Friday, 27 April 2012

Good luck, A!

My smart, funny, and all-around awesome sister-in-law is doing something amazing tomorrow—running her very first half marathon. Naturally, I’m ridiculously excited and proud of her. I’ve been following her progress and find her story to be an inspiration. She’s overcome more hurdles than the average person attempting this goal, and her health has improved phenomenally.

Last week, she made a point that has stayed on my mind: even though she’s done all of the work and could get up and run the distance right now, she’s freaking out about this race. Why?

She’s freaking out because it matters. If this goal wasn’t important to her, she wouldn’t be in a panic right now.  It would just be another run on her calendar. To put it plainly, this run means something to her. It represents the culmination of all of her time, effort, and training. She’s put in a lot of hard work. She’s stuck it out through knee pain, days when work and family left her short on time, and days when she just didn’t want to go. For each run, she took that vital first step that most of us find so easy to ignore. She showed up, over and over again.

Fear is technically considered a negative emotion, but negative emotions demonstrate what matters to us. Negative emotions are uncomfortable. As much as we try to avoid them (anger, fear, jealousy, etc.) these are the emotions that we need to listen to the most.

When we worry about our family members being out later than we anticipated, it shows that we care about their safety. When we get angry because our friend let us down, it shows that our relationship with them is important. When we’re jealous of someone else’s success at work, we can finally see where we want to succeed. No one wants to feel panicked, angry, or jealous, but it’s precisely in these uncomfortable situations that we understand what we truly want, and we learn where to focus our efforts.

I won’t try to tell A to stop freaking out about tomorrow. It wouldn’t do any good, and besides, she has every right to freak out! I know that she will be amazing, and in less than 24 hours she will be celebrating one of her proudest moments. The half marathon is definitely worth celebrating, but the hundreds of miles she put in to get to this point are worth even more.
I doubt she’ll get any sleep tonight, but as she lies awake with excitement and nervousness, I hope she can see that this one, restless night represents a year of hard work. Every panicked thought says that tomorrow is important and something worth celebrating. Just as she is important and worth celebrating to us. Good luck, A!! We’ll be here cheering you on!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


I’ve been given the unique opportunity to “unquit” my job twice in last few weeks. This is a touching offer, and has done more to improve my opinion of this company than anything else. However, it has created a bit of a mental dilemma for me.

As with every major decision, I had already jumped head first into full-on panic mode. It’s not that I have a history of decisions not working out. Quite the opposite, really; which adds to my fears that I’m throwing away a good thing. This could be the moment that I look back on in 20 years and count as “the point where everything went to shit.” Whether it’s a fear of the unknown, Stockholm syndrome, or just the fact that I’m institutionalized, the thought of stepping out into the world is paralyzing. If this is the Shawshank Redemption, I am Brooks.

Although these thoughts keep me up at night, there’s something that I fear even more: still being in this career at 50. Staring dramatically into the future isn’t as crazy as it sounds; all of my coworkers started out in this career and will more than likely carry on through retirement. I can count on one hand the number of people I know who have left “the community.”

Although the offers to stay with my company have been very tempting during this tumultuous phase of questioning my decision, I’ve politely declined each time. After effectively quitting my job three times now, I feel like Peter denying Christ, but my reasons for not turning back are perfectly rational.

I want this job, but there's too many cocks.
1. I haven’t forgotten why I quit.

This is a big one. With both offers to stay, many of my reasons for quitting would no longer apply and I could conceivably make a decent career out of staying. However, my overall impression of this place has been irreversibly soured. Every time something goes wrong in the future, I know I will reflect back on this period. I don’t want to turn into one of those bitter, soulless people I've worked with who turn every situation into a chance to bitch about the past.

2. I’ll always be that one who ended up staying.

Quitting is one thing. Quitting and then deciding to stick around is entirely another. Even if I did decide to stay, I will be remembered as the one who wanted to leave. It’s a given that I’m not committed to the company, so why would they want to promote me or give me more responsibility? It’s not like I can fake how much I love working here. The cat’s out of the bag.

3. Good luck getting a favor.

I may as well walk into every negotiation in the future waving a massive red flag. If my company has already attempted to accommodate my requests from that time I “threatened to leave,” how likely is it that they will help me now?

