck it up over long distances.

Good night.

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