If you've been around Journey Mercies for any length of time, you've probably noticed we travel a lot - at least one week every month, minimum. All that travel has definitely changed me in many quirky ways - one of them being how I pack.
I am a horrible overpacker. I always plan for the "what-if" and "maybe-I'll...", and end up with way more stuff than any sane person needs for a week-long trip. But at the same time, I think it's really hard to plan for that long! Especially when I know that halfway through the day, if I've been walking around outside at all, I'll be sweat-soaked and ready for a change. So why not bring all that you can?
Well, for starters, most hotels don't have elevators in Cambodia - so lugging a 40-lb. suitcase gets pretty tiring pretty quick. Also, any vehicle you take is notoriously small. Taxis keep the gas tank in the trunk, so you're expected to either bring a purse-sized bag or sit the whole way with your suitcase in your lap. Cambodians seem to have this down - I never get over my surprise at seeing a Cambodian traveling 8+ hours away from home with nothing but a backpack. And you better hope you don't have to walk with your bag anywhere, because sidewalks are nonexistent and streets are dangerous for pedestrians.
So I've slowly learned to pare things down, try to find a laundry shop for trips longer than four days, and find ways to wear things more than once. And also, I try to accept that I can't pack for every possibility on a trip.
Combined with my new-found skills in packing has been the slow realization over the past 6 months that...I've let myself go a bit. I think the epiphany came at a moment when Andrew looked at the stained, ragged t-shirts and holey pants in my closet and said, "You know, some of those shirts....are nasty." I looked at him, startled, because he never says anything about my clothes. He appreciates when I dress up, but doesn't really seem to notice what I wear day to day. And maybe that's good, because in Cambodia, when it's over 100 degrees and you get covered in dirt driving down the road on the moto and you just want to wear something functional, being 'stylish' is the last thing on your mind. And clothes just don't last here - they literally fall apart within a year or two, especially if they were from a cheap store. So why bother wearing nice things if they'll just get ruined?
At least that's my excuse. But I have a friend who lives in Poipet with us and always manages to look put together. She even famously once said that it's prejudiced to not wear nice clothes just because you're in Cambodia - if you dress nice for work in North America to show you respect the workplace and your coworkers, why wouldn't you in Cambodia? Just because it's hotter than normal?
I used to think Cambodians didn't care what I wore either. But then I noticed that, if I put on some mascara and straightened my hair and wore a nice shirt, the ladies at the office flipped out, like I had just had a makeover. And I thought, Ok, maybe I'm a bit worse off than I care to admit...
So long story short, I started throwing away the "nasty shirts", figuring out what I could wear in Poipet, and remembering that what I wear is a reflection of who I am.
Whew! Ok, so that whole story is basically an explanation of why I did a 7x7 wardrobe challenge, hosted by another blogger.
The reason is a combination of learning how to pack for a trip and doing it in a Cambodia-appropriate way. A 7x7 challenge is taking 7 pieces of clothing (excluding shoes) and coming up with 7 different outfits. I actually only used 6 pieces of clothing (one maxi skirt, one short skirt, one pair of jeans, and three shirts) and came up with 8 outfits - so, brownie points for me (what does that phrase even mean? does it mean I get brownies? English is so weird...).
The whole point of the 7x7 is to find new outfits with the clothes you already have - and I definitely did. Some of these outfits I would only wear in Phnom Penh (i.e. white skirt = too short + disaster waiting to happen here) or in Bangkok. I literally have 3 different sets of clothing - every day cleaning/market clothes, nice Poipet clothes, big-city-only clothes.