4. I’m too happy.

You know that smile you get when you’re stupid happy about something? The one 15-year-old’s have when they’ve found “love” and serial killers have when they give interviews to MSNBC? That’s the one. It’s a little creepy, but completely authentic.


I’ve been walking around with this big, dippy grin since I gave my notice, in a haze of euphoria and relief. I’m swimming in unadulterated joy.  I want to hug strangers and skip through the streets. I’m annoying as all hell on a Monday morning, which is just more reason to smile. So as much as I love stability, I’m going to keep chasing this high a little longer.

Malta's History

Malta’s history has enough to keep a person occupied for weeks. Although my reasons for this trip centered on getting some sun and getting the hell out of England for a week, I would love to go back to visit some of the more cultural sites. I couldn’t begin to describe the history of this tiny nation in one article, so instead I’ll quickly gloss over some of the highlights to explain why I need to go back.

For starters, Malta is a Roman Catholic nation, a fact that is typically attributed to St. Paul’s shipwreck on the island in the first century.

All things considered, it's not the worst place to shipwreck

Most statistics list the population as being over 95% Catholic, and churches dominate the landscape. There are 365 churches on the island, with the standing joke being that there’s one for each day of the year.

Another fun fact is that many churches have two clocks on their towers. Only one of the clocks shows the correct time. Superstition holds that two clocks would confuse the devil, and he would never know what time Mass was performed. By all accounts, this was an effective ploy. However, he succeeded in getting divorce legalized last year, so perhaps they should have put the clocks outside Parliament instead.

Churches, like most of the buildings on Malta, are made primarily of limestone. For centuries limestone was the only building material available, but it remains the most popular choice today. It’s durable, cuts easily, and helps maintain comfortable household temperatures all year long. If you’re really excited about limestone, you can even visit the Limestone Heritage Museum in Siggiewi. Although I can’t say I find it all that thrilling, I will say that the contrast of white limestone with dark rocky beaches and cactus lined streets is gorgeous in the sun.

The arrival of the Knights of St. John furthered Catholicism on Malta. The island’s strategic location allowed the Knights to maintain and protect the crusader territory while amassing their wealth. They were led by a Grand Master, who reported to the Pope. When referring to historical events, most tours will reference who the Grand Master was at the time, similar to England mentioning who was King or Queen or the States referencing a presidency. 

Before they excelled in military conquests, the Knights were an order devoted to medical services in Jerusalem. In 1643, Grand Master Jean Paul Lascaris continued this tradition by building the Lazaretto, or quarantine hospital, on Manoel Island to protect the population against plague and cholera.

The Lazaretto

For over 250 years, every visitor passed through this hospital before entering the country. Some famous visitors include Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, and Cardinal Newman. The Lazaretto was damaged during World War II and fell into disrepair, but is now being restored.

The island of Malta benefitted from the Knights’ protection for over 200 years, until corruption turned the local public against them. Napoleon’s arrival in 1798 signaled the end of the Knights’ Maltese history.

He looks trustworthy...

The French occupation of Malta only lasted two years, until the British arrived to save them. It didn’t take long for Britain to notice the quality of Malta’s harbors, so they decided to “save” them for the next 164 years. The island became a pivotal location for the British naval fleet, and became even more beneficial after the Suez Canal opened in 1869.

Malta gained its independence from Britain and is now part of the European Union. They recently switched to the euro, and the “One Lira Store” now sells everything for two euro. The island continues to be a useful seaport, and just last summer thousands of evacuees fled Libya to find a safe haven on Malta’s shores. Everything from cruise ships to fishing vessels have a place to dock in Malta’s extensive harbor system. It seems that no matter where you stand in Malta, you can see either a boat or a church, usually at the same time. So if lounging on the beach isn’t your style, there’s plenty of history to keep you occupied.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Wining and Dining in Malta

Before I went to Malta, I was warned that British food is quite popular there and not to get my hopes up. Although I enjoy British food, they’re not exactly known for their wild flavors. I went in with low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised by Malta’s dining options. To be fair, there were several restaurants that looked phenomenal, but we were in the mood for laid-back meals on the beach and couldn’t be bothered to dress for fine dining. Sometimes a girl just needs nachos.

