Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Guatemala: Packing List

Packing for my one-month Guatemala trip was similar to my packing for Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico, back when I studied for my CELTA. I even took the same wheeled bag! The wheeled bag still squeaks by the carry-on police, but just barely. Back when I bought it, the bag was easily within the dimension limits, but the airlines have reduced their boundaries since then.

e-bag, wheeled, carry-on bag

For a month's trip, all of my stuff fit into the above bag and a lightweight backpack.


Similarities in both trips included:
  1. Warm weather throughout the stay, so no need to pack for wide variations in temperature; and
  2. No moving around from place to place - I'd be in same accommodations for the full month, which meant I'd have a secure place to bring and store items (e.g. technology) that I might otherwise leave at home. 
A difference in this trip and the Playa trip is ... shoes. Shaking my head on this one. I've never been one to amass great quantities of shoes, but I packed kind of an embarrassing number of pairs on this trip. This is because my Guatemala plans include:
  • Dancing! 
  • Hiking
  • Walking on uneven pavements (think Caucasus Georgia and Ethiopia)
  • Hanging around the house 
  • Maybe some evenings out that require a little bit of dressing up

So, five pairs of footwear. Sheesh. I plan to discard two pairs when I leave, as they've outlived their usefulness to me.

I'll also leave behind some of the clothing items when I go. They are in good repair, it's just that either I'm tired of them or they no longer fit well.

So in theory, my luggage on the return trip will accommodate a few gift items that I'll buy here.

Comfort items


My online work requires that I use headsets for meetings, so I packed both a primary headset and a backup headset.

  • AA batteries and AAA batteries because, again, better to have items on hand than to have to take time out to hunt them down in a local store, and because I've experienced store-supply fail.
  • Power strip/surge protector
  • Flash drives for photo storage (in addition to using a cloud backup)
  • Mouse + pad
  • Earbuds and the device I use to listen to podcasts every day
  • Unlocked, international-friendly android phone + phone charger


My beloved primary laptop, bought in 2010, is now an elderly lady. By today's standards, she's heavy. Her after-market battery is kaput, so I've got to tether her to an electrical outlet whenever she's on. All of my life is held in her mother-brain.

Take her to Guatemala? No. It was an unnecessary risk to her fragile body and to the electronic trail of my life.

What to do? I know I've got to buy a new primary laptop but I'm not ready for that research and decision yet.

Well, I needed a backup, anyway, to my online work practice, so I bought a toy laptop.

Oooh, sha, she is so airy-light! And so come-hithery in her sexy, red dress. And at the price (well under $200), if she gets stolen or something else dire, I will be sad, but will not have suffered a devastating loss.

I loaded into her brain only those documents that I believed essential for my needs in Guatemala. Two reasons: 
  1. She doesn't have much storage space. 
  2. She can't divulge intel that she doesn't have. 


I have a handsome backpack that I use for my primary laptop, for weekend travels, for some flights. I took it to Playa del Carmen, to Ethiopia, to Caucasus Georgia, to Dubai, to Istanbul.

e-bag backpack that I left at home

It looks as youthful today as it did when I bought it years ago.

I didn't bring it to Guatemala, however. Nope, I decided to go lighter and cheaper. I'm guessing I'll do a lot of walking in and around Antigua, and I wanted to reduce the carry load. This decision is supported by my decision to bring my toy laptop, Little Red, which requires a bag with less space and durability than my primary laptop.

I also wanted an inexpensive bag, both in price and in looks, to reduce the number of envious looks from would-be thieves. Guatemala has a bit of an unsavory reputation, you understand.

Little bags and accessories

The possibility of dancing or evening-going-out required some thought about packing small bags. Being a solo traveler, I don't have a partner to watch my bag for me at a table while I step away for dancing or even going to the restroom. So I need to be creative in how I carry stuff with me to these kinds of venues.

Choosing clothing with pockets is a good first step.

I also have three utilitarian terry-cloth, zippered wrist bands in which I can stash a credit card, some bills, and a key. (I've got one each in navy, black, and red. I may buy a new one in light beige.)

Gogo terry-cloth wristband with zipper. Source: Amazon

And, yes, I did bring the ubiquitous, LBFP, that is a tourist staple. The Little Black Fanny Pack. Or, in my case, the belly pack. Got it at a second-hand store on the cheap about a year ago.

Result: For my EDC (everyday carry) to and from language school, I've got my LBFP in front of me, attached like an infant, with my camera + reading glasses inside. I've got my wristband with some cash for the day on my wrist.  In my nondescript, blue backpack, I've got a wallet and the keys to my lodging. Both of these are out of reach of easy pick-pocketing, but of course, if someone wants to get serious about things, they'll just take the whole thing from me.

I use the backpack to cart groceries back home after class.

I feel equipped.

The phone issue

I bought my android a couple of years ago, thinking I'd be moving to Oaxaca for a year, and wanting a work backup to my laptop. We got off to a rocky start, but the edges have been smoothed over.

Coming to Guatemala was going to let my android run free like the wind, performing magical tricks that one likes to see performed when one travels outside one's homeland.

Most specifically, I intended to buy a local sim card so I could make and receive local calls. Thus far, however, there seems to be no particular need for me to make or receive local calls. Relying on email for local communication suffices, and I have plenty of wifi access here, including at my lodgings.

As for calling folks back home, I've used my phone to call them via Viber (free), Skype (I bought a one-month subscription to call the USA from Guatemala), or in a pinch, Google Hangouts for real-time communication and email for non-live communication.

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