What I Learned from Bedbugs

I think enough time has elapsed to admit that on one of my overseas trips I had a close encounter with bedbugs. I had not seen them before, so I was quite alarmed when on my last night at this particular hotel, I found that I was not alone in the bed. It was the middle of the night and I was restless. For some reason I inspected the bed and found a few little critters, and a few small spots of fresh and dried blood, presumably some of it mine from bug bites.

At first I was alarmed because I thought they might be ticks, and I was concerned about the diseases you can get from them. However at 6am the concierge reassured me that they were bed bugs, and totally harmless. He then advised me on what I needed to do to avoid taking them with me to my next hotel, or even home to Sydney.

Since I was due to check out and change cities that morning, I was not amused. Every item of clothing I had with me needed to be put through the dryer at the hottest temperature it could stand. This would kill the bugs. On the bright side, the hotel gave me handfulls of coins for the dryer. On the downside, I had a lot of things with me that were too delicate or too bulky to go through a hot tumble dryer.

As a consequence before I could get on with packing I needed to do one load of washing and drying for clothes that were dirty anyway, and two loads of dry only for clothes that were clean. In between running down to the basement to feed the machines in the laundry, I attempted to iron what I could. Heavy jackets and woollens as well as delicates.

At this point it occurred to me that I had packed too much. Even though I thought I had been conservative with my luggage, it seemed like an awful lot when I had to deal with all my clothing in one hit. To be honest, I had been fairly conservative given that I was going to be away for a few months in the northern hemisphere spring and was expecting the weather to change from quite cold to quite hot, which it did. I encountered both snow and heat waves while away. Even so, I seemed to have a lot of backup options for both hot and cold weather, and it was proving a burden, quite literally, to carry around and look after.

Even before the bed bug incident, I had a few occasions where I had waited so long to do a load of washing that I needed to do two. Thats a lot of coins in foreign currency to have to scrounge up at once to run the machines and buy the soap.

So here’s what I learned from bed bugs. When travelling, it pays to pack light and make good use of what you have. I know its boring to wear the same clothes over and over again when you travel. But not as boring as hanging around in hotel laundry rooms supervising half the dryers.

When packing for a trip its easy to get caught up in “I might need it” thinking, and pack too much. We don’t want to be caught out wishing we had taken that particular item, especially after considering it. We don’t want to regret a bad decision not to include something. I think it feels comforting to have a mini version of  home in the form of a suitcase or backpack and a few favourite items to remind us of our home life. We don’t want to miss out on the familiar and the comfortable. However after encounters with US Customs and bedbugs, I think I am going to err on the side of packing light next trip.

Fortunately I never saw any more bedbugs.


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