Lessons Learned | What to pack







This week, I’m packing a backpack again!

But, this time, I’m going some place new for me  –>


I’m by far no expert on packing, but I have packed a bag a good number of times and have learned a thing or two along the way. After my year off, I definitely learned a good deal (*thanks to having to pack for extremes – blizzards in the high Himalayas and a summer in India) and have a general idea of how to pull things together and make it work. Plus, a lot of friends often ask about the great packing dilemma!

So. . .

What to pack:

(*Note: Recently I’ve been spending most of my time in warmer climates, in particular Asia, but this is a list of things that can be handy most anywhere. Also, if you are traveling less than a month, consider making do with less, much, much less. You’ll be surprised just how little you can live without! ALSO, remember, traveling can be rough on everything including your body, so travel with things you like but never what you LOVE and cannot live without, because it is almost guaranteed to get lost//stolen//broken//etc. You can always find things you need, yes, even if you are in the middle of what seems like nowhere. Often nowhere is someone else’s somewhere and you’ll make it work. I promise you that!)

+ + +

+ One fabulous backpack and daypack (REI, you rock! My REI-brand men’s pack comes with a removable daypack! Brilliant)

+ One hat (Who needs showers)

+ One sarong// lungi// or large scarf (because it becomes your everything from a scarf, a towel, a blanket, a yoga mat, a skirt, a dress, etc. )

+ One hammock (because nothing is better and they can also serve as a bed *depending on the circumstances)

+ One pair of waterproof shoes (J’adore my $1 rubber flats from Indonesia b/c they’re light and flexible, but I also often travel with my old, ugly, though trusty Chacos too)

+ One pair of running shoes or hiking shoes (Few shoes beat Salomon trail running shoes)

+ One water bottle (and water purification tablets or drops)

+ One watch

+ One film camera and film (*If you’re in to that sort of thing)

+ Camera. Batteries. Lenses. More memory cards than you think you need. Cleaning cloths. Filters. Audio equipment. ETC. (*If you’re a photographer, you know what you need AND a good way to transport everything! I use a Lowepro bag and it’s great, although a little too big for a bus or train! Cameras are always the best and worst part of the experience!)

+ Sunglasses (I travel with two pairs generally b/c they also get lost//stolen//broken AND b/c you can quickly change your look without taking up much space in your pack)

+ Good books (I find the book question the hardest. When I started traveling this past summer, I had nine books in my bag. And read twice that. One great thing about travel, especially if you are ever following the tourist trail is that there are always bookstores. Often these bookstores understand your dilemma and offer to sell and exchange your books. It really is a fantastic system. Maybe one of these days I’ll buy a Kindle, but for now, I love having a collection of books on hand)

+ One travel yoga mat (I believe that this travel mat is one of my best friends in life. It is the inspiration for my practice on the road and I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times it has served as far more than a mat – it is as a great bed, a train seat cover, a cushion on the floor, etc.)

+ A Diva Cup (Because! *That is, if you are in need of something like this)

+ A small, fold-able world map . . . or blow up globes (*it will come in hand. promise).

+ A laptop (*if away for more than a two months. once again though, it’s all up to you. Wifi exists in strange places. But if not, there are often friends or internet cafes not too far within your reach)

+ Journals (Nothing beats a stack of blank white-paged Moleskines)

+ Good pens and pencils

+ Travel paint palette (*if you’re into that sort of thing)

+ Black clothes. Especially black leggins (*Mine got stolen early on in the journey this summer and I missed them terribly).

+ Clothing you like, that is mulch-functional and only a few white things (*White will not stay white. Ever).

+ Scarves

+ Travel speakers (*a great way to make friends)

+ An ipod (*full of your power songs//meditation songs)

+ A multifunctional power adapter

+ A pocket knife (*hungry? need to defend yourself on a train in India? You never know)

+ A short length of durable rope (*Clothesline//safety//tying your bag to the top of jeeps//etc)

+ A small sewing kit

+ A pack towel

+ Medicines you might need or want (*Eye drops are always good to have, as well as allergy medicine)

+ Candied ginger (*Amazing for upset stomachs)

+ Snacks

+ + +

Most everything else you can get, find, or make!


And get out there!

[Photos: Travels through Bali, 2012//Grace Farson]

Oh, hello again India


Alive and well in Mumbai!

It’s honestly a miracle. . . all of this.

I got in last night around midnight and thanks to the fabulous Amirah and her family, I had not only a ride from the airport, but also a gorgeous place to stay . The view is stunning from the apartment, it’s 17 flights up and you can see ocean from every window.

