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Packing like a proA week or so ago I was unpacking from a trip to the tropics and I smiled as I tossed stuff into the laundry bin.  For once I had packed what I needed and used what I had, rather than come home to re-hang and re-fold pieces that had not been worn.  With additional charges for checked luggage on the airlines, and a lifestyle that now includes short layovers and no wheels/no heels, I am all about the carry-on bag.  In the span of a few short months I have become a pro at simplified packing, minimal cosmetics, functional shoes and no-wrinkle/quick dry ensembles.  (Who knew a bikini could serve as underwear, a sports bra, a swimsuit, a peek-a-boo top under a sheer dress and sleepwear…?)

In times gone by I packed like a Girl Scout SuperHero.  Any remotely possible emergency could be tended to within the contents of my bag.  Traveling with kids will make you an over-packer.  All it takes is one up-chuck or epic diaper on an airplane to tempt you to a state of over preparedness.  But even as my kids got older and were responsible for their own gear and their own messes, I still continued to over pack.

I attribute it to living in a state of expectancy.  I was always expecting something to happen – either a catastrophe or an adventure – and I wanted to make damn sure that I was at the ready when it did.   The only time I remember being unprepared and under fashioned on a trip was the time we left the day after the cat died.  I was so traumatized by the event that I found myself on the beach with a mishmash of random t-shirts and shorts and sweaters, and actually had to go to the store and buy a bikini because I hadn’t packed one.

But now there is a sense of calm and order in my life, and the need to be prepared for anything and everything seems superfluous.  I am happy with who I am, and whom I am with.  I don’t need to dress up to be someone special or someone else.  No mascara?  No big deal.  No matching sarong or cover-up.  So what.  The only items I obsess about are my sunglasses and iPhone charger.  The rest of it can wait.

The byproduct of this streamlined packing is extra sleep when I have an early morning flight, and extra fun time at my destination.  No checked luggage means a faster trip through the airport and a faster clearance through customs.  I’ve saved enough money in checked bag and overweight bag fees to buy another airline ticket to a desired location, and my back doesn’t ache from schlepping tons of stuff.

Are they times when I miss my comprehensive stash of vacation fashion?  Sure.  A leopard doesn’t change its spots that easily, but the sense of accomplishment in packing for 10 days in a single carry-on bag is immeasurable. And the envious looks you get from travelers who are buried under their gear does make you feel a bit like a SuperHero!

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