The first place I’d recommend is Surfside Bar and Grill in Sliema. It’s a typical sports bar, but it’s spread over several levels, offering terraced views and comfy sun loungers right on the beach. They offer a sports-themed menu, reasonable prices, and friendly staff. We split a calamari appetizer and a pizza for two but we could have easily shared a single’s pizza, as the portions were enormous. We topped it off by ordering fruity drinks complete with umbrellas, and getting our first sunburns of the trip.

The next place we really enjoyed was Mr. Fitz Restaurant in Marsaxlokk. After browsing the drinks menu, my adventure partner noticed that a “full” measure of wine was 5 euro. Confused, he asked what a “full” meant. The waiter clearly thought we were idiots and explained that it’s a full bottle. With prices like that, we knew we’d found love. I once again had the calamari, but my adventure partner went for a full squid. It was delicious, perfectly cooked on a bed of seasoned rice. You can’t help but appreciate the freshness of the seafood as you sit a mere 3 feet away from the water.

It wouldn't be an adventure if we didn't order an entire animal...

Our favorite place by far was Grand Slam Chilidogs in Mellieha. Their advertisement was spot on; I was in hot dog heaven!  Yes, we flew all the way to Malta and ate chili dogs two nights in a row, but it was as much for the company as the menu. The owner let us watch Animal Planet and gave us so much extra food. Hanging out and chatting with her made me feel like I was at home again.

The friendliness of everyone we met was a true selling point of Malta. From chili dogs to corner stores, we felt welcome everywhere we went. An added bonus of many bars and restaurants is that they offer free Wi-Fi, which is always a nice touch. We spent far longer than we would have at City of London Pub in St. Julians, simply because they were a pleasant place on the water and had fast Internet.

The local drinks in Malta are just as low key as the food. We fell in love with Cisk on the first day. It’s a light, easy-drinking lager, not unlike Coors or Stella. Their low-carb version, Cisk Excel, actually tastes decent as opposed to most low-carb beers I’ve tried.

The Budweiser of Malta

Our favorite wine in Malta was a recommendation from a friend, Green Label, by Emmanuel Delicata Winemakers. The Red Label is equally good, if you’re not a connoisseur of white wine, and both can be purchased for less than 3 euro at most convenience stores.

White wine, green label. Makes perfect sense.

Another local white that I appreciated was the Caravaggio Pinot Bianco from Marsovin Winery. To make sure we’d experienced both islands’ wines, my adventure partner selected a delicious Merlot-Cabernet Franc blend called “1551” from Ta’Mena Winery in Gozo.

Red wine on Ramla Beach's red sand

If you’re looking for a tasty non-alcoholic drink, I can recommend a great virgin mojito in Mellieha, as long as you’re ok with going to a place called “Mexi Co.”

We have plenty of other places we want to try on our next trip to Malta. I was looking forward to having the traditional rabbit soup and dining at Guiseppe’s, but in the end I’m glad we stuck to casual dining. It was the perfect complement to our days of lounging on the beach.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Beaches, Buses, and Bars

We spent the first few days in St. Julians, which is known for its lively nightlife. Bars stay open until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning if you can stay awake that long, which is quite popular with the younger crowd.

St. Julians

After a day of wandering St. Julians and Sliema, we decided to escape the city via a sightseeing bus. If you choose to ride on the top, pay attention or you might catch a palm tree with your face. Slightly embarrassing at the time, but it provided plenty of amusement for the other riders.

The first place we stopped at was Marsaxlokk, a fishing village on the south side of Malta. The highlight of this harbour town is the brightly painted fishing boats, called luzzus. Most have a pair of eyes painted on the front to protect against evil, which probably saves them having to purchase insurance. Not surprisingly, Marsaxlokk is known for its seafood restaurants lining the harbour area. There’s also a decent souvenir market, but the tapestries we found here were three times more expensive than in other villages.

Luzzus in Marsaxlokk

Next up, we stopped at the Blue Grotto, which is a stunning section of the southern coast, popular with divers. This is a rocky section of coastline, with several caves and sparkling water in various shades of blue. It’s the perfect photo opportunity, with plenty of restaurants offering balconies and great views.

Along with our bus tour, we received a complimentary harbour cruise around Sliema’s Marsamxetto Harbour and Valletta’s Grand Harbour with Latini Cruises. The cruise took around an hour and a half, and would have been a very pleasant trip had it not been windy and raining. Freezing my ass off while wearing a plastic poncho is not my idea of fun, but the crew did their best to make the trip enjoyable, passing out blankets and making as much space behind the glass as possible. I would love to try it again on a sunnier day.

