It felt right to kick off my blog about Belize by detailing some of the steps I’ve been taking to get prepared before I leave on September 1st. I’ve had about two months to start the process of leaving the country, which has been a mixed blessing: one the one hand, I have been able to completely organize and prepare for the trip without a time crunch. On the other hand, I have wayyyyy too much time to consult online reviews.
Moving to a developing tropical country requires a lot of stuff that I didn’t necessarily have lying around my apartment in Philadelphia. Since I’ll be working with a conservation NGO and doing fieldwork, I need a lot of full-coverage, lightweight, outdoor clothing for sun and bug protection. I need sunscreen, soap, and bug spray that is effective and biodegradable. I need a typhoid vaccination. I need a hiking backpack for day hikes and a larger multi-day hiking backpack that can double as my travel luggage. I need solar-powered lanterns and surge protectors, because the power in Punta Gorda goes out relatively frequently.
The list goes on.
Since I’m buying these things with limited experience with what works best, I want to make sure I’m making the most informed and effective decisions possible. And since I’m a frugal, type-A millennial with a little too much time on my hands, that means obsessively reading product reviews.
The most extreme (and humorous) example of this has been the large hiking backpack decision. A month ago, all I knew was that I wanted a pack that I could use for fieldwork for the next six months but that I would use primarily for international backpacking afterwards. Today I might as well be a backpacking pack expert.
I read so many reviews of backpacks that all of my Facebook advertisements switched over to backpack advertisements. I had nightmares about being halfway through a camping trip and realizing that OH MY GOD THIS BACKPACK IS NOT SUFFICIENT, THE WATER BOTTLE POCKETS ARE AT AN AWKWARD ANGLE.
When I had whittled it down to two bags, I finally decided that all the reviews were doing nothing for my mental stability and ordered both from Amazon with the intention of returning one. Upon receiving them I found, much to my disappointment, that both were great backpacks. Bag 1 had a nice big open area to pack in, very soft fabric, and some cool travel-related features. Bag 2 had more features for hiking, better pockets, and a slightly better suspension system.
And so the decision-making process continued.
I filled both up with random clothes and exercise weights and wore them while I made breakfast. (My roommate: “you look like you’re ready to go on an adventure”). I twirled in front of mirrors to try to detect an aesthetic preference. I strapped them on with different types of shirts to test the feel of the straps on my skin.
It seemed like every day I preferred a different bag. After about two weeks of my room being cluttered with half-packed backpacks, I was no closer to a decision. I decided to use them to pack for my upcoming weekend in Montreal to determine if one was easier to pack. I picked out all my gear for the weekend and loaded it into Bag 1, and thought, “That was pretty solid, I like this. This may be the one. I’ll just test Bag 2 really quickly and be done.” I packed Bag 2 and thought for a while. Eventually I decided I would keep Bag 2, so I finished getting it ready to go to work and then Montreal the next morning.
In the morning, I naturally decided I was being really ridiculous and that Bag 1 was The One True Bag, so I unpacked Bag 2, repacked Bag 1, and left to walk to work.
Five minutes into my walk, my back was killing me. I realized the suspension on Bag 1 was simply not good enough and that Bag 2 was Actually The One True Bag. I convinced my boyfriend to pick up the other bag from my apartment while I was at work and I repacked when we got to Montreal.
In the end, even though I dragged Bag 1 to Canada before returning it to Amazon, I was extremely relieved to have just made the decision. Reading too many reviews can make one a very silly person.