I'm a lousy packer.
I love to travel but I have failed to master the intricacies of packing a suitcase. Actually, packing is not the problem; deciding what to take is the real problem. My husband and I went to visit our daughter in New York for three days and I ended up taking the large suitcase better suited for a month's visit.
In retrospect, the real problem is the weather. When we visited our daughter, it was October. That's Autumn, the time of the year when it could be 90 degrees one day and 40 degrees the next. It could be raining; it's even possible to have an early snow storm. So what should one take? Shorts and a t-shirt or long pants and a sweater? Sandals or boots and a winter coat?
There's still another issue: activities. Are we going to stay home most of the time or go out for dinner and the theatre? Will we end up working together in the yard or will we visit relatives? Do I need "at home" clothes or should I bring a nice outfit? Maybe I need more than one nice outfit in case we go out several times; the fashion police frown on wearing the same thing two nights in a row. And, of course, I need shoes to go with each outfit. With all these questions unanswered, there's only one solution: bring everything.
However, we still haven't touched on the other essentials such as make-up and medications. There's dry skin lotion, deodorant, face cleanser, electric toothbrush, regular toothbrush (in case the electric brush runs out of power) and toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, style gel, hairspray and sunscreen. Of course we can't forget daily medications (which seem to have doubled and tripled as we age). I also bring a large bag of "in case I need them" medications. These include Tylenol, an antihistamine, left-over antibiotics (please don't tell my doctor), pain medicine in case someone (God forbid) is injured and in pain, (a prescription I filled but didn't need after a dental procedure), bandages and an antiseptic. I was a Girl Scout at one time and I've always believed in that motto, "Be Prepared"!
I imagine at this point you are probably feeling very sorry for my husband who has to lift my heavy suitcase into the car, out of the car, onto the airline baggage check, etc. Not to worry- I consider this his weight lifting training and believe ardently that my suitcases are keeping him in good shape. But I am also aware that not everyone packs like I do.
For instance, I have a friend who travels a lot and she is masterful at packing. She takes one medium suitcase wherever she goes and has certain clothes that she knows, through trial and error, travel well and can be washed and will dry overnight. I did manage to pack like this once, when we went to Africa on an animal sight-seeing safari. We were limited to one medium bag each, a condition that truly tried my abilities. I started packing three weeks ahead, taking clothes out and putting new ones in; then replacing them again. I do have to admit that having a smaller suitcase and fewer clothes definitely made traveling easier but by the next trip, I fell back into my old habits.
My seven-year old granddaughter was here for a visit and she has a very unique method of packing. She traveled with a small child-size suitcase and my husband and I watched while she unpacked two rather heavy containers of children's hand lotion, two stuffed animals, three small dolls, four bottles of children's nail polish, an iPad, a comb, three DVD's of children's movies, one book, and a folder of math problems to be solved before she returned to school. Our concerns about clothes were quickly solved when her mother entered the room with an armful of t-shirts, skirts and shorts. I was left to wonder what kind of packer she would be as she grew older.
Of course there is always the "I don't need anything but the clothes on my back" kind of packers. They tend to be in their early twenties and in seeing the world mode. A backpack with essentials (bottle of water, one change of underwear, small package of soap and a little money) seems to suffice. When their clothes disintegrate after too much wear, they simply wire home for enough money to replace them. Ah, to be young again - although I must admit I don't remember ever being able to travel this way.
On one trip I was forced to exist with the clothes on my back for three days when the airlines lost my suitcase. Except for a few essentials I purchased at the drugstore, I slept in my underwear and wore the same clothes every day. In some ways, it was liberating. I never had to think about what to wear or what was appropriate. And everyone we were traveling with knew the situation so I received a lot of sympathy. However, I was awfully glad to see my suitcase when it reappeared.
Someone once told me that packing is a metaphor for life. If you take too much, you may be carrying around too much baggage in your head. If you pack light, you've let go of all that old baggage. I don't agree; I think the only baggage I'm carrying around is literally in my suitcase and my problem is simply that I I'm afraid whatever I leave home is exactly what I'm going to need while I'm away!.
But in the end, it's not the things you take with you but the journey itself (I think that's a quote from somebody). Please do not emulate me; take only what you absolutely need and enjoy your family, your travels, and the rest of your life. Travel light, my friends.
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