Column: The Bare Necessities for a Norway Adventure

For the Valley News
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

I wake up at three in the morning, and this pops into my head: “O boy, I wonder what size batteries the travel alarm clock takes. Triple-A’s, prob’ly. Hope I have some. Better check after I get up.”

Emily Dickinson’s famous line, “After great pain a formal feeling comes,” is the obverse of what I’m experiencing, which is, “Before most adventures a nervous feeling comes.” As the moment for leaving for a long week in Norway approaches (my Calvinist roots prompt me to point out that it’s not a vacation, but work), I go over again and again in my mind what to take and what not to.

I’m trying to fit everything for eight days into a medium-sized Duluth Pack duffle. I can’t carry what I used to, and haven’t yet succumbed to the siren song of the little wheels that rumble like runaway beer wagons on aluminum moving walkways. So my choices are consequential.

Mother and I used to go through this before every one of our European trips. She’d say, “We’re going to be staying in seven different cities, so I need seven outfits.” It did no good to point out that each city had no idea what she’d worn the evening before; I don’t think that was really the point. So I’d just recite to myself the advice columnist’s question, “Are you better off with her, or ...” and help shoulder the load.

My son, who travels a lot on business, claims he can go for a week with one modest carry-on, even including pressed shirts for meetings. Uh-huh, I think; if he can do it ...

Probably the greatest boon to modern air travel has been the gradual democratization of travel duds. I can recall when we wouldn’t have flown without coat and tie and at least penny loafers. No more. Even first class, as we file by, is full of bums wearing shorts, polo shirts and sandals.

I always start packing at the feet and work my way up. The greatest saving in space, thanks to the current informality, is the lack of need for more than one pair of shoes. One’ll do, and it’s the one you have on (and doff for the folks in security).

Then to the socks. This trip I’m going to wear Supp-hose on the plane to reduce the chance of phlebitis or fatigue. They roll up small as a sparrow when not in use. The rest are the usual ragg socks, comfortable and good for a couple of days. If I’m going to be in a hotel for more than one night (three times on this trip), I can wash ’em the first night, and they’ll be dry before we leave.

The same goes for underwear and T-shirts: minimal and washable. Trousers — just two pairs, one worn, and the one that rolls up smaller in the bag.

One belt; nobody looks at it any more than your feet.

It’s shirts where it gets tricky. The tour company has been good enough to supply temperature charts for both Oslo, where we start, and the Lofoten Islands, north of the Arctic Circle, where we’ll spend a few days. We can expect averages between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Nice! So only one polo shirt, a denim long-sleeved shirt, and a Vermont Flannel or a Pendleton. On top of those, a fleece shirt (packs bulky, and can’t be squeezed, so maybe wear it or stuff it into my day pack; bummer).

For high wind or rain, a lightweight Gore-Tex parka. Hat: a little red fleece tuque with a Green Mountain Club logo. Three bandanas.

A Dopp kit with pills, floss, a tiny tube of toothpaste, loperamide, small flashlight, Band-Aids, bacitracin (a lifesaver on big cuts, as I demonstrated on a recent trip to Mexico, far from medical help), electrical outlet converters, iPhone charger and comb. The kit goes into my pack as carry-on. The weapons it normally contains — nail clippers and tiny pen knife — go into my checked duffel. Extra spectacles, wrapped in a sock to save weight, instead of the usual hard case. Alarm clock with fresh batteries.

Backpack: Be sure to silicone the zippers before loading it. Plane ticket and passport, of course (make sure passport is current; a couple of years ago we suffered the loss of a crew member whose passport, unbeknownst to him, had lapsed).

Credit card and bank card (gets the best exchange rate); make sure both companies know I’m traveling, where and when. Collapsible cane. No books; too heavy. Magazines instead, to discard as I finish them. Eight or 10 Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword puzzles; a couple of fresh Bic pens. Cellphone that I’m just beginning to learn how to use; great for taking photos and checking Facebook. Small portfolio of sagas and stories of Viking heroes (my favorites are Egil Skallagrimsson and Grettir the Strong); information about our surroundings in case the local guide doesn’t mention them.

Most important will be the 26 other folks on the trip, some of whom I know from past adventures to places from Cuba to Iceland. They’re what make these trips most enjoyable and memorable.

And if I haven’t forgotten anything, nothing can possibly go wrong. Right?

Willem Lange can be reached at willem.lange@comcast.net.