When we make our way through an airport, I marvel at the light-footed traveler who checks in nothing, sports a single, smallish carry-on, and somehow, is perfectly equipped for whatever journey is ahead.
I’m not her.
Every time we travel, I experiment with techniques said to streamline luggage. Put each outfit in its own plastic bag. Roll your clothes. Bring one pair of pants, several tops, and you’re done. Checked luggage is for novices.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I still end up with a large bag to check, usually one to roll through the airport, and a personal satchel and purse besides. After all, I'm sure I'd be the one who would spill something toxic and staining on my one spare pair of pants. I'd be the one whose check-in luggage was lost. I'd be the one without whatever it is I need. And what if it turns cold and I have no sweater? Or hot and I have only sweaters?
So I over pack, and I flash back to first grade.
It was my first field trip, and a big one for a child who had never been on a day trip with anyone who didn’t include her mom. It was exciting! We packed into a school bus and headed to the Cincinnati Zoo.
We were traveling light, and I had with me a small, plastic, snap-shut change purse which held enough money for whatever I would need. Cotton candy, maybe. A toy? The possibilities were endless to trade from the contents of that pocket-sized money holder.
I don't remember what we did about lunch. It sure seems as though we would have brought brown bags full of food. It could be, however, we bought lunch there. I don’t remember the animals or who I hung out with, if anyone.
I only remember what I didn't have. The one thing I have never forgotten is that I lost my change purse at the start of the trip and the resulting feeling was of being utterly without resources, the trip spoiled.
It’s not a subconscious feeling. It’s right there, in the front of my mind. The coping messages sound off: Take an extra pair of glasses: What if yours break or the lens falls out? Carry-on underwear, makeup, an extra outfit: What if your luggage is lost? Do you have enough cash with you? What if you lost your credit card? Pack an extra camera: You want pictures, above anything you buy.
The real question always comes back to that little girl who lost her money. If I lose what I need, what will I do?
I vented about all this to a close friend the other day, herself a seasoned traveler. Hardly a month or two passes but she is off to visit her children in other states or on a vacation in Hawaii or even Paris.
“How do you do it?” I asked her in confidence. “How do you travel light?” I wanted some additional secrets, maybe a few that worked better than the plastic bags and rolled outfits that don’t. Most importantly, I knew I could ask her and not be chided for my ignorance of knowing how to pack lighter, the gold standard, it seems.
Guess what she told me?
She takes extra glasses, outfits, and over packs too.
I think rather than thinking I’m crazy to be channeling my inner six-year-old, and berating myself for schlepping it all through the airport, I’ll just relax in my over-preparation -- and roll with it.
What about you? I’d like to hear about your packing methods and if you can go light or if you, too, take along the kitchen sink.