What a Diverted Trip Has Taught Me About Packing

Public Domain. Unsplash

You never know what climate you may end up in...

This week has been an interesting lesson in packing for international travel. I was on my way to Sri Lanka to learn about Intrepid Travel's uniquely sustainable brand of tourism when the tragic attacks happened. Stranded in Abu Dhabi for a night, I had to figure out my next step, whether to head back to Canada or take advantage of the fact that I was already halfway around the world.

I picked the latter, which is how I ended up in Istanbul for the week, squeezing sightseeing in between my working hours. The only problem is, when I got off the plane late at night, it was 8 degrees Celsius (46F), hardly the steamy 35C/95F weather I had prepared for. My backpack was full of lightweight tanks and shorts that would never work here.

I could have gone shopping, but didn't want to spend the money or add anything to my minimal luggage. I decided instead to use what I had. Fortunately the daytime temperature warmed up a bit, reaching 18C (64F) yesterday, which is more manageable.

A few key items of clothing have made a huge difference and made me realize that I could travel even more lightly than I already do, now that I've accepted the idea of wearing the same clothes for days on end!

1. The Scarf: Never, ever go anywhere in the world without a long, soft, flowy scarf that can be turned into anything you need – a wrap on cool nights, a neckwarmer, an accent piece, a coverup for entering holy places, a pillow on the plane. I've been using my scarf every single day to add warmth.

2. A long skirt: I packed a floor-length casual skirt because I thought it would protect me from the sun and heat in Sri Lanka, but now that added material is providing much-needed warmth in Istanbul.

3. Black t-shirts: A t-shirt is so much warmer than a tank top, I've discovered, and I'm so grateful I packed two loose black ones on this trip because they're all I've been wearing. They don't show the dirt or armpit stains, and they make me feel appropriately dressed in this fairly modest Muslim city.

K overlooking sea

© K Martinko – Day 3 in this black shirt, but the stunning view overshadows the fact that it needs a wash!

4. Cropped jeans: Usually I wear leggings on a plane, but this time I opted for super-stretchy cropped jeans. I'm not quite sure why I deviated from the norm, but it was the best decision I made. I can wear those jeans all around without feeling self-conscious, whereas strutting in a pair of yoga pants through Istanbul would've been a no-go. (I haven't seen a single woman wearing them since I arrived. It's clearly not a thing here.)

5. A hoody: I have the black hoody I wore on the plane, but after traveling for 48 hours, it smells. Still, I am glad to have it for those really cool evenings, and it's not like I'm cozying up to anyone on this solo trip, so I can live with the smell. I could wash it with the packet of detergent I brought, but I'm not sure how I'd manage without it for the time it would take to dry, so I haven't done that yet. (Note to self: Bring a flat sink plug next time.)

6. The double shirt trick: Remember when your mom made you wear an undershirt when the weather was cold? Now I understand the wisdom behind it. Putting a tank underneath a t-shirt makes it much warmer.

If you're wondering about footwear, I've got a pair of running shoes, a pair of leather Pons sandals, and flip-flops. And that is the grand total of my usable clothing for these 10 days away from home. If it warms up, I might be able to use a T-shirt dress I packed, but for now I'm making do with the list above. That's what adventure travel is all about, right?