Before my nearly seven-week trip to Pune, Bombay, and London, I debated about luggage. Initially I planned to travel light: rolling carry-on, plus computer backpack and messenger bag. In chatting with colleagues, however, I decided to bring a 26-inch check-in suitcase.
One friend always packs important items such as survival tools in her carry-on bag, but checks in a suitcase stocked with favorite foods, such as Brazil nuts, which she can’t find in India. Others want luggage space to bring home yoga props, books, textiles, cookware, or souvenirs.
I asked people, “Can I find rolled oats in Pune?” since oatmeal is my standard breakfast. They said that I probably can, but that the quality of Canadian oats might be better. The consensus: I can find almost anything in Pune nowadays, but it might be inferior to what I get at home.
With 20/20 hindsight, I can now advise other oatmeal eaters: Forget the oats. They are easily available in India.
What I should have brought was more hair product. My hair was a wreck, an absolute wreck. The Indian monsoon season is devastating to my particular brand of Japanese long curly hair. (Actually, I did bring enough hair product, but it was no match for the humidity anyway.)
At the beginning of my trip, my suitcase weighed about 17kg (37.5lb). Returning home, it dropped a kilo. While I found a large suitcase cumbersome, I had no problem filling it up, both ways. If I’d done more traveling in India, I would’ve opted for a carry-on. But since I stayed put in Pune, in Mumbai, and in Oxford/London, a suitcase was probably the better option.
Here’s a list of things I’m glad I took:
- My best pocket knife for peeling fruit (my Kuhn Rikon Colori was perfect)
- flashlight (my keychain light was a lifesaver during power outages (a given in India), but my Mini Maglite would have been better)
- portable cutting mat (Coghlan’s, meant for camping, is as light as paper)
- mosquito repellent (JR Watkins has almost no fragrance; the main Indian brand, Odomos, smells very flowery perfumy)
- Chacos, Crocs, or other footwear that you can scrub with soap and water
- Adidas Sambas or other sneakers (I rarely wore them in India, but occasionally wanted full coverage from street muck)
- three sets of yoga outfits, minimum (I ended up repeatedly wearing my mid-calf-length yoga tights for mosquito protection, but you can buy “Pune shorts” and get into the spirit of things)
- cell phone (my iPhone was invaluable, both as phone and as camera)
- mask for air pollution (I recommend the I Can Breathe mask, available in Canada by mail order from Modern Alchemy)
- currency (it was handy to have cash (British pounds, Indian rupees) from day one, having exchanged money pre-trip at Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange, which supplies crisp, clean bills)
- small mirror (my apartment mirrors were tiny and out of the way, so I relied on a palm-sized travel mirror)
- nail clippers, mini scissors (high-quality tools are probably available, but hard to find)
- computer (my MacBook Air was essential for working and blogging; otherwise an iPad would be ideal)
Here are things I didn’t need to bring:
- oats, cashews, walnuts (available at the Maharashtra store, Dorabjee’s, etc; bring if you need organic or the finest quality)
- nylon rain jacket (nylon is too hot during monsoon season; I preferred using the apartment umbrellas)
- money belt, neck wallet (probably unnecessary unless you are traveling overnight on trains)
Here are things I found optional:
- Evolution neck pillow (this memory-foam version effectively holds the neck upright and probably helped me to sleep but, for 10-hour flights, it’s a toss-up)
- Light on Pranayama (I had little time for books and preferred reading local newspapers and magazines in Pune; you can also buy books very inexpensively there)
Here are things I might take next time:
- lightweight yoga mat (I lucked out with an excellent Manduka eKO Lite mat in the apartment, but that’s probably rare)