Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rumours of my flakiness have been greatly exaggerated

Less than a week after I flaunted my fake tan in a bikini, I'm spending my evening desperately trying to figure out the best way to cram my Therm-a-rest into my bag.

The tent was no problem (just take the tent poles out of the bag and pack the tent canvas separately). Neither was the sleeping bag or my clothes (everything in separate Ziploc bags with the air squished out). I even have enough room for not two, but three (!) knee-length skirts. But I just can't figure out how to best carry my Therm-a-rest. Rolled in my stuffsack? Or folded lengthwise and flat? If I strap it to the outside of my bag, will it puncture? Should I even bother bringing it at all?

It's moments like this that I wished I came from a "camping family." My childhood camping experiences were limited to sleepovers on our sailboat, the occasional Girl Guide camp and setting up the tent in our backyard. No portaging or even tent trailers for this girl. Just straight-up RVs, outdoor rock concerts and gas stoves. Vanuatu was my first real camping experience and even then, while I did learn how to build a quality fire, there was a roof over my head and occasional running water.

Figuring out how to pack my Therm-a-rest isn't my only challenge, though. Much like applying to Miss Universe, my upcoming return to Guyana is well outside of my comfort zone. After spending years sitting in an office, editing reports from the field, this will be my first actual paid field position--and this particular position comes with a set of challenges that are a bit more consequential than where to get a spray tan or how to choose the most appropriate swimwear.

I mean, I know that I'm living the dream. (Being paid to travel is the dream, right?) International development and project management students Canada-wide are clamouring for the kind of experience that I've just fallen into along the way. But part of me just wants to spend the next two weeks burrowed into Jay, thick wool sweaters and streamed episodes of Weeds.

The only problem is that two weeks could very quickly turn into 20 years. After all, I've heard that's what happens when you live in a comfort zone.

For now, I'm going with what I know. I know to roll my clothes. I know that when in doubt, pack less. I know that a Swiss Army knife, some safety pins and a bit of rope is always best. And while I may not know how to pack my Therm-a-rest, I do know how to challenge myself.

And if I do get lonely, I've got my new friend Flat Stanley (courtesy of Mrs. S' grade three class in Big Island Lake, Saskatchewan) to keep me company.

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