The realities of International business travel for this crazy woman

I’ve made the same mistake now, about three times. I over packed. I over packed, and paid $1000 for it on United Airlines. I think the old adage is that the less you have, the more you hoard? But I’ll say for international travel, the less you know, the more you hoard.

Reflecting on the two weeks I spent in the city of Yeketerinburg, Russia last month, I think I could have gotten away with a lot less stuff; about four pairs of shoes (not the 10 pairs I brought). I could have brought two dresses a couple of shirts and skirts—instead of the nearly thrice that I brought. I didn’t need any reading material for the flight or long hotel nights. There are in-flight movies and sleep and night were spent mostly processing the day’s events and sleeping. I certainly didn’t need the two sets of toiletries and make-up (one for the carry-on in case my luggage didn’t arrive). Oh and the mountain of power bars too—I brought a whole bunch home uneaten.

The mistake is not so much misinformation or ignorance as it is fear. I run an international women’s empowerment program in remote areas of the world and the irony is that in my own silly ways, I’m still working on my own empowerment. I fear that I won’t have what I need, that I will be naked and makeup-less, filthy and hungry in the middle of nowhere and be expected to present a PowerPoint on my corporation to donors. I would like to tell you exactly what I imagine, but it may not be precisely accurate to say I have an idea in my head. I can’t really imagine it at all. Is there food? Is the weather hot? Cold? Will I need to wash everyday or every other day? Who exactly will I be meeting and what will they expect from me? I’m not just touring here, where I can throw on my flip flops and wander down to the hotel lobby and around town. I’m in power meetings with influential people, able to make or break my efforts in the area. I can’t just walk in wearing week-old smelly clothes.
So like any good woman obsessing on her future needs, I sorted through all the possible darkest scenarios and packed for the worst. Ironically, the worst is actually standing in a psycho crazy international airport without a stitch of the local language in my head and trying to negotiate my way out of a $400 over weight fee and then hauling all that heavy crap through the airport when I arrive in the states. That’s the worst! And I’ve forgotten that three times—Jerusalem; Yerevan, Armenia and now Yeketerinburg, Russia.

So, I’m writing this blog and committing to getting myself a reasonable suitcase- one that rolls on four wheels, that’s durable enough to get through to Banjul, Gambia (West Africa) intact and one that will not compromise my stuff. I’m NOT packing a full first aid kit and sewing kit, a stack of books, three curling irons (yes three—I was concerned that one would blow out—er…or that two would blow out), enough power-bars to feed myself for two weeks, a closet full of clothes and more shoes than the women in my classes own. And no more of these heels! Heck, I packed a formal floor-length dress for this last one. In my defense, the agenda called for a formal reception the last night of the program and like a 12-year-old packing for camp, from a list, I packed my formal. I brought it home unworn and paid a good $1000 for the privilege of hauling it, and a sundry of other junk, to the border of Europe/Asia and back. It cost me $400 at the US airport, $200 in Moscow and then another $400 on my way back.

When the agenda calls for a formal, I’m going to bring a set of pearls and put it with whatever I’ve got. If they want to see me in a formal, they will need to come to Salt Lake City, UT where I can access my closet for free. And for that matter, if I am starving, naked, filthy and pitiful and someone asks for a PPT on my corporation, it will be all the more dramatic!

Written by Tamee Roberts, Executive Director at Women Empowerment Global Outreach

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