A 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!