We’re going on a 12 day vacation in a few months… which gives me just enough time to poison my travel reverie with flashes of packing anxiety.
No matter the dozens of times I’ve gone though the ritual of researching the climate, then laying out, folding and jamming too much stuff into a suitcase, I’ve never overcome my discomfort with this aspect of traveling. How people pack reveals more about what they’re made of than they realize.  Confidence, organizational skills and vanity all play a role. The world is divided between those who bring along an umbrella and just-in-case antibiotics and those who laugh at them.
I’ve always found light packers to be a smug lot. They’re never troubled by dreams of lost glasses, broken zippers and torn hems.
“Lay out everything you want to bring,” one such friend airily advises, “then pack only half of it.” She adheres strictly to a three-color, three-tops-to-one-pair-of-pants regimen. Being comfy always trumps being uber chic. And her moisturizer has never opened, smearing thick yellow moisturizer on her back sweater. I hate her.
I grew up watching frothy black and white movies where a gorgeous actress with an 18 inch waist would  grab armloads of dresses, hangars still attached, fold them hastily in half and shove them into her suitcase. She’d fake struggle for a moment to close the lid before snapping it shut. The luggage had no wheels and you never saw anyone lift it. Then, in the next scene, her fully accessorized wardrobe of gowns and suits, peignoirs and furs hung neatly in a hotel closet. Can’t imagine where she stuffed those humungous crinolines and sigh-worthy hats with veils.
In my family I have a husband who packs the same amount whether it’s for a long weekend or a 12 day cruise. Invariably his bag comes off the carousel with a bright orange HEAVY sticker. When I attempt to help him edit his choices, he refuses, pleading “Am I hurting you?” An annoyingly appropriate question to which I have no satisfactory response.
I have a daughter who travels all the time. She starts making piles of clothes a few days before her trip, then carefully curates as the day of reckoning draws closer.  “Who gets to come” she sings to the dwindling piles, rewarding the winners with a deft roll as she strategically finds it a cozy home in her suitcase. When she’s done, she’s fit in double the articles of clothing I do. She returns home having used up all the travel size toiletries she bought along. In her carry on is a list of the contents of her suitcase in case her luggage is lost or stolen. 
I decide to go online to research packing hacks for people who hate to pack. There are literally hundreds of sites, reassuring and overwhelming, dedicated to making my task less stressful. Some suggestions make sense…pack your shoes, heel to toe on the bottom…put chargers, make up brushes and ear buds in a hard shell sunglass case, wrap plastic bottles in saran wrap. Some are counter intuitive…tightly roll tee shirts and pants to prevent creasing. And some are kind of brilliant…hook earrings through a button to keep them together…place perfume in socks… include a dryer sheet to give your clothes a fresh, just washed smell. 
Yet as much as I find these lovely practical hints helpful, I realize only reordering my priorities will extinguish my packing anxiety. Why am I including an almost impossible to get in and out of jumpsuit I only wore once? Because it was expensive and I want to get my money’s worth? Not a good enough reason. Belts and tiny evening bags, just by virtue of existing, are not essential. And not one pair of uncomfortable shoes…NOT ONE PAIR… should make the cut.
Why do I even care how total strangers…who I probably will never see again…. view me? Haven’t I learned by this time that they won’t care about my outfit one bit…and if they do and pass judgment…they’re less than worthy of trying to impress. Mmmmm…would be nice to think this issue might be the gateway experience to a healthier self image.
When I haul my suitcase up from the basement, I have to stop to remember why I’m packing. Then hopefully my heart will beat faster and I’ll feel alive in a way I haven’t felt since the last time I left to explore the world. And that has not one damn thing to do with anything that arrived wrinkled or any item forgotten at home.
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