Grand Harbour, Valletta

After a few days, we moved up the coast to the much more laid-back town of Mellieha. The nightlife is quiet, intimate, and perfect for me: small pubs and bars with a mellow atmosphere. Mellieha has a nice stretch of sandy beach with sun loungers and umbrellas for rent, which made for a very relaxing afternoon.


For variety, we caught the bus from Mellieha to Cirkewwa, and hopped on the ferry to the northern island of Gozo.  The ferry takes about 30 minutes and lands at Mgarr. After running the gauntlet of overeager, pushy tour operators, we caught a bus to the town of Xaghra, on northern side of the island. We rambled over to Calypso’s Cave (from Homer’s Odyssey) and hiked down the hill to Ramla Beach. Ramla is covered with red sand, and was a great place to soak up some sun. There’s three beach front restaurants, offering typical snacks, pizza, and drinks.

I thought six days would be plenty of time to see all Malta had to offer, but I was wrong. I could’ve easily spent another week and not seen everything on my list. We had booked a cruise around Comino and the Blue Lagoon, which was canceled due to wind, and I also wanted to visit some of the wineries and see the glass blowers. We didn’t get a chance to see any of the ruins, and only briefly visited one church in Mellieha. I’m counting all of this as an excuse to visit again!

Taking the Bus in Malta

Vintage Maltese Bus

The old yellow bus is as iconic to Malta as cowboy hats are to Texas.  Buses may not seem all that exciting, but they have been a recognizable feature of the Maltese roadways since the Second World War. The buses were individually owned and operated, similar to a taxi. Owners took great pride in their buses; designing, customizing, and creatively naming them.

These brightly colored buses may be found on every conceivable piece of touristy kitsch, but they’re no longer struggling up Malta’s steep and winding streets. Last year, the British company Arriva modernized Malta’s public transport system, introducing a sleek new fleet of aquamarine and cream-colored coaches.
Modern Arriva Articulated Bus

Not everyone was happy about the decision, as is to be expected. However, as a recent BBC article explained: “The old buses are polluting, unreliable and uneconomic. As a result, most people drive” (Simons). The new buses may be a bit plain, but they are consistent and user-friendly.  In a country known for its hot, humid summers with temperatures that frequently top 95º, the new buses also proudly offer air-conditioning.

Every driver we met was friendly and helpful. We flagged down one driver to ask if his route would take us to the top of the hill in Mellieha. It didn’t, but he happily offered to get us “pretty close” which was the best news we could’ve received after a long day. We were also interested in seeing Calypso’s Cave on the northern island of Gozo. The first driver we approached offered to take us as close as he could to the actual site (about a mile away). However, he also stopped mid-route to point out which cliff we were aiming for, since he knew we wouldn’t be able to see it from the top of the hill.

Another plus for the Maltese public transportation system is that a pass is good on every bus for the particular island you’re on at the time (Malta or Gozo).  These passes can be purchased for anywhere from 2 hours to 90 days, and are very reasonably priced.

I'm grateful that the buses were so easy to use, because there’s no way I could drive on their roads. Based on the sounds of screaming transmissions and the scent of burnt breaks, no one else can either.

A Traditional Maltese Parking Spot

The cramped, twisted streets just add to Malta’s charm. They are a continual reminder that this country has a rich history and that its cities weren’t designed with drivers in mind. With that, you may as well tip back a glass of the local wine and let a professional handle taking you home.

Simons, Jake Wallis. "Malta's colourful vintage buses bow out." BBC News 23 Jun 2011.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Deliberate Life

I originally wanted to call this blog “The Deliberate Life” after my favorite paragraph in Walden. However, a quick Google search convinced me otherwise. It would seem that quite a few people have latched onto this title for everything from touchy-feely “follow your dreams” blogs to hardcore self-sufficiency, homesteading guides. Although I thoroughly enjoyed learning about whether the Rapture would happen before we have to weave our own clothing, how to survive an animal attack, and the best ways to “pack heat in an urban setting,” I thought I should probably go in a different direction. And so, The Adventure Partners was born.

