Packing Like a True Pilgrim

Brianna CampbellPilgrims' Stories, Upcoming Pilgrimages

When preparing for a pilgrimage, packing your bag for the journey ahead can err on the side of intimidating. If you are an experienced traveler, you may be in possession of that special grace that allows you to perform this task with ease. If this your first rodeo however, don’t worry, I’m here to help.

There was a time when I could identify as that “chronic” packer. You know, the kind of person who packs 7 shirts “just in case” when I leave the house for the weekend. As my mom always used to say, “You never know what’s going to happen…” I knew I hit a low when I packed a bag for three days in New York City that was so big I couldn’t get it through the subway turnstiles (true story).

Well, now that I’m older (a little bit) and wiser (a tiny bit), I’ve come to see the ridiculousness of my ways, especially when I return home from a trip and realize that I didn’t even need/touch/remember/use a good portion of the things that traveled along with me. Always up for a challenge, I decided I would never again travel without packing in the most discreet, light, and efficient way possible.

This past year, I’ve been travelling all around the country for a variety of weekend retreats, events, and getaways. During these quick trips, I challenged myself to take nothing more than a backpack. That’s right­– a backpack. The same one I used in sixth grade, as a matter of fact. And honestly, it’s been the easiest and most stress-free travelling I’ve ever done. As I am quickly approaching my third pilgrimage abroad this May, I decided this might be a good time to share my packing wisdom with my fellow pilgrims. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

The CampbellBri (KonMari haha) Method
A stress-free and joy-giving way to pack for your pilgrimage

As you gather yourself and mentally prepare to start collecting things to throw in a suitcase, keep these following points in mind:

  1. Remember: this is a pilgrimage, not a vacation
    This is probably the most important point. As a pilgrim, you should spiritually and physically prepare yourself for this journey by separating yourself from material and worldly goods. I’m not saying you should only pack a potato sack and wear it for 10 days, but I am challenging you to refrain from insisting on taking excessive amounts of clothes for the sake of being a fashionable pilgrim. Simplicity is key; with fewer worldly things blocking your view, you can more closely encounter Christ.

  2. Less is better
    Less is definitely better, especially from a point of practicality. Pilgrims navigate airports, stay at multiple hotels, and load and unload a bus at several locations. Bulky luggage definitely can create a stressful and hindering situation. Who wants to jostle around 50-pound luggage in tight and crowded spaces? My hand sure isn’t raised. The lighter and more discreet your luggage is, the happier a camper you will be.

  3. What are the expectations of this culture?
    This is definitely key. A given for any holy destination that you visit is always dressing modestly, with shoulders and knees covered (for both men and women). Many religious sites will deny you entry if you don’t follow that rule, and as we approach the Lord in the tabernacle, we should be covered appropriately. If you are more concerned with blending in with the natives, a quick Google search can show you examples of how people in that particular part of the world dress.

  4. What will the weather be like?
    The weather is a huge indicator for what the contents of a suitcase will be. Keep in mind that seasons change at different times around the world, and the weather in the U.S. doesn’t necessarily reflect the weather elsewhere. Best practice would be to look up the weather predictions for your place of pilgrimage the week before departure and pack accordingly.

  5. What pieces of clothing can be worn more than once?
    No one is going to judge you if you are an outfit repeater on your pilgrimage. For outer layers (sweatshirts, coats, sweaters), bottoms (skirts, modest shorts, pants), and shoes (good for walking), I recommend wearing them multiple times while abroad. Shoes are especially bulky, so here is a special challenge: pack only one pair. I know, ladies, that’s a tough one to conquer, but if you’re short on space, shoes are the easiest things to eliminate.

  6. What activities will you be doing?
    Before you leave on your pilgrimage, you will receive a final itinerary with all the activities you and your group will partake in. Going to the Dead Sea for the day? Pack a swimsuit. Climbing a mountain in Italy? Bring good walking shoes. Not building a snowman in Lourdes? It might be best to leave the snowsuit at home.

  7. What is provided at the destination?
    Common amenities provided at most hotels worldwide are hairdryers and toiletries. To free up that precious space in your suitcase, leave these items at home, and plan on using the ones provided.

  8. Are you packing the important needs before the unimportant wants?
    As I packed for my last pilgrimage to Italy, I found myself packing 3 belts. THREE belts. Not only is that excessive, but it took up space that could easily be filled with something that made, you know, actual sense. Sure, I wanted to wear belts that coordinated with my outfits better, but firstly I just needed my pants to stay in place. So, I eliminated the extra culprits and filled their places with other things that I legitimately needed.

  9. What can be left behind?
    After I gather everything I want to pack for my trip, I spread it out and ask myself, “What don’t I need?” Even if you are thinking about all the above guidelines while packing, a few unnecessary things will always sneak their way in. I live in a very “what if” state of mind and tend to pack for any situation that I can imagine happening. Nine times out of ten, those situations occur only in my mind. It’s always helpful to give your items one final look over and decide what you will realistically need and what should not make the final cut.

Packing Like a Boss
The CampbellBri Method

Now that you have decided what items will be making the journey with you, it’s time to properly pack them. A lot of travelers swear by “packing cubes,” such as these found on Amazon.

  1. Acquire rubber bands and gallon-size bags
  2. Fold individual pieces of clothing in half (or thirds, depending on how thick the clothing is) and smooth flat
  3. Tightly roll the piece of clothing from one end to the other
  4. Fasten the rolled clothing by wrapping a rubber band around it
  5. Take multiple pieces of rolled and rubber banded clothing and fit into a gallon-sized bag
  6. Halfway zip the bag, and then flatten the bag so that excess air is pushed out. Finish zipping the bag. The effect should look like it’s been vacuum sealed.
  7. Stack your “vacuum sealed” bags in your suitcase and fit other things (ex: toiletries, brush, shoes) around the bags in the empty spaces
  8. Wah-lah! You look like a true pilgrim, partner.

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