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Packtowl Ultralite Travel Towel

[Short of time? Read the haiku instead]

I can put up with pretty much anything on the understanding that it is temporary. As long as I know there will be a time in the future when the situation will be better, I can endure. “This too shall pass,” and all that. This applies equally to a night on a banana-shaped mattress or six months using a bar towel for all ablutions, and believe me – two feet of terry cloth is not enough to cover one’s modesty should the ill-fitting door to the hostel shower room suddenly swing open.

Indeed, I’ve been known to ignore all manner of irritations, noises, leaks and breakages in a rented property purely on the understanding that one day I will own my own home, and therefore this temporary lodging can be endured. “But, my Darling, why should I fix the aerial? We won’t be living here for much longer.” A known end date is not necessary to maintain the self-delusion which can stretch out for years on end.

That’s not to say that creature comforts should not be grasped when offered, with both hands and feet too. Treat yourself at the start of a trip with a decent towel and every shower, however infrequent that turns out to be, will be that little bit more pleasant. The Packtowl is a ‘chammy’ style material, designed to replicate the absorbency and feel of fine chamois goat leather. It packs down so small that even the Extra Large, at 127 x 69 cm, will take up hardly any room in your pack. Despite appearances it is absorbent and dries quickly. There are other materials used for travel towels, such as microfibre, which feels more like a real ‘fluffy’ towel but is larger and heavier as a result. For weight, the chammy is the winner.

The rare Balinese tagged rectangular towlfish

After weeks or months of daily deprivation, when the end of your tether is within sight and you feel like throwing in the Packtowl and buying a ticket back home for endless despoliation at the hands of eager-to-please parents, a few days of blissful comfort can be all that is necessary to re-strengthen your resolve and prepare you for X more weeks of budget backsliding. A good example would be when a parent comes out to visit, as my mother did to Zanzibar in the midst of our trans-African trip, and treats you to a couple of nights in some reasonable accommodation. That was a good one.

Every now and then, while travelling, you’ll have a great whopping slice of good fortune come your way. Admittedly, sometimes you have to ‘manufacture’ that fortune yourself but that doesn’t make it any less welcome (although you may consider it less fortunate and more mercenary). One such happy serendipity occurred to Gerda and myself in Thailand, on Ko Samui to be precise. We were accosted while strolling by an over-enthusiastic Englishmen who promised us riches beyond our wildest dreams should we accompany him to a presentation.

We knew full well what this meant: sitting through a timeshare sales pitch for an hour in return for ‘one of these fabulous prizes’. We knew at a glance that the prize would not be the widescreen TV, the car or the $10,000, but would be the week’s accommodation in ‘one of our boutique properties all over the world’. Could come in handy one day. So we went along, pretended that we were a) married b) only on a short break and not a six-month relocation of continents c) had disposable income and d) and I really had to stifle a laugh here, the sort of people who would be willing to go on holiday to the same tiny resort every year! I mean, come on! We listened to a nice old German salesman waste his time, for which I genuinely felt bad, until he gave up and we were allowed to leave. I scratched off our prize card to reveal, quelle surprise, the free week in a timeshare.

I checked the available apartments and noticed that one coincided with our projected itinerary. In a couple of months we’d be ending our trip in Bali, and blow me if there wasn’t a lovely little resort in Candidasa. We could spend our last week in relative luxury before arriving in Australia and the chore of staying on friend’s floors while looking for jobs and less temporary accommodations.

So it worked out pretty well. We only ended up staying four nights out of the seven, as I get bored easily and had no desire to spend the whole last week of my trip lying on a sun lounger by the pool, but it was well worth the hour of high pressure sales. So next time you are approached on the street by a dodgy timeshare salesman, think twice before dismissing him with a laugh. Think of the relative luxury you might score – fluffy towels included!

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