What to bring when leaving America?

One of the first things people will tell you when you finally decide that you’re going to leave America for real is this: remember you’re still taking yourself with you wherever you go!

They mean to come across as deep: instead, they reveal themselves as trapped individuals, unable to escape the infernal malebolge; you, on the other hand, have already given the hiho.

When you decide to abandon the land of climate change deniers,  it is best to determine carefully what to take with you, while fulfilling the experienced traveler’s dictum: always travel as light as possible, Dahab style.

You will most definitely need a rugged Filson duffle bag for your t-shirts, spare underwear, cargo pants, Jimmie Hats, hoodie, Hawaiian-motif bathing suit, and minimal assortment of essential knickknacks; the one above is a trusty piece of luggage that I’ve had for a decade.  It has been to the Sinai with me, as well as Le Grand Sud in Tunisia, much of the South of France, various bluegrass festivals in Fla, and my hometown, NYC. It is a rock solid luggage item, very expat hip, and can take almost any kind of beating; I have only had to replace the zipper with an industrial one. Buy it:  it fits in most overhead luggage racks, and packs a ton of clothes.

You will also need the S8 plus, unlocked of course. (iPhones are for pussies; Android is the way to go.) Thusly you can change your SIM cards easy peasy japanesee wherever you wander. You may want to bring with you a $30 foldable keyboard, to write your great novel or noodle with your Bruce Chatwinesque thoughts on your Galaxy using iAWriter. With the sentries from the Land of Planet Poison now making laptops a pain in the arse to travel with, your nice little notebook is now a thing of a past.  Deal with it: your phone is now your workstation.  Don’t forget to back your data to your Google drive, after you encrypt the files, and activate the fingerprint lockdown technology that comes with your phone. Transfer everything to your SD card, wipe the phone clean, and keep your (removed) SD card somewhere safe and inconspicuous. And if you are actually going to Egypt for a visit, read this to know what is really going on in terms of Internet spying and surveillance there.

When you’re traveling around in coach, you don’t want to be at the mercy of the vaguely 30-ish harried mother sitting behind you tight-mouthed with 2 rat-faced kids who will invariably snap their trays for the duration of the flight.  You could gobsmack the ugly bitch, but that would be so wrong; therefore you only solution is a good pair of headphones, since they no longer allow carry on minis.  I recommend the JBL Everest 700 (in titanium, naturally), with the 2 year warranty you can get from Best Buy; fuck the elite noise suppression version, as it distorts, plus there’s the lag thingie you have to hassle with.  These headphones will totally isolate you from the unpleasant characters you will be forced to share space with in your travels. Just because you can hear does not mean you have to listen to assholes.

Also make sure that 200GB SD card installed your phone is pre-loaded with all the ripped anchovies you need to entertain yourself during long flights or while chillin’ in a place like Gouna. You can get one for around 60 – 70 buck on Amazon.

Never even think of doing evil deeds, though, such as  take out a Netflix DVD subscription 3 months before you leave, and fillet the fishies you want to take along with you (Pierrot Le Fou, anyone?), because that would be so bloody wrong, so don’t ever do this. Capice?

It’s okay, though, to load up on Xanax; that, and Trammies, will ease the urge to turn around and headbutt the tray-snapping brats in the seat behind your, or deck the overweight palooka with the extension belt sitting in the middle aisle next to you. That be the same one who’s trying to play King Elbow armrest dominance games. Eff him, and everyone like him: your X elixir, along with the wireless headphones, will go a long way to building an impregnable serenity moat around you, from which you can occasionally peer at your fellow travelers as if they were bugs from another planet. Always remember, too, that Americans do this elbow stuff because fundamentally this is a deeply insecure nation led by an orange ponce for president with a predilection for grotesquely swishy hand gestures while giving idiotic speeches.

Speaking of Gouna, one thing that shall be waiting for your there are skeeters.  Make sure you bring a Mosinet pop up net with you, or your nights will turn into pure hell.  This is a must have item on the Red Sea, wind or no wind:  these skeeters hide during the day, and come out at night looking to turn your face into Mosul.  Screw them niggahs, and be good to your Mosinet; this is one purchase that will  have you laughing laughing laughing in the most gratingly madcap kind of way possible, like the guy who played Mozart in Amadeus, as the skeeters buzz around in an airborne rage, trying in vain  to get at you, until they turn on each other and commit, yes, insecticide: what else?

Movies are nice, y’all, but what about books?  Yes, of course you have to take that Frenchie novel you bought at Rockefeller Center from La Maison Francaise back in the ‘aughts before it went bust, but what you really need is a Kindle.  So load up from Amazon on all those contemporary Arabic novels in translation, some of which are really good, particularly Hassan Blasim, and Ahmed Naji, whose Using Life will soon be available in translation, as well as books by Saleem Haddad and Abdellah Taia, who will make you see a side of Arab literature that you may not know exists.  Again, if you are going to a place like Egypt, be sure to read The New Arab: there must be a reason that governments block it (last I heard), along with Mada Masr etc., in the media shutdown wars that are all the rage currently in the Arab world. Never forget this: even if you choose to escape to a La La Land such as Gouna, always remember that the brown shirts are never far behind.

Omega 3

If you’re going to be hanging out in a mirage resort town like Gouna (and I will give you my take in a future post on the difference between the Gouna and Dahab vibe, which has become an increasingly popular topic in Egypt travel writing), you are going to want to dive. Sure there will the partying, and you may get lucky with some pliant German or Italian tourista traveling solo and looking for action, so you will want to do something other than self amuse yourself in your empty rented studio flat in Gouna. You will want to dive. Two things, above all, when it comes to diving: don’t get narked and try to share air with the sharks, and don’t entirely rely on that dive computer. Leaving Amerika sez: always have a pressure-tested analog watch with you, just in case something goes wrong.  My personal fave is the Omega Seamaster, I bought it in the late 80s, and had it completely refurbished this year. The Morgan silver ID bracelet is something I’ve had since I was a teen growing up in Cairo. I wear it because it spells my name correctly, and also because it is a reminder for all to see that I don’t bury my origins for anyone. So there!

Lastly, don’t forget those weird International plugs.  It’s a 3 dollar item, but you will stew in your juices in Nice if you forget to bring this crucial item and have to haul butt to MonoPrix to recharge your phone.

Now that you’re all set, happy trails!



2 thoughts on “What to bring when leaving America?

    • I have done this many times: travel to far away places with that Filson bag. It is an art. But I have a secret. I have clothes stored in my old room in Cairo, and in Zamalek (the area where I grew up) there is a store where I want to buy a bunch of fine Egyptian cotton tees, which is all you really need in Dahab or Gouna, plus a hoodie (which I already have) and a few lightweight cargoes, and a sun hat, which I am bringing with me. The only bulky thing I shall be carrying will be my guitar. Luggage is baggage; it represents the past. I am writing off America and everything about it until they get rid of Donald Trunmp. Since that is unlikely to happen any time soon, I will see if Gouna works; if it does not, it shall be Nice: my preference is Paris, but I cannot afford that. Another option is to rent a small flat in dowtown Cairo itself (my uncle lives in my father’s apartment on the Nile,where I grew up, and he is old and, unlike me, quite religious, which makes having a nice cold beer on the vernandha impossible!), and really get back into the grit of the country I grew up in; that may be very bohemian and fun for a while. All I know is that I am keeping all options open: I am not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but I am not penniless either. So… I will consider the various options. IF I start to write in Gouna, I will remain there, as to no jinx the writing. Otherwise, it really does not matter. Another issue is the philo-political one: but that shall be the subject of a post, perhaps, one day! Thank for reading the blog.


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