Posts Tagged ‘packing’

I feel like enough time has gone by for me to finally talk about this. People always seem to ask “what’s the worst thing that happened when you travel?” Expecting to hear a story like this (or of being poorly kidnapped).

In reality- more bad stuff has happened to me in the states/Canada (email hacked, credit card fraud, car broken into, held at needle-point, assault, sexual harassment, etc) than when traveling. I guess we’re programmed to ignore these facts and just believe that the rest of the world is far more scary than our own. Probably because it’s unknown and unfamiliar.

I’ll get back to that.

I got mugged because I was careless and stupid.

Let me back up.

  1. I was walking up an unpopulated hill in daylight (normally- this is fine),
  2. listening to Ted talks on my phone. (Again- normally this is fine)
  3. but I was trying to pick one I hadn’t heard before- therefore- I was paying more attention to my phone than to what was around me (fatal mistake).

I didn’t even see this hooded figure come up next to me. He tapped me on the shoulder and said something about money. I ignored him, thinking he was a homeless person and went to walk away until he grabbed me and stuck a knife in my side and uttered “don’t scream”.

You know that bit in your lizard brain that tells you to fight, flight or freeze? Mine must be malfunctioning because I thought all 3 at the same time.

He got impatient and grunted¬†“Give me money.”

The thoughts that raced through my head were like a channel-flipper.

  • “What should I do?”
  • “Seriously? This is happening?”
  • “Eh- I’ll just reboot my day back to the last save point.”
  • “Oh crap……. This isn’t a dream”
  • “I should kick him in the balls.” (This wasn’t a possibility from where he was physically standing).
  • “Maybe I should just do what they always do- and give him everything.”
  • “Wait- if I do that, I’ll end up with nothing. And besides- that didn’t work out for Batman’s parents.”
  • “There’s no way this guy is getting everything. Not without a fight.”
  • “He’s looking at me funny…. I should probably do something.”

I had my book bag and phone. On the back of my phone was my my-city bus card (which, by the way, in Cape Town is a master card. So, technically, it’s money.) I gave that to him. He threw that down to the ground and grabbed my phone…. MY PRECIOUS!

To most people it’s just an out of date iPhone. To me it is my camera, my microphone, my journal, my budget notes, my translator, my itinerary… And was it backed up? No. Of course not. That would be responsible……….

(Another lesson learned… Moving on.)

Then he wanted my bag as well.

Here’s where it gets complicated. My brain was saying “LN, you always just give them everything. It’s ok. Nothing is worth your life.” Except my passport, cards, first aid kit and journal was all in that bag! Ok- the first aid kit is replaceable but the rest wasn’t! Not easily! My hand-written journal had all my notes from the past month in it. I hadn’t gotten around to transposing it to my google-drive file (super slow Internet…). Besides- I have almost 95 stamps in that passport! Do you know how much of a bitch it is to get your passport replaced?!? Especially after 9/11?!?

Believe me- it’s a pain. And if you have to pick an option of dealing with homeland security or get stabbed? I pick getting stabbed every time.

So I refused to give up my bag.¬†I gave him my best “back the fuck off” lion-stare that I’ve mastered at bars and in the bush. He grabbed the bag and tried to cut it off me. And this was HIS¬†first mistake- because this is when I found out that his “knife” was as sharp as an envelope opener. I started screaming at this point and jumped after him.

Luckily my bag was heavy with bottled water. He panicked and threw that at me and took off- still with my phone. (My precious!)

I mustered up all my CrossFit endurance and took off after him. (Wearing chacos….) He rounded a corner where, for some miracle of gawd, a bunch of triathlon trainers were sprinting the hills. I was screaming “mugger! Thief! Stop him!” They must have heard me and they, too, took off after him.

Confession: I was impressed by this guy’s stamina. And embarrassed by my own. (If only he ran races for a living instead of getting high off backpacker’s pawned stuff! Yep. I’m passing judgement and making assumptions. This asshat had My Precious. I’m allowed.)

The particular neighborhood that I was in has “neighborhood watch” towers. Little boxes where a paid guard sits, texts all day, and makes sure nothing happens during his shift. Normally I disregard them and think they are a waste of money. Not today! Before I knew it, a guard came running out of one, and sprinted after the guy. (Mental note: South African security guards do not eat donuts on the job!) They rounded the corner and the next thing I knew I saw the guard come towards me with my phone.


I offered to buy the guard lunch- but he declined and took off for his guard post which was un-manned during his act of amazing heroism.

I don’t know what happened to the thief- this seems to be a big question for people. To be honest, I don’t really care what happened to him because I ended up ok and all he ended up with a my-city bus card with 3$ on it.

Don’t let my hyperbole fool you, though. Afterwards I felt violated. Hyper aware of everything (glances, bumps and bulges in people’s coats/bags, weird smells, my gut feeling) and felt foolish for being so careless. Cape Town reminded me so much of San Francisco mixed with Melbourne that I just took safety for granted and didn’t even consider myself in a third world country (see my craptastic Internet moaning above).

The irony is that bad things happen all the time to people who aren’t paying attention. More has happened to me at “home” because I take safety for granted- when, in fact, desperate people who are looking for easy marks are everywhere.

I realize that there are heaps of exceptions to this opinion. I also realize that it’s exhausting to be hyper aware all the time- and the thought that if you let your guard down for an instant you’ll be a target is enough to make people never want to ever leave the house. So I’ll leave off with the advice I follow and keeps me sane and keeps me traveling with limited fear:

  1. Never travel with your passport if you don’t have to.
  2. There is (usually) power in groups, or advantages to walking quickly.
  3. Always back up yer crap. (Phone, journal, whatever.) Make this a weekly ritual.
  4. If you are already drawing attention to yourself (ie- if you’re the only white girl around) draw MORE attention by screaming, barking, talking to yourself/a sock puppet/whatever. What do you have to lose?
  5. A life lived in fear is a life half lived.

