Books and Travel: Packing with The 39 Steps

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

Although it sounds like a series of self-help books (The Thirty-Nine Steps to Financial Freedom, The Thirty Nine Steps to a Better Body) The Thirty-Nine Steps is actually an adventure-thriller written in 1915 by John Buchan.

The story is about, Richard Hannay, an innocent man framed for murder by an anarchist organisation hell-bent on assassinating a European leader and instigating a war.

Film adaptations of the novel (of which there have been many) veer from the source material, avoid the more antiquated cultural stereotypes and focus on the man-on-the-run-caught-up-in-a-shadowy-conspiracy plotline.

But in doing so they also skip what I think is the most thought provoking part of the book. At least for me anyway.

Shortly after finding a houseguest murdered in his flat, the book’s protagonist, Richard Hannay, flees London for the Scottish countryside, a place where (he believes) he can more easily evade and outwit his pursuers.

However, before he leaves, he does a little light packing:

I hunted out a well-used tweed suit, a pair of strong nailed boots, and a flannel shirt with a collar. Into my pockets I stuffed a spare shirt, a cloth cap, some handkerchiefs and a tooth-brush.

John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps, p. 22.

I dislike packing.

I never seem to get it right.

Once I think I’ve packed everything I need for a trip, my mind proceeds to run wild. This results in me realising that, should I be invited to high tea with a foreign dignitary or a gangland funeral during my two day stay in Melbourne, I have nothing to wear.

Suddenly, my modest carry on is replaced by a wheeled behemoth stuffed with impractical clothing choices and way too many pairs of shoes.

98% of which will remain unworn during the trip.

Are these enough shoes for a 5 day trip to Tasmania?
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Therefore, as someone who spends the hours before a journey packing, unpacking and re-packing my bag, the idea of leaving with only a few essentials stuffed in my pockets sounds like a dream.

Or #packinggoals as the kids might say.

Yeah. We don’t say that.
Photo by on

Of course, the hard part of this new-found liberation from luggage will be deciding on exactly what those “essentials” are.

Photo by Adrienne Leonard on Unsplash

Decisions. Decisions.

Interested in having supper with The Railway Children? Click here.


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