Getting ready to leave

Our guest photographer, Renee Mboya, on her final preparations before she leaves for Lagos:

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My first week with my Toghal cushion is preoccupied with trying to figure out how to carry it. Twenty two countries, two continents, forty four cities, over five months and two seasons is the ultimate packing challenge. I mull over a couple of different options, including modifying the cushion so that it can hang, by a hook, off the side of my long leather duffle bag. I consider taking out the cushion pad, replacing it with clothes, but for a cushion that might literally be the only place I’ll have to lay my head for five months I’m reluctant to dilute its comfort. Eventually I settle on carrying it as it is and picture myself hugging it under my arm at Nigerian customs – trying to explain to them why I’ve lugged it all the way.

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The cushion is my distraction from a thousand other things that I have to think about doing, and packing. I scaled down my collection of clothing early this year in anticipation of this trip – a move I now realise might have been premature as for the last five months I have had hardly anything to wear.  I fantasise about travelling with no luggage at all, wearing only what I can find on the streets as I move and giving it away after a couple of wears. The reality is that material detached is a difficult state of mind to adhere to. I calculate in millilitres my packing quotas for shower gel and deodorant sticks and worry about how my back will hold up under the weight.

A classic under-dresser, I can imagine being modest in Western Sahara or simply not matching the standards for bright-colour dressing in Senegal. Already my wardrobe falls short. I call my mother, a master packer. Her advice, exactly as I expected, comes at me in a lecture about having enough underwear and how to keep it clean and also that I mustn’t forget to pack my bathroom slippers because Athlete’s Foot and so on and so forth. She’s been giving me the same advice for a good number of years and I find it reassuring to know that in her book every situation is the same. Have good clean underwear and everything else will work out. Beware of fungi.

Renee Mboya, who chose a Sand Twigs cushion for her journey.

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