My Must-Pack Item

What you see above is a small, plastic container for multi-vitamins, circa 2005. It lives in my daypack and so follows me on every trip, whether to another continent or for a one night sleepover on a friend’s lounge. Though its longevity and lightweight rigidity are indeed commendable, it’s what’s inside that counts. And no, it’s not a bunch of decaying vitamins.

It’s prized cargo weighs the same as it cost (essentially zero). It’s easy to use, readily replaceable, applicable anywhere around the globe, and helps to banish discomfort, frustration, boredom, and fatigue. Have you guessed what’s inside?

Earplugs, eyemask & container

Earplugs and an eyemask.

Seeing and hearing are awesome [citation needed]. Catch is, we don’t have control over what we see or hear. Sure we can close our eyes, but try to sleep with the lights on and our eyelids are revealed to be wafer-thin semi-translucent testaments to nature skimping on construction costs. Ears are worse still. Who makes an input device without an off button? Imagine a smartphone without a lock screen, perpetually subject to whatever your jiggling pocket bangs into it.

Ill-founded criticisms of evolutionary biology aside, earplugs and an eyemask let you take back control from the cacophonous and over-illuminated outside world. Dorm rooms become bearable. Noisy neighborhoods or thin curtains won’t necessarily mean sleepless nights and too-early mornings. Long bus trips are shortened by time spent unconscious. Muffling the background roar of plane engines lessens that slightly-deaf sensation on arrival. And nothing says “too late, this entire row is now mine” like a sprawled-out passenger with an eyemask.

Container packed with ear plugs & eye mask
Sensory deprivation: packed & loaded
And it’s not just for travel.
  • Car trip with a screaming baby? Pop in earplugs to dial the noise down to a level that doesn’t impinge your human rights.
  • Can’t handle an all-night session of drunken Guitar Hero? Sleep soundly with earplugs in, and let those rockers keep on rockin’.
  • Co-worker doesn’t understand how open-plan offices work and won’t shut the fuck up about triathlon shoes? Avoid being fired for workplace violence by earplugging away your rising fury.

As I’ve probably made abundantly clear, I’m a big fan of not hearing things. I’m slightly jealous that my mum has a hearing aid, which she can take out when noise is bothersome. I’m not saying earplugs and an eyemask completely solves the problem of disturbing light and noise, but they’re plenty better than nothing. Especially considering their cost, weight and size. In fact, little packets of earplugs have found their way into places beside my daypack – travel toiletries bag, car glovebox, bedside table.

Big stack of earplugs
Why buy one when you can buy 25

Finally, even a small container can hold more than just earplugs and an eyemask. You might also slip in:
  • Earplugs for other people, if you might be sharing a room and you’re a snorer (including after a big night drinking).
  • Spare key or anything else not often used but small enough to be easily misplaced.
  • Mints or chewing gum. If you’ve ever felt your eardrums trying to burst when flying with a blocked-up head, you’ll know that having gum within arm’s reach is priceless. Plus you’ll be ready to mask unanticipated stink-breath, or drive away that lingering bad taste (I mean, how hard is it to not burn coffee?).

So do yourself a favour and gather these items today. Ebay or Amazon can magic them to your house for a price even peasants could afford. Or for a bit more you can get sample packs of different sizes and styles from speciality retailers like this one.

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For more packing tips check out Travel Tips #2: Packing.

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