I wouldn’t be here now without Kelsey and Alex either. They’re the real heroes of  this story. They both took off work early and helped make the impossible possible. Honestly, I’m still in shock I made my flight. We managed to pick up my visa at the Embassy, drive through D.C. traffic, AND make it to the airport by 5:40 p.m. I was the last person to board the plane and amazingly, my backpack even managed to get on the same flight too.

The moment I stepped off that plane in Mumbai last night I remembered just how much I love this place. I felt devoid of all emotion the entire flight and was worried about my overall apathy. I was doing the thing I love the most in life and traveling to my second home on earth, and I still felt very little. . . But, the moment I smelled India and was hit with that thick wave of heat, I knew part of me was home again.

I sat in the back of the car and cried a little and celebrated the emotions that surprised me. I sat and cried quietly and was so overwhelmingly thankful. I wouldn’t be here without the amazing love I’ve experienced from my family and friends. Their encouragement and support means the world to me and I wish I could more fully express my gratitude.

So. . .  this one is for all of you today:

+ For Mom and Dad and for your trust in me. Thanks for being crazy enough to let me do stuff like this every year since I was sixteen. You two are remarkable and without you none of this would have been possible. Plus, Mom, I cannot wait to share this with you in August! You’re in for the biggest adventure of your life.

+ Again, for Kelsey and Alex. Your generosity and support is overwhelming!

+ For Abby. Thanks so much Abs for making the trip to D.C. and for sharing your time with me before I left.

+ Again for Amirah too. Endless thanks for putting me in contact with friends and for talking to me this morning on the phone! I look forward to India with you next time.

+ For the Mandalia family and your incredible hospitality.

+ For Kandyce. Juice sister, without you, I would have never met India and my life would not be what it is today. India messed me up forever at seventeen and you’re partially to blame for that!

+ For the Mahatma Gandhi Fellowship and UNC.

I have no plans for today,  tomorrow, or the next few days, but I know I’ll be in DELHI in a few days and then NEPAL.

For now, I’m here , celebrating being HERE.

[Photo: Gateway to India, Mumbai//Grace Farson]

On losing control


Losing control looks and feels something like this I think.

Today is just that day. That day of the week//month// or year that feels a little different, just a bit harder, a little more overwhelming than the ones close to it. . .

Good things to come, I know that full well,  but for now, I am set on making lists of my priorities. . . and doing. . .

On this day, I am thankful for these things:

+ Sleeping in a little later than intended

+ An avocado and coffee breakfast

+ Documentary films about bees, bbq, and big Southern eating from the Southern Foodways Alliance

+ A paying job [*too many jobs at the moment really. . .]

+ Papers and projects and the stuff I complain about now but will one day be glad I did. . .

“What are we going to do differently when we get up tomorrow?” – Gloria Steinem

[Photo: Delhi, India//Grace Farson]

22 by 22



Happy. That’s all I am today.

I feel incredibly loved//supported// full.

I’ve had the feeling all day that I’m on some sort of weird parade float just waving and smiling thanks everyone’s overwhelming kindness.

I don’t know if I feel older, wiser, or just plain weirder, but I do feel different than I did this time last year.
Last night = dinner with Amirah at Cholanad [<3 Tamil food] and free bday champagne from the bartender. a quiet night. some pool playing. good conversations at the Crunkleton. staying up late and talking//snuggling with Ora.

Today so far = coffee. class. getting showered with hap birth fb messages and wall posts. letters and small packages in the mail. cleaning and organizing my life at home. avoiding hw.

Later today = dinner with the parents! more family dinner//desserts.

It’s all happy right now and I’m incredibly thankful for everyone and the love I feel.

Grace’s 21 by 21 goals:

1.) participate in a yoga workshop (and teach regularly in chapel hill)

2.) train to be a doula

3.) learn to bake bread & incorporate bread making into my life every week

4.) make a portfolio and a website (*working on it)

5.) take an art class (learn to make pottery/ develop and use my film cameras & dark rooms/go back to figure drawing class)

6.) make money doing things i like to do/can learn from (& start paying off my education)

7.) sew something (thinking an apron would be fun)

8.) pet a wild squirrel

9.) learn how to play the accordion (now that it has made this list, its getting serious. if anyone knows how i can do these, please let me know!)

10.) travel to a new state

11.) learn how to take care of beehives with my mother

12.) teach art to kiddos

13.) plant things and watch them grow

14.) make mo:mos and samosas from scratch

15.) run the charlottesville 10 miler (AND a half marathon before February 2013)

16.) go to a new country – mexico, uganda, indonesia ???

17.) buy a canon 5d mark ii  (learn to make short films and take beautiful photos) (*dunno about the last part)

18.) spend a week without sleeping in a bed . . . (goal: live like an authentic hobo with andrew in chapel hill)

19.) decide on a study abroad/ find, apply & get grands to travel

20.) rock climb on real rock faces/climb at least once a week (*not now, but I did for a while there. . .) 

