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Study Abroad in a Carry-On: Final Thoughts (7/7)

I made it to Peru without any troubles! I’ve actually been here for about a month and a half now, but I wanted to get settled before I write this “review” post about my packing method.


ifsa saco 7 final thoughts


I had three flights, and two short layovers, which were less than two hours. I flew Chicago O’Hare to Orlando, Orlando to Dallas FW, and Dallas FW to Lima.

When navigating my luggage, most people left me alone, even though it looked really full. However, at pretty much every gate, airline employees kept asking me to take out my gift blanket in order to “make it fit” in the overhead bins. This was very frustrating, especially since I know that the full suitcase would easily fit, even with the blanket packed. However, I realized that these people were just trying to do their job, so I was as polite and courteous as possible, casually mentioning that I was traveling to Peru for six months, and this was all the luggage I had. As soon as I mentioned that, the employees were very understanding and accommodating, helping me so that I would not have to gate-check my bag.

My Orlando to Dallas FW flight took longer than expected, so I only had forty-five minutes to find my gate and freshen up in the bathroom. I was very, very rushed, and I was so thankful that I had not yet checked my bag, because I can almost guarantee that it would not have made my flight to Lima.

Although I was required to gate-check my carry-on (despite sufficient room), I didn’t mind since I knew that it would safely arrive at my destination.

The flight was quite nice, and it was wonderful to see the sunrise flying in over the mountains and the ocean. I usually fly into Lima at night, so it was a treat to see it as the city was beginning to stir.

I found my carry-on luggage quickly, and made my way to greet Peru once more.

So now that I’ve been here a few weeks, I can accurately assess my packing skills. Here it is—the bad, the good, and the purchased:

Unfortunately, I did bring a few items that I wish I would have left at home:

  • a third pair of pants (I might change my mind when winter temperatures set in, but I now realize that three jeans were not necessary. I wish I would have brought a skirt or another dress)
  • some of my makeup (I LOVE to wear makeup a few times a week, but most days, I cannot be bothered to wear a full face. Other than for a certain special occasion [which I will write about in my next post], I didn’t need to bring foundation, setting powder, blush, or highlighter. I would have preferred to bring more eyeshadow instead.)
  • my big headphones (Okay, these ones are tricky to explain. When I’m traveling, these are AWESOME. I will definitely use them on the bus/plane when traveling on program trips. However, I don’t really wear them in public simply because they’re not discreet. I feel like a walking target for thieves or scams whenever I’m wearing them!)
  • so many gifts (Again, this is difficult. I love the gifts and their recipients dearly, but they took up an unnecessary amount of room. The majority was just snacks. I would have preferred to bring something useful that would last awhile rather than something so consumable. I don’t mind that they took up so much room, but the fact that they were gone in a week makes me think that those specific gifts were not worth the hassle.)

However, there are a few items that I am SO THANKFUL that I remembered to pack:

  • my LifeStraw water bottle (This reusable filtered water rids cleans dirty water from bacteria and dirt. Because it makes water safe to drink, I carry it around all day and fill it up at any tap, thus eliminating the need to purchase water bottles. If I’m low on cash while walking about, I don’t have to worry about dehydration.)
  • NRR-33 ear plugs (Lima, like all big cities, is very noisy. There is always the distant hum of traffic, and many people like to have parties late at night, even during the week. I have used these many times, and I sleep quite soundly. They’re great to use while studying, so as to increase my concentration. I also use them when going to loud places like the movies, bars, or church services in order to protect my ears.)
  • dresses (Peru is currently at the tail end of summer, and it gets pretty hot during the day, especially when taking public transportation. Although many Peruvian women do wear shorts [more than I remembered, anyway], I’m glad I didn’t bring any [other than one pair for workout gear] because they will be completely impractical in about a month. Dresses and skirts keep me cool during the day, but warm at night.)
  • tote bag (Once I arrived, I was mad that I brought a tote bag instead of a backpack. I strongly considered purchasing a cheap backpack just to use here in Peru, but I’m glad that I didn’t. The University actually provided us with backpacks, so I initially used that, but I find that I use my tote more often. It’s MUCH easier to maneuver when taking the bus, and I never worry about someone stealing it, whereas I am constantly anxious whenever I wear a backpack, even when walking. Backpacks look very touristy here, especially on someone with my skin coloring. However, when I use the tote, I look more like a local on her way to work.)
  • credit card (Although I definitely use cash more often when purchasing items, it’s actually cheaper for me to use my card to pay for something, rather than wiring money. Before I left, I applied for a Visa [more widely accepted] that had low fees on international purchases [that is the key—low fees]. So when buying things like toiletries, I use my card instead of cash.)
  • reusable, foldable tote bag (While I technically didn’t pack this [I left it down here], I use this all the time. Peruvians use plastic bags for EVERYTHING, so it’s nice to throw this in my larger tote to use instead of a plastic bag, should the need arise. It’s also great to carry a few things [like workout gear] when going somewhere, rather than taking my big tote bag.)

Finally, here is a list of things that I purchased since I’ve been here, because I didn’t pack them (i.e, not souvenirs):

  • shampoo & conditioner ($24 total, should last me the whole trip)
  • face soap ($1, should last the whole time)
  • SPF 50 body lotion ($10)
  • deodorant ($2)
  • toothpaste ($1)
  • face scrub ($6, one-time purchase)
  • shower caddy set ($3)
  • barrettes (75¢)
  • headband ($2)
  • flip flops ($2)
  • dress ($15)
  • five folders ($7)
  • set of felt-tip pens ($10)
  • five highlighters ($5)
  • one notebook ($3)
  • hole punch ($3)
  • pencils (75¢)
  • sharpener (75¢)
  • eraser (75¢)
  • moka pot ($20. Definitely not necessary, but I can only handle instant coffee [the preferred coffee of Peru] for so long.)

As you can see, other than toiletries and school supplies, I have not needed to purchase much. In regards to the dress, flip flops, and hair accessories—I should have packed them. However, the flip flops will be ready to throw away by the time I leave, and the dress and hair accessories will make for a cool story when I return home.

This was probably the most successful packing I’ve done thus far. Even though I did not bring much, I do not miss my items back home, particularly clothes. As expected, it is so nice to know that all of my clothes fit and look nice together! I don’t struggle to find my belongings, and it’s very easy to keep everything organized.

And although I will probably not be going carry-on only upon my return (for reasons explained in my next post), I do not regret bringing so little.

Until next time!


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