Thursday, August 20, 2015

What I Carry in My Travel Purse

Today I thought I'd do a practical post about my daily companion -- my "purse".
The word is in quotes because I don't really consider this a purse. In fact, I call it my "lady bag". Ha!
I've never really liked purses and always kept everything I needed in my pockets. However, when I decided to move to Guatemala, I felt I might need a bit more space for items, plus the ability to split up my money into more than one location in case of pickpocketing or mugging. And man, this bag is a lifesaver!
My awesome travel bag!
It's a Samsonite digital camera bag that was a gift originally intended to hold my GPS handheld unit and other stuff while hiking. It has been excellently repurposed as my daily go-to-town bag. 
It has a nice long strap that I wear across my body to deter purse snatching. It also has a sturdy handle, plus a thick plastic bottom for putting down on dubious floors. And of course the best feature, a multitude of pockets!
Here is a glimpse inside. You can see the relative size of the bag compared to my hand.
The inside has a small cloth pocket insert where I keep my cards and money. (You can see it on the top right of the inside of the bag.) Other than that, the main pocket is free of obstructions, so I can stuff it with tons of goodies like...

  • my change purse -- Guatemala has "dollar coins" (Q1 coins) plus change all the way down to the teeniest tiniest 5 centavo coins
  • a notepad and a pen -- sometimes I can't understand what someone is saying but if they can write it down, it helps. Works great for numbers especially.
  • a jackknife -- I'm a good Girl Scout :)
  • a ziploc with baby wipes -- I pet dogs therefore I need these
  • some Tums -- I love spicy food but it doesn't love me
  • an emergency whistle -- never used it but handy just in case I get lost, or participate in an impromptu parade
  • a photocopy of my passport -- never carry your real passport unless absolutely necessary
  • my frijolito -- my little Tigo cell phone
  • my camera -- a point-and-shoot that has taken some hard bumps and keeps on shooting
  • my Spanish phrase book -- too often forgotten at home, especially when I need it the most!
The outer pockets are very useful. In the two side pouches (by the strap clasps) I put a small bottle of sanitizer and some plastic grocery bags. In the front zippered pocket (you can see it in the top photo), I put a small pack of tissues, some mints, a plastic spoon, a few Band-aids, my keys, and sometimes my cell phone if the main compartment gets too full. In the very front zippered pocket I slip a Q20 bill for emergency tuk-tuk rides, plus a note that has my name and phone number on it in case my bag gets lost.
Showing the "hidden" Velcro pocket that I never use.
One feature that I don't use is this outer flap/pocket that is attached by Velcro to the front of the bag. You can see there are two elasticized ribbons to hold maybe film canisters, plus a "secret" zippered pocket inside. It clips shut using the plastic clip, which has unfortunately lost its compass insert. I don't use this pocket because I find it just makes the bag bulky. Plus the inner pocket is too small to hold anything worthwhile. I suppose you could put money in there, but if your purse is snatched, they'd find it anyway.

Sturdy -- I've had this bag for many years and it's held up extremely well
Roomy -- surprising amount of space for a small bag
Shoulder strap -- adjustable strap, very sturdy, fits across my body so it can't be snatched
Zippers -- tough zippers, have never come loose or lost teeth, can lock them with luggage locks
Inexpensive -- As the date of this blog post, they're for sale on Amazon for $25
Electronics hole -- not sure how to describe this... it's a hole in the top of the bag so you can put your MP3 player or something inside the bag and run the cord out through the top. I've never used it.
Cushioned -- the inside of the bag is soft and padded, so you can feel comfortable carrying cameras, cell phones, and other semi-fragile equipment inside

Compass -- kind of a useless little thing so I wasn't too upset when it fell out
Looks too nice -- I feel a bit like a robbery target because it looks fancy
Rusted -- the zippers got a bit rusty after some extensive rain exposure

Overall, it's a great bag and I would recommend it (or one similar) to anyone looking for a versatile and roomy over-the-shoulder purse that's not too girly and stands up to rough travel.

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