If I can’t name my blog after Thoreau’s idea, I’m at least going to devote one post to it. The first sentence is the most often quoted portion of the paragraph:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

I think this is everyone’s favorite part not only because it is beautifully written, but because it’s an idea than everyone can get behind. Who doesn’t want to live life to the fullest and on their deathbed be satisfied that they’d done all they could? The rest of the paragraph is slightly more wordy and difficult:

I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

In this section, we’re introduced to the idea that it’s necessary to step out of our comfort zone and risk our happiness in order to understand our lives on our own terms. Whether his experiment proved life to be mean or sublime, Thoreau would know it for himself.   I think this section is less quoted because it involves doing something, and there’s a very good chance that something will suck.

Not only that, this section is longer and for many people, boring. In fact, most of Walden is like that. For every easy sentence such as “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” there’s an equal amount of asking, “How much longer is he going to write about the goddamn ants?” and “There’s no way this entire chapter is about the bean field.” Walden, like life, can’t be condensed into a few catchy lines to be shared on Twitter. There are long, difficult portions that aren’t pleasant, and there are parts that are boring, but it’s all part of a larger whole. Thoreau knew this, and made fun of the average man’s reading habits in the book:

Most men are satisfied if they read or hear read, and perchance have been convicted by the wisdom of one good book, the Bible, and for the rest of their lives vegetate and dissipate their faculties in what is called easy reading.

It’s a shame he can’t be here today to see that what he called “easy reading” we call “Jersey Shore” and “Hoarders.” Oh, how the mighty intellectuals have fallen.

It’s not that vegetating on our chosen easy reading is a problem; it’s that we also have to make time to ask ourselves the difficult questions. We have to make a mess of things and wade through the boring bits without giving ourselves a hard time about it. To walk through the whole twisted thing, from the highest moments of ecstasy to the slowest Thursday afternoons, creates a truly deliberate life. And if all else fails, the Rapture should take care of the rest.

Monday, 9 April 2012

10 Lessons to Take Away From a Bad Job

The difference between a mistake and a failure is whether you can learn something from the experience. From this point of view, my most recent job was a mistake because I have learned more than I ever thought possible. The following skills may not be bullets for my résumé, but they were necessary, tangible, and worth my time to learn. I have plucked these lessons from the depths of career despair, and would like to share them in the hopes that you can learn from my mistakes.

1. You can handle interacting with difficult people

Coworkers are like family. You don’t get to choose them, you may not like them, but you’re stuck with them anyway. This is the perfect opportunity to learn how to work with people who are unpleasant or just different than you. Some interactions will go better than others, but the important thing is that you’re getting valuable practice without jeopardizing family ties or friendships that are important to you.

2. You can survive a disaster

On the days when it feels like everything is going wrong and there’s nothing you can do about it, know that you’re probably right. There isn’t anything you can do about it, and this is your opportunity to learn patience and acceptance.  No matter what happens, you will survive the day and you will be a wiser person for it. If all else fails, just remember that you’re getting paid.

3. You don’t have to have a dramatic exit

Letting everyone know exactly what you think might be tempting, but it’s not worth it. They probably have an idea as to how you feel, and making an ass out of yourself isn’t going to change your office’s problems. If you have a legitimate complaint, use the proper channels. Otherwise, accept that you’re leaving this place behind and moving on to greener pastures. Save yourself the embarrassment and quit with a bit of class.

4. Maybe, just maybe, you’re partially to blame

Don’t get me wrong, there’s an excellent chance that you’re a genius and every problem you’ve ever had was someone else’s fault. However, let’s entertain Occam’s razor for a moment and accept that perhaps the simplest answer is that you could’ve handled some situations differently. Somewhere between what you should’ve done and what you actually did lies the potential for growth.

5. You can recognize a lost cause

One day you realized that you were in a bad job. What happened next makes all the difference. It may have taken longer than you had hoped, but now you know a lost cause when you see one. You don’t have to drag it out for an extra 18 months next time. Quit while you’re ahead.

6. When it comes to benefits, you know what matters

Through the course of your employment, you’ve probably learned something about your priorities. Maybe a casual dress code means more to you than a stock option, or a decent medical plan is worth giving up the option for flextime. Whatever it happens to be, you’ve learned what to look for at the next job.

7. You know what it takes to be a great employee

Before you start over in a new office, take some time to reflect on your past experiences. Think about the things your colleagues have done to both annoy and impress you. Learn from them so that you can be the coworker everyone else wants to have around.

