Slobodanka Graham


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Big or small! Use packing cubes for light travel

Big or small! Use packing cubes for light travel

How to use packing cubes

Clare: engineer, writer, mother and packer

Clare: engineer, writer, mother and packer

I met with Clare, engineer, mother and light traveller, to talk about packing cubes. She enlightens us on flying and travelling with these sophisticated 'pencil cases' - as she calls them. It's all about compartmentalising your wardrobe - and perhaps even colour coding it! Listen to what she has to say:



Bobby: Good morning Planepack, and welcome to another episode. I'm sitting here in the lovely pop up coffee shop at the Australian National University, and I am joined by Clare.

Welcome Clare.

Clare: Thanks for having me.

Bobby: Great. You are an engineer and you also run Practical Editing. Can you tell us about those two?

Clare: So, as an engineer there are certain ways you might look at things, and that can be very logical and complex, and sometimes linear. And, a lot of people need that sort of approach to their writing and at the same time a lot of engineers don't like writing at all, and they just want to do the work and then have the report magically appear.

So, that is the sort of service I provide is helping people learn how to write better and frame and present their writing and get through it ... and also to do the writing for them. They can give me the information and I can pump out the report.

Bobby: It's a great skill and a fabulous service that you offer, but I'm really here to talk to you about travels. I know you like to travel.

Clare: I love to travel.

Bobby: Where was your last trip?

Clare: My last trip was to Cambodia.

Bobby: Wow

Clare: In February.

Bobby: What did you do in Cambodia?

Clare: I went with Engineers Without Borders as a mentor-

Bobby: Engineers Without Borders?

Clare: Engineers Without Borders

Bobby: What does that mean?

Clare: So, it's an organisation in Australia. There are a few around the world. Some of them are connected to each other and others not connected. The Engineers Without Borders in Australia, they work in a few areas, so around promoting the idea of engineering in education. In Australia that's in universities, high schools, and primary schools. And, they also do projects where they support organisations overseas and in Australia to get what they need out of engineering, get the technical ideas and get the technical advice while they're running the project.

So, there might be an organisation in Cambodia that needs some technical advice with the Rainwater Collection Programme that they're running and they'll partner with Engineers Without Borders and someone would come over and help there. For this, they can access our pool of knowledge.

Bobby: So, what was your role in that trip?

Clare: So, I was a mentor for university students who were there on an education programme. So, they're learning about engineering in one of the communities or multiple communities. We went and visited and stayed in the community and then the students come up with ideas that might be of use to the community and present them back to the community. If they wanna take them on, they can and if they don't, that's okay. It's about cultural exchange and learning how you might work in humanitarian engineering.

Bobby: Well, when you travel to a country like Cambodia and you do a trip like that, do you travel lightly?

Clare: Certainly try to.

Bobby: What does that mean?

Clare: So, I do have carry on and checked. I don't manage to do it without checked, but I'm certainly aware of only packing what I need to. Especially a place like in Cambodia where I have a good understanding of what's going on[inaudible 00:03:06], I understand how easy and quickly it might be to do laundry or what pieces I might need and how often I might need to change them ... and how quickly something might dry if I choose to rinse it in the bathroom, and also about being able to be more mobile. So, the less I'm packing the easier it is and the more organised my packing it is, the easier it is to manage.

Bobby: Now talking about organised packing, I believe you use packing cubes. What are those? Can you tell me?

Clare: I love my packing cubes. So there's a few shops that sell them. They've been around for awhile. They come in different sizes. It's like a little ... it's almost like a pencil case for your clothes.

Bobby: That's a good description.

Clare: Just occurred to me then[crosstalk 00:03:48]

Bobby: That's the engineer thinking

Clare: That's right. I love a good metaphor.

So the packing cube, I've got three different examples here and there's a fourth, which I sadly couldn't bring with me today. And, one uh ...

Bobby: How do you use them? I think that's the question that would interest our listeners and readers.

Clare: So I use them by ... they come in different sizes and I put different things in different sized cubes and in the different types of cubes and different shapes. And, I sometimes when I'm feeling very organised I will colour code. So they come in different colours, and especially if I'm travelling with my kids and my husband, and we're trying to make all the packing work together, I might put all the same ... like it might be tee shirts are in the blue ones.

