I’m getting on a ship in a couple days… don’t know exactly when. And I don’t even know where the ship is going. All I know is I’m somehow gonna get the story of global trade straight from the folks who actually make it happen. And I’ve got a year to do it.
How do you pack for that? If you’ve got any ideas, throw ‘em at me. Right now, my bag (I’ll list in order of descending weight, cause that’s the kicker):
Macbook Pro 15″, plus the brick of a charger (this is heaviest, but I’ve gotta have it to process and edit)
Sony PCM D-50 recorder plus AC wort
Nikon D3100 camera with 18-55 mm AF-S lens
Electrovoice RE-50 omni mic
2 1-TB portable hard drives (1 Western Digital, 1 Lacie Rugged)
Olympus LS-10 recorder (this is my standby, and I love that it’s so small)
my old point and shoot camera (for when the other is too big or expensive to risk carrying)
Sony MDR-7506 headphones (for editing)
smaller Sony headphones (for fieldwork)
battery charger and rechargeable batteries
Windtech windscreens for RE-50 and D-50
32 GB USB flash drive
lots of memory cards
notebook, pens, headlamp
soap and seasickness patches
Oh yeah, and clothes. Definitely an afterthought– I’ve got a nice lightweight rain jacket, my track pants and running shoes. A couple shirts and a set of long underwear. One warm jacket, something nice in case. That’s it. I can get clothes anywhere. It’s the gear I need to make some decisions about.
I’ve got so much crap. I mean, gear. I mean, the stuff I need to do my project. I’m afraid I’ll just wanna drop it off the side of the ship, all except for the notebook. What I’m trying to do is crazy. Not the cargo ship part– to me that’s not nuts. What’s nuts is backpacking for a year WITH MY GEAR. It’s a bit of a catch twenty-two– I want to pack light and be as mobile as possible, but I also want to be prepared with the right tech gear for whatever situation I might land in. For example: I’d much rather just carry one recorder instead of two, but then what if one conks out half-way across the Atlantic?
It would be easier if I knew where I was going, and how I’d be living once I got there. I don’t, and I won’t know until I get on the ship. The destination port will depend on the market for grain when we set sail.
I know where my ship is now, though. I’ve actually been tracking it on a website I discovered called marinetraffic.com. The site allows you to track any ship in the world that’s near enough to land to give out GPS data. I spotted the Isa loading in the Netherlands 2 1/2 weeks ago. It arrived in Cleveland a week ago, then headed to Burns Harbor to unload the rest of the steel it brought from Europe.
Right now the Isa is headed into Lake Superior, to Thunder Bay, Ontario. And I’m headed there too– just bought my plane ticket and I’m leaving in less than 48 hours. I’ll board the Isa from Thunder Bay and head over to Europe with the Polish crew and their shipment of grain.
More soon. Stay tuned.
Allison Swaim caught the radio bug during a month-long stint as a reporter at Radio Victoria in rural El Salvador. She learned how to tell stories with sound at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in the fall of 2008. Discovering radio was like getting her license. Holding a microphone gives Allison an excuse to do what she loves: talk to people, hear their stories, learn their perspectives. Allison grew up in Salisbury, NC and is proud of her Southern roots. The Midwest became a second home in her five years in Oberlin, OH. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010.