It’s been a while since I’ve lived out of my backpack. More than three years, actually. The last time I stuffed my life into this bag when was I worked at a newspaper in New Zealand for a semester during journalism school in 2004.

As I prepare for this trip — T minus three days now — I’m feeling nervous not about the flight, not about the time away from home, not about the language, the food, the change of cultures. What’s giving me anxiety is fitting everything into my pack.

Here’s the packing list. I’ll take a daypack and a small shoulder bag, too.

Sleeping accessories: sleeping bag, mosquito net, sheet

Shoes (they get their own category because they take up so much room): sandals, hiking boots, running sneakers

Keep-me-healthy supplies: water filter, Nalgene bottle, daily malaria pills, headlamp

Techie equipment (I should call this group “begging to be stolen”): mini computer and extra battery, power converter, digital camera, global cell phone, iPod

Personal items: toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush and the like, contact supplies to last six months, ditto on tampons (both likely will be hard to find when I’m outside of major cities), six months worth of my daily medications, plus a collection of remedies to fight any stomach bugs I pick up along the way, sunblock and bug spray

Books: Lonely Planet guides to West Africa and Madagascar, a fun-read paperback, copies of important documents, a notebook, small photo album of family and friends to share

Gifts: Stickers for kids (the lightest toy around)

Does that leave any room for clothes? Not much. But I’m also hoping to fit a few skirts, capris and shirts in there, plus a fleece jacket and a rain slicker.

Then there’s the all-essential money belt, which will hold my passport, paper airline tickets (apparently some airlines still use those), debit card, back-up traveler’s checks and U.S. dollars.

Since I’ve left Houston and have turned my parents’ house in Albany, NY, into Packing Headquarters, these two weeks of preparation are doubling as quality time with my family. That includes using my mom for the mosquito net test run:

Mom tries my mosquito net

Am I forgetting anything? Please say no. I don’t think it will fit in my bag.

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