Bobby: Right. And, that was going to be my next question. I know you have young children so what's it like travelling with them and using the packing cubes?

Clare: It's easier with the packing cubes. So, I can roll up my clothes or their clothes quite tightly and small and line them up in a cube, zip it up ... and it's also easy for them to be able to get their own clothes, that way it can be said, "You need to go get a tee shirt to put on, go look in the blue cube in your bag."

Bobby: I really like that idea of colour coding. Now do you also consider colour coding per child, so one child would just get blue and the other child would just get green cubes so that they would know which are theirs?

Clare: I would, but my two kids despite being three years apart are almost exactly the same size [crosstalk 00:05:23]

Bobby: So it's tee shirts in the one and shorts in the other?

Clare: I certainly would consider the different, like one colour each but I just don't have enough cubes of the same colour.

Bobby: So tell us what's travelling with small children like?

Clare: Um ... hilarious. They're the best community engagement tool. So I travelled to Aceh when my oldest was nine months old, and I was out talking to a community about a few things about relocation after the tsunami. And, it was the best way to get engagement and real connection with the community and talking to them about their experiences when I could pass a small child around.

Bobby: I love that notion of passing a small child around.

Clare: And, he's particularly cute, so it was really positive experience.

Bobby: A real good ice breaker.

Clare: Oh, it was great. You find that you meet more people, I find, when you're travelling with small kids, cuz people will ... people on the street, especially women like in a market or something will engage in conversation or wanna engage with the kids so you have more opportunities to connect with locals.

Bobby: And, what about the practical aspects of travelling with children, like getting through airports or spending time on the plane? What's that like?

Clare: Just cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Bring treats. Bribe them.

Bobby: Yes. Good one. I like that. [crosstalk 00:06:45]

So getting back to travelling, travelling with packing cubes, travelling to maybe some unusual destinations, what advice would you give to the Planepack listeners or readers, on how to travel light?

Clare: So, if I'm using a cube, I might decide that I'm gonna put two days clothes in one cube, as a way to cause myself to be economical in my packing, and also means that I'm only pulling out one sort of package at a time instead of everything going everywhere when I pull something out of my bag. I think getting a few different sizes and thinking about how you're actually gonna function with this in the field, so to speak ... um think that's one way.

I also use a type of cube that's waterproof that you normally ... it's not really even a cube anymore ... but that's meant for hiking to keep things dry. But, I use it for clothes that need to go to laundry and I find that can be really good too because it allows me to compress those clothes and they're not gonna make everything else smelly as well, so if you're sort of in between locations [crosstalk 00:07:54]

Bobby: Some of my readers have asked me or have said "It's very, very hard to travel light if you're travelling between two different climates." Do you think if you were using packing cubes you could separate with something for a warm weather climate and something for a cooler weather climate? Would it be a practical approach if you had to complete both in the duration of one journey?

Clare: Certainly. I would probably go a colour coding option, yeah.

I would use some of my larger ones for some of those bigger, warmer things. But I think always layers ... you can always layer. To be honest, when you're in a colder climate you probably don't need to wash all those layers every time.

Bobby: Just the ones closest to your skin probably ...

Clare: Yeah, exactly. So you might not need that many extra clothes cuz when you're in the hotter climate you're gonna need to wash them more often, but when you're in the cooler climate you can have many of those layers. And, just maybe keep taking the inside layer off and moving all the other layers closer.

Bobby: Well, Clare you have been an absolute fount of information. I'll have to definitely look into getting some packing cubes for myself, cuz I've never used them. So on behalf of Planepack, I'd like to really thank you very much for your time this morning and happy travels on the next trip.

Clare: Thanks so much, Bobby

Share the stage!

Slobodanka presenting

Slobodanka presenting

I'm Slobodanka Graham, blogger, podcaster and extreme light traveler. If you have something to say about light travel, I'd love to hear from you. Join me for a chat. Share the microphone. Planepack listeners and readers enjoy learning about your travel light experiences.

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Help Planepack plot its course