In 24 hours I will be on a plane to Buenos Aires via Houston. Pictured above are a few of my unique travel accessories. Almost everyone who travels, or just lives their daily lives (of a certain band of socio-economic class) predictably carries and uses certain items: clothes, food, phone/music player, toiletries, books/information/means of reading. These substances are inextricably part of most peoples’ daily lives. Like everyone else, I bring them with me when I travel, but I also bring some other items that provide an encapsulation of my essence, those material items most dear to me because they somehow enable my particular strand of activities and use of time on this Earth.
Here are mine, which I think may be a bit different than most travelers:

1) Martial arts dogi, for practicing at aikido dojos. When I traveled across Europe 10 years ago, I periodically dropped in on different dojos all over the place, in just plain clothes. This led to some of my most interesting local experiences and info, a common bond and passion between people I could sometimes not even linguistically communicate with.

This warmth I experienced ranged from a Sensei in Granada telling me in halting English, after practice, “Whenever you come here, this is your home,” to a Copenhagen Sensei nonchalantly instructing at the beginning of a class, “Today we have a visitor from America, so I’m going to teach in English.”

Now that I’m a black belt (not pictured–already packed), I find it a bit unseemly to just show up in sweats, so I don’t mind packing one of my lightweight uniforms.

2) Tea pots, cups, and leaves: Anyone who has spent a bit of time with me knows I am a tea, and specifically, pu-er afficianado. While my depth of knowledge still can’t hold a candle to innumerable old Chinese men and seasoned bloggers like The Half-Dipper and Marshal N, it’s still astonishing for most people in most of the world to see me whip out these tiny ceramics and strange leaves all because this particular brand of ceremony and qi is so valuable to me.

3) Digital recorder: It boggles my mind to think I lumbered across Europe for 6 months with a huge guitar in the past. When I traveled through Japan 2 years ago, I decided I didn’t want to mess with that anymore and satisfied myself with occasionally playing guitars of various qualities (usually crappy to mediocre) that I came across and temporarily bottling my musical urges into other pursuits. After thinking about it for several years, I finally acquired a digital recorder this year, which I’ve been using to capture musical ideas, ambient sounds, and aiding me in my own music production. I hope to use this as part of my documentation and impromptu jam sessions on the streets and mountains of Argentina and Bolivia.

It’s liberating to be a backpacker because it forces you to carry everything that is useful or holds value for you. Make no mistake, I still prefer having access to my multiples gis and wooden weapons, my guitar, bass, synthesizer, and computer, and bings and bags of semi-aged pu-er, but it’s a worthwhile¬†experience to encapsulate these traits and possessions while on the road.