Philippines Pack

I’m writing this entry with a careful eye on the clock. In just under forty minutes, I’ll be hauling on my pack and heading out the door to catch a bus bound for EDI. I’ll be routing from Edinburgh through Doha to Clark International in Subic Bay, where I’ll spend two weeks working with the team at Wildlife In Need. I spent yesterday running around the city in a slew of last-minute dashes for pack particulars like NHS-grade mosquito repellent and SPF-I’ve-never-tanned-in-my-life grade sunscreen.


Packing for a professional, single-base-centric stretch of time in the Philippines was a very different experience from my usual wilderness planning. For one thing, I had to bring more than two shirts. Not having been to the WIN centre before, I also decided to air on the side of caution when it comes to bringing clothes that are more conservative and workplace-oriented, rather than thinking only about the local climate, comfort, and cultural norms. I may be overthinking things but eh, my appearance at the clinic is meant to be a help, not a hassle – in all senses.

Packing for a trip where I won’t be carrying my pack for long stretches of time also meant that I could afford to bring some non-survival-essential items that I’d normally eschew for the extra weight they add. So, what all is actually in there?

  • Study material! I’m about three quarters of the way through my “Dog & Cat” unit at vet school, so I’ve brought notes from some subjects that need some extra brain-cramming effort.
  • Reusable Water Bottle
  • Travel documents
  • Outlet Adapters/Voltage Converters
  • Tropical Clothing! Long-legged, long-sleeved, lightweight, and mosquito-treated.
  • Scrubs + Stethoscope
  • The Pharmacy: emergency NSAID’s, travel containers of the usual body cleaning works, sunscreen that I forgot was a thing because I live in Scotland, and some Bulk Powder vegan vitamins because I have historically been sub-optimal about adequately feeding myself and while I generally do better now, some extra B12 probably isn’t going to hurt.
  • Granola bars. So many granola bars. I’m from California; a solid third of my diet used to be these things. I’ve got two eight-hour flights and am ready to stare down jet lag. I want to be prepared should my hunger patterns not figure out right away that the new 3 a.m. is not in fact the 7 p.m. dinner hour that it used to be.
  • A swimsuit – my destination is coastal, after all.
  • An extra day-pack: this green rucksack is one of my favorite things. It was given to me by my friend Chris when I visited Berlin, and this rucksack is lightweight enough I’ll forget it’s even there if it’s not got much in it, but strong enough that it handles a laptop and charger, some notebooks, and a full water bottle without the stitching straining at all. When empty, the bag also stuffs into its own pocket and becomes about the size of a 90’s Nokia cell phone.
  • A handful of items that didn’t make it into the photo, like my laptop, a hat, and a portable external battery that works with both my electronics.

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In addition to the first pair of flip-flops I’ll have worn in two years, my hiking boots (obtained last summer and promptly christened in bog) are a must-have for me. I wear them everywhere. Trails, in the city, to class: everywhere. I’ve had wonky ankles ever since I was kid, and I tend to obliterate the conformation of trainers pretty quickly. Hiking boots, however, hold up much better under my feet and save my IT band so much unnecessary stress in life.

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I deviate from a lot of other travelers in my one other essential pack item: books! Another lifelong habit I’ve brought with me into adult life, carrying at least one book (or more commonly, what’s essentially a mini library) with me as I travel is a choice that adds an appreciable amount of weight but that I have regardless never regretted – especially when international flights are involved. I blasted my way through Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill on a flight between Quito and Houston; finished his Queen of the Dark Things on a Heathrow to L.A. flight; dove through Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning over a series of flights hopping between the U.S., Porto, and Paris; and read the entirety of Dan Richards’s Climbing Days last summer while routing from Glasgow to Berlin.

This trip, I’m bringing Richards’s The Beechwood Airship Interviews, a book on thinking about creativity that I picked up from Lighthouse Books when Richards came to speak here in Edinburgh last fall. I’m also taking along Lonely Planet’s Better Than Fiction: True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers (including Edinburgh’s own Alexander McCall Smith!), a book that I found on a suddenly rainy day at Leith Walk used book store, Elvis Shakespeare. Seemed like an appropriate traveling companion.

Regular maps have few surprises[…] More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life” ~ Alexander McCall Smith, Love Over Scotland



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