As a World Next Door journalist, it can often be challenging to decide what to pack.

Packing for my trip to Rwanda (where I am working on the upcoming June issue of World Next Door Magazine), I had many questions running through my head.  Should I get washcloths or face wipes? The kind that’s already wet, or the kind needs water? Which takes up less space? Which one is heavier?

I have discovered that little luxuries go a long way.  I can’t bring 90 days of face wipes. But I can bring a washcloth and know that 10 pre-moistened face wipes will feel like gold on ten special days when the water is off and I really just want to wash my face.

And the clothes! You should have seen my friends helping with my clothes. First, there were mountains and mountains. Then, piles and piles. Finally stacks of three and laborious conversations like this:

Me: Please can I bring my blue and white striped pants?

Friend: Will you even wear those pants?

Me: I think so. I don’t know. Maybe.

Friend: But you already have the khaki and white striped ones.

Me: I know but I like the blue ones.

Friend: You can’t have both. Pick one.

And on and on and on: Please can I bring my 10th green tank top… Please can I bring my 8th pink Nike shorts… Please can I bring my hoodie and my fleece…?

In the end, few items made the 50lb cut.  In a mad dash, though, I stuffed two scarves into the side pockets the morning we left. I had no idea these beloved scarves would prove so useful!

Here you can see an actual photo of me with my magical scarf

Here you can see an actual photo of me with my magical scarf

Here are what I have discovered to be all the life-saving uses for my last-second seemingly superfluous scarf:

  • As a head covering when it starts to pour
  • As a light jacket when it turns instantly cold at 6pm
  • As a pillow when I ball it up and take a bus nap
  • As sunscreen when I wrap it around my peeling neck
  • As a tie to secure my laundry bag to my messenger bag so I don’t leave my laundry in the taxi (again)
  • As a blanket when I’m cold at night
  • As a seat covering when the chair is wet or muddy
  • To carry my baby. No, wait. That’s not me. But if I had one, I could totally carry it hands-free!
  • As a head wrap when I’m on my 4th day of unwashed hair. What? Bucket bathing and/or ice cold showering is kind of tricky when your hair is a curly mess.
  • As a purse when I tie it up and carry it over my shoulder
  • As a lens case when I wrap it around an un-cased lens in the fanny pack. Did I just say fanny pack? I meant my rugged Eddie Bauer hip bag.
  • As a microfiber cloth (it’s not) to clean any laptop screen, glasses, sunglasses, lens, phone or iPad
  • As a fancy accessory when I’m wearing my blue shirt for the third time

And so me and my scarves have triumphed over the conservative packer that tried to talk me out of these types of indulgences. Ladies, if you travel, bring your scarf.

It’s magical!

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About the Author: Brooke Hartman is a year-long journalism fellow with World Next Door. In her other life, she was a clinical social worker, counselor, and disaster mental health graduate from Tulane University in New Orleans. Her favorites are: creative writing, travel, photography, weather patterns, and eating dessert. Any cupcake, any time.

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