21.) volunteer and serve in my community

This time around, I’ve decided to set intentions rather than goals. . .

Some are repeats and others have been stuck in my head for a long while. . .

Grace’s 22 by 22 Intentions:

1.) Travel to a new state

2.) Host a Universe party

3.) Get back to Nepal + India 

4.) Become a Doula

5.) Set a world record (UNC kids I need your help!)

6.) Memorize two poems

7.) Try to longboard + surf

8.) Finish portfolio + website (+ get work!)

9.) Find a more consistent yoga job (+ gorilla yoga classes in the spring!)

10.) Learn how to make a good cup of coffee

11.) Fix ukelele and learn to play + the accordion (always)

12.) Run when I want to

13.) Learn to celebrate the ordinary in life//find something spectacular in everything

14.) Make the short film I have envisioned for so long now. . .

15.) Rickshaw Run!

16.) Study abroad + get a grant!

17.) Research something related to the rest of my life (vague, yes. . . but my list of possible interests exhausts me)

18.) Spend a day all alone + another full day with my grandparents

19.) Sell some of my art + get more commissions

20.) Try aerial + aerial yoga

21.) Spend a whole day hula hooping

22.) Go camping

+ Abby’s sweet “Celebrating Grace” post

[Photos: Not too long ago in Davidson//Grace Farson]

Self Survey


If not in Carrboro, I would live in… Istanbul, Kathmandu, Ubud, Sydney, or . . . somewhere in Hawaii [?]. I desire warm sun, loud motorcycles and bright colors the most.

My dream holiday would be to…  drive from N. to S. Africa – all of it. . . in a car, with someone I like and who challenges me. . . with. . . some food, water, a hammock, a frisbee, my cameras and my journal.

My current obsessions are… this pose//hats like these//learning how to surf and longboard//building my website and getting more work as a photographer. . . and moving to Australia or Bhutan as soon i graduate.

I channel my childhood self when I… wear leggings and/or cowboy boots//collect [*hoard] scraps of paper//use my Lisa Frank stickers to decorate books and special things [thanks Abby!]//make messes.

The fictional character I most relate to is…   Amy March. I will always be that silly, squeaky, selfish, artist child.

If I had to be outdoors all day, I would… start the day off with Surya Namaskar B and a long meditation on a dock// then, go on a long walk//build a tree house// play with children, goats and puppehs//go for a swim// make flower chains

I’m terrified of… far too few people or things.

My celebrity crush is… Georgia O’keeffe. [*Does she count as a celebrity? In my world, she’s a rockstar]. Plus, these people.

My beauty product of choice is…  a hairbrush? I wish I was more like Abby and knew more about these things. . .

My favorite article[s] of clothing is [are]… my little brother’s boxy blazer // these boots//my thick woven scarf from India.

My friends and I like to… have staring contests// make videos//collect sounds and voices// read and write poetry//go on long walks// spend the night in hammocks//cook//snuggle//massage//laugh and make big plans.

If I could go back in time for one decade it would be… the early feminist movement.

As a teenager, I was totally into…life drawing studios//yoga//Matisse//India//architecture//going. . . I haven’t changed one bit. . .

I tend to splurge on… camera + audio equipment//flights to airports that are really hard to pronounce. . .

+ Abby’s fabulous self survey.

Now it’s your turn. . .

[Photo: Happy times with beautiful views and long hikes, Pokhara, Nepal//Grace Farson]

Overwhelmed by possibility


The other day, I sat down to journal and. . . like most days, all that came out was a list.

I wrote down these three things:

+ College is mean. Students are constantly being tempted by all the possibilities. . .nothing ever feels enough. One could always be doing something more, something bigger, something more unique. . .

+ I got lost a lot today and it was the best thing that happened to me. I got lost and truly savored the experience. I first got lost in my car, drove through a forest, parked illegally and ran through the woods,  over railroad tracks, dirtying my shoes and stumbling into a new classroom. . .into a new space and a room full of brilliant, creative souls.

+ Today, I felt total weightlessness for the first time. My amazing Comm//Performance class this semester, gave me the chance to fly.

“Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That’s part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads – at least that’s where I imagine it – there’s a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in awhile, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you’ll live forever in your own private library.” – Haruki Murakami

This semester is going to one trying, challenging and hopefully rewarding time in my life.

Here’s to two jobs, six classes and everything in between. I’m working to find that lovely balance between making money, being a student, making art and creating and spending time with loved ones. . .

For now, I’m surviving. I’m happy and I’m full.

[Photo: NZ walks//Grace Farson]