Pre-departure/Central America/ 9 days before departure: Packing!

The past few weeks have been dedicating to ticking off items from my to do list before my solo trip to Central America. I’ve been aggressively practicing “The art of letting go of my earthly possessions” , took care of all the “money matters”, volunteer and served both Thanksgiving breakfast and lunch to the homeless folks in my home town of San Jose with a group of Vietfun’s friends and generous donors and spent Thanksgiving with my family.

Although I knew that I would depart San Francisco on Dec 3rd, 2012 and have laid out all the stuff I needed to pack in piles (ie. personal care, clothing, gears, etc..). However, I am really dragging my feet in finalizing the packing for some strange reason.

Travel gear: front view, with zip on day pack

Picture # 1

This is my first time backpacking out of necessity because I must pack extremely light (my version)  to save the luggage allowance for the donated supplies. Yes, I accept the fact that I just have to do my laundry more often comparing to when I’m home, ha!

40 L capacity – back view

Picture # 2

I will be taking in-kind donations of general and medical supplies to the non profit Hospitalito Atitlán in the area. Please wish me success in my newly adopt travel style.

Travel gear: side by side, day pack, zip off.

Picture # 3


Central America’s weather is typically tropical with either wet (rainy) or dry season which made packing fairly easy. However, I will need to pack for both cold and tropical weather as I will first land in Guatemala City, then ground transfer to possibly Antigua, then transfer again on to Panachel and finally ferry across the lake to San Pedro in Lake Antilian (the highland), hopefully, all in the same day. Therefore, every piece of clothing article needs to be air wicker, dry quickly (ugh…..smelly, 2 weeks drying time lesson in Vietnam the year before) versatile and pair well into multiple outfit. Based on my research, it is recommended to take only things that you can afford to lose. Besides the electronics or the donations that I’m bringing to the hospital, I am only taking inexpensive stuff with me and if it gets a little worn or tatter, I would not hesitate to toss it in the “basura”.

Tops: long sleeve (3)

  • Beach Kurta/cover up (1)
  • 100% cotton for comfort (1)
  • Chill chaser shell that can be worn as normal top (1)
Picture # 4

Tops: short sleeve (9)

  • Casual/air wick tops (8)
  • Blouse (1)

    Picture # 5

Tops: tanks & bathing suite (10)

  • Sport bras (3)
  • Gym tank (1)
  • Tank tops (4)
  • Camisole shells (2)
  • Bathing suits (2)

    Picture # 6

Bottoms:  (8)

  • Shorts (3)
  • Gym short (1)
  • Khaki pant (1)
  • Jean (1). I will also be wearing it on my travel day
  • Yoga pant – long (1)
  • Yoga pant – Capri (1)
Picture # 7

Cover up:  (6)

Picture # 8

Dresses:  (5)

Picture # 9


1 sandal, 1 water shoes, 1 hiking/cross country shoes, 1 walking shoes

Picture # 10

(under garment not shown): 2 weeks’ worth!

All clothing, pre-pack

All clothing_pre pack
Picture # 11

In the past, I just roll all the clothing and have a rubber band to secure the rolled up clothing. Thanks God for packing cubes.

All tops: 1 packing cube

Picture # 12

All clothing, packed in packing cubes or laundry bags

Picture # 13

Make up: before

Make up_before
Picture # 14

Make up, after zip up

Make up_zip up
Picture # 15

Electronics: before packing

(laptop cooler, travel size accessories kit, external hard drive in bubble wrap, misc. item, uhm…the microphone is for possible Karaoke night at lol)

Picture # 16

Electronics, after

Electronics_zip up
Picture # 17


Picked up from the recycle bookstore in Campbell for a small change.

Picture # 18

Cooking spices (yes, I have a tiny tiny pink cap bottle of fish sauce, packets of soy sauce in there too)

Misc_cooking spices
Picture # 19

Misc: protection (besides the water bottle & lock), everything else are provided by my brother. The pepper spray is always with me, day & night. Thanks bro!

Picture # 20

Toiletry 1: personal/skin care products (I brought a lot of travel size, or sample size so I can get rid of the weight along the way instead of full size products).

Toiletry 1
Picture 21

Toiletry 2: add-on some more items (ie. hair dryer, hot iron, beg bug spray, etc…)

Toiletry 2
Picture 22

Toiletry final: add-on even more items (feminine products in smallest purse, lunch box set = first aid kit and baby spoon set that came with a holder box).

Toiletry Final
Picture 23

Money stuff:

throw down wallet, passport holder & money belt.

Picture 24

Updates from the road – after 7 weeks of travel (Jan 18th, 2013)

  1. Picture # 4, long sleeve: Since I move so often that I left everything in the packing cube to minimize my re-packing effort. I was doing it so well that I forgotten about these long sleeves ones. Never wore them for the first 4 weeks of the trip.
  2. Picture # 5, blouse: Only wore the pink collar top 2 times. Wore the purple blouse only 1. It gets wrinkle easily and no iron available. I found myself wearing the remaining tees very frequently since it’s really thin, but 100 % cotton and extra soft. J Crew and Lands End tees are the way to go in the heat.
  3. Picture # 6, tanks & bathing suits: Central America is pretty hilly and I practically walked everywhere. No need to exercise so didn’t really need to use my gym/exercise clothing. But I do wear the tank top very often, when I’m inside my room and now, in the hotter region (El Salvador & Nicaragua).
  4. Picture # 7, pants: I avoid wearing the jean because it’s a pain to hand-wash it. I wear the khaki pant very often since the material is thinner and blend well with everything else. The long yoga pant was well loved and used in the lake Atitlan area at night. I haven’t use it since I left Guatemala since it’s too thick for the hot climate.
  5. Picture # 8, cover up: Forgot to pack the nap sack. Never had to use the night gown/legging. Lost the blue shawl (left it on bus enroute El Salvador-Nicaragua). The bus attendant rushed me (no advanced notice) that I must get off in Managua so I left in a haste.
  6. Picture # 9, dresses: Have not used the trench coat/thermal undie or the black dress (no occasion).
  7. Picture # 10, shoes: Did not pack the walking shoes. Water shoes broke in Semuc Champey – Guatemala.
  8. Picture # 18, books: Dump the Larouse one in Lanquin-Guatemala. I got more use out of the Chicago dictionary and the picture book.
  9. Picture # 20, protection: Water pack is too small for the region. I drink water by the 2 liters or more per day. Forgot lock at home-had to buy a new cheap, China made, non keypad in Antigua – Guatemala. Swiss army knife is handy on the road. Other items: un-used and could have bought locally.
  10. Picture # 21, toiletry: Used almost everything. Had to replenish 2 times tooth paste (all travel size) and plenty of hair conditioner packets. I use the hair conditioner for both hair conditioning and shaving cream.
  11. Picture # 22, toiletry: Used the hair dryer/hot iron 2 times only. Once during Christmas dinner with Andie & James. First time, can’t remember. Will not take them the next time going to Central America because it add up the weight.

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