(Texas Mike)

Matt Lauer is off on his annual Today Show travel adventure this week. Hearing the promos and interviews leading up to his departure has jogged my memory about planning for our eastern sojourn. In short – it wasn’t easy. A better question than “Where in the world” is “How in the world” does one pack for such a thing.

As Matt knows, preparing for the entire spectrum of climate, terrain and activity presents a challenge. And I’m not the lightest methodical packer to begin with. So, when laying out our gear, I started thinking in terms of extremes. Weather: Dangerously hot desert in the Red Centre, Australia, to the blustery winter in northern China. Terrain: Hiking the peaks of the Routeburn Trail, New Zealand, to street hiking the big city of Hong Kong. Activities: Prepare for anything and everything, knowing we’d find ourselves kayaking the Tasman Sea to hitting the Beijing night life. Then, you look at all your stuff and start settling for common denomenators. Sure, we knew we couldn’t prepare for everything, which made Chinese street markets and the Auckland Kathmandu retail outlets as much necessary as fun.

The big thing Matt doesn’t have worry about: fitting all your gear in a couple of bags and strapping them to your back. The single most important factor for narrowing down gear or buying items along the way is “am I willing to carry that?” Things like size 13 running shoes took on new meaning and stayed in the closet. A ceramic scuplture of our heads from Chengdu? Cool, but my shoulders answered for me there. We left some great souvenirs in their countries of origin, and for those we couldn’t pass up, thank goodness for overseas shipping.

Good times and safe travels, Mr. Lauer. I’m jealous.