I have posted many blogs about “What to Pack”.

Here was my “I’m leaving the states- here’s what I packed” blog.

Here is a “what i actually found useful vs not” review.


And here is my packing list for Africa:


  • 6 pairs of underware (4 are quick-dry, 2 are “dressy”… ahem.)
  • 2 pairs of quick-dry convertible pants.¬†
  • 3 quick-dry button-down shirts.
  • 2 quick-dry sleeveless shirts
  • Fisherman pants (for sleeping/comfort)
  • Leggings (grumble…. grumble….muslim countries…..grumble…..)
  • shaw (for head-covering, shoulder covering, mosquito repellant, etc)
  • 2 pairs of socks (quick-dry, bamboo. Thanks Grammy!)
  • Down Jacket -folds into it’s pocket to serve as pillow. (Going to Climb Kilimanjaro)
  • 1 dress (I’m a girl!)
  • Cachos (I’m in love!)
  • Vibrams (they are still the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever owned- and yes, I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro in them.)
  • Chuck Taylors (we’ll see if I actually use them or use them as bartering.)


  • Soap/Roll-on DO.
  • Lush conditioner bar
  • Toothbrush/paste/Floss
  • Contact solution/6-month supply of contacts
  • Baby Oil (to keep sand-flies off you!)
  • Vitamin B (to keep mosquitos from liking you)
  • hair things (clips, bands, etc)
  • Sleeping pills (generic), benedryl, motion-sickness stuff, nyquil, dayquil, Advil and RU21 (for hangover prevention).
  • Tampons (for water cleaning and about 10 other uses!)

First Aid Kit:

(Since taking my first-responder class, I now have a first-aid kit. Glad I do! It has come in handy more times than I’d care to count. I didn’t have one before (save for bandaids and crap…) so now it’s more extensive:

  • Rubber Gloves
  • Maxi Pads (for blood-soakage)
  • Syringe (for water-spray… or heroin. Whatever.)
  • Athletic tape/wrap
  • Mirror
  • Bandaids (all shapes/sizes)
  • Plastic bags (all shapes/sizes)
  • Neosporin (creme), iodine
  • tweezers, sewing kit, old hard-plastic credit-card (for bee-sting removal)
  • 2 cloth handkerchiefs. (surprisingly, I used these ALL THE EFFIN’ TIME!)


  • Macbook Air
  • Kindle
  • External USB battery. (full charge will fully-charge my iphone/kindle 3x).
  • Iphone (Camera… Yep. I know. I travel to all these places without a fancy camera.)
  • External Harddrive (I tried to go with just USBs.. but I can’t anymore. Especially with the freelancing work I’m doing.)
  • Headlamp
  • Steripen (Part 2….. My last one broke… In Peru… If this one breaks, I’m swearing them off for life.)


  • Passport,
  • temp US-ID,
  • Australian Bank Card (came in handy in countries that the US Banks don’t like doing business with…. Like Vietnam and Turkey).
  • AAA travel card (how I get cash from any ATM).
  • Waterbottle
  • Pens/paper journal

Here is a short-list of everything that is in my backpack.


All of the above is packed into a sports-sack. (so I have a day-sack)



  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste dots
  • condoms (multi-purpose!)
  • vitamins
  • deodorant
  • soap dish (with both conditioner and body soap in it)
  • contacts (year supply)
  • contact case (x2)
  • ear-spoon
  • perfume soild
  • razor (and extra blades)
  • mascara
  • small eye-shadow compact
  • hankies (x2)
  • q-tips
  • Facial Cloths
  • chapstick
  • hair-bands
  • mirror
  • tweezers


  • contact solution
  • castile soap (super high-concentrated soap that is good for everything! including laundry)
  • hair gel
  • Neosporin
  • sunscreen
  • OFF (with deet!)
  • body/face lotion
  • anti-itch cream




What am I missing?


I was told about the 100-item challenge from a friend who knew a couple who did just this. Sold/got rid of everything and bought a streamline trailer to live.

Since I’m about to live out of a backpack for over a year, I decided that this culling would have to be done in stages.

    1. Get rid of all clothes that don’t fit. (why keep them? They don’t fit now. They certainly won’t fit later, and if they do- I won’t be interested in them later.)
    2. Start consolidating all papers/tax crap/music/DVDs etc and scanning/ripping them so they fit on a harddrive. (I consider 1 harddrive to be 1 item.) sell hard-copies of DVDs and CDs.
    3. Only have 5 pairs of shoes. (I consider a pair of shoes to be 1 item… because 1 shoe is kinda useless by itself). I’m not much of a shoe-girl, but I will have 1 pair of flip-flops/sandals, 1 pair of vibrams, 1 pair of sneakers.
    4. Sell my bed, car, computer, and other big-ticket items that I won’t need for/in a year.
    5. Get used to bar-conditioner (as opposed to liquid)¬†(I have curly hair– and I’m picky about my products. I usually just use conditioner (no shampoo). This is actually pretty awesome the more you use it.

(seed)* grape seed enriched conditioning hair shampoo bar, simply unscented 3.5 oz (99 g)

The next few steps will be harder…. Get rid of all the items that give me memories.

  • The sweatshirt that I got from Woodstock ’99.
  • The handmade picture frame from when I got my first tattoo.
  • My snoopy pajama pants that I’ve worn every xmas since I was 19. (yes, they still fit!)
  • My xbox/kinect/all my games.

“No one said this would be easy… They said it would be worth it.”