8. Money really doesn’t buy happiness

It doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank if you spend 8-10 hours every day hating your life. Consider more than just the salary when selecting your next job. There’s no sense in getting a larger paycheck if you’re just going to blow it all on therapy and liquor.

9. You’ve expanded your network

Hopefully you’ve made at least some friends in your office. Not only have you expanded your social circle, you also added to your network of professional contacts. Just one more reason to make sure you leave behind a positive impression.

10. There’s more to life than work

Nothing means more to you than your free time if you’re stuck in a bad job. Think about the people and activities that brought you joy outside of work. Your bad job has just taught you what really matters to you. For me, that was the most important lesson I could’ve taken away from here.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Quitting with Grace

Everyone has that fantasy about quitting in a blaze of glory. You know the one. Telling your coworkers and your boss exactly what you think of them, waving the double-barreled bird with both hands proudly in the air, and driving off into the sunset. The office may even be on fire in the background, depending on how bad of a day you’re having. As much as you may want to do any or all of these things, your temporary catharsis will not be worth the aftermath.

Quitting a job is an art form, and it should be done with grace and class. This is your last chance to leave an impression, and you want to make sure that the last memory your company has of you is one of professionalism, regardless of how you actually feel.

At the very least, you will need a positive recommendation from your employer for future job searches. Also, the world is much smaller than you may believe and you never know when or where you will run into these people again. Imagine questioning your supervisor about his intelligence, managerial style, and his mother’s sexual decency. Feels good, doesn’t it? Now imagine a few years down the road when he’s the hiring manager at that new company you’re interested in. Save yourself the chance for future heartache and play it safe.

In my ultimate fantasy, I silently log off of my computer, walk out of the office, and never return. I don’t do this because I care about my future and in all honesty, that would be a pretty asinine thing to do. Instead, I always give at least two weeks’ notice (normally a month) and I make sure that my resignation notice is a properly formatted business letter.

Your resignation letter is the last official document you will likely have on file with your company. It should be professional and polite so that if your employer needs to remind themselves about who you are for a referral, you have left behind a positive impression. No matter what kind of experience you have had, be sure to thank your employer in your letter for the time you have worked for them. At the very least, you will have taken away life lessons from this job and they will have paid you for your time. Additionally, end your letter by offering your assistance in training your replacement or easing your transition out of the workplace.

On the other hand, if you have enjoyed your time at a company, be sure to tell them that. My previous boss was amazing and my coworkers felt like family. My resignation letter reflected my reluctance to move into a new career path.

After you’ve submitted your notice, there’s the temptation to completely slack off until your last day. What are they going to do, fire you? Obviously, this will leave behind bad memories in your wake but more than that, you’re setting your coworkers and your replacement up for failure. You might be on your way out, but you’re still getting paid. Don’t make everyone else scramble to cover your assignments as well as their own.

Whether your job has been a great experience or a complete nightmare, stay professional, continue to work hard during your final days, and be the kind of employee that your company will miss when you’re gone.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Perfect Packing Technique

If you're not a frequent traveller, packing for a trip can be a bit of a hassle. You'll inevitably end up packing way too much or the wrong things entirely. There's the stress of feeling as though you've forgotten something important. Then you have to cram the whole pile into a suitcase and hope that if it arrives, it's not a wrinkled mess and that your shampoo hasn't leaked onto everything.

The most difficult thing after figuring out what to pack (which I will cover in a later post) is knowing how to pack. As someone who's packed a lot of bags and made even more mistakes, I was trying to write a post that accurately describes how I've learned to pack. I prefer a combination of laying my easily wrinkled clothes flat, stuffing the middle of the suitcase with my rolled clothes, and then folding the bottom layer over the top.  I realized that pictures would be necessary for this post to make sense, and then I came upon this slide show from The New York Times.

Brilliant.  This technique is exactly how you should pack a bag. For toiletries, know that if it can leak it probably will, especially if you check a soft-sided bag on your flight. Always put your liquids in a plastic bag, whether it be a commercially available waterproof travel bag or just a Ziploc freezer bag. I recommend bringing along some extra plastic grocery bags as well, because if your shoes get wet or dirty you won't want to put them in with the rest of your laundry. Happy packing!

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