Day 102. Be Ruthless

Today has brought with it an over-abundance of choices.  And, as a result, I find myself in a quandary.  There are so many “P”-words I could have chosen to write about this morning.  Passion.  Persuasion.  Paris.  Pashminas.  Parrots.  Photography.  And that’s just for starters.

But, in the end, I’ve decided to talk about packing.  At first blush, not nearly as sexy a topic as the others.  But I think I’ve got a serious case of wanderlust going on; and that’s probably why I’ve got luggage on my mind.

Over the years I’ve become quite good at editing out the things I know I really don’t need to take.  I’ve learned how to be brutal.  Why not share, then, I thought to myself.

So packing it is.

I wasn’t always a good packer.  When I first started travelling (as an adult), I essentially didn’t want to leave anything at home.  “You never know”, I’d say.  “What if it rains.  Or snows.  Or I find I need a cocktail dress.  Or a zipper breaks and I need another pair of pants.”  Pronto.

“What if I stain the only white blouse I’ve brought?  What if I have to stay longer (when on business trips)?  What if my bathing suit doesn’t dry and I only have the one?  Well, of course I need three pairs of heels, I can’t wear black shoes with everything!”

The bottom line?  If I was going away for a week, I’d have enough clothes to last me two or three.  If I was going for two or three weeks, I could have stayed for months.  Maybe forever.

You’ve heard enough, haven’t you?  You’ve been there, right?

Of course in those days, airport security wasn’t what it is now.  There were no restrictions on luggage.  You could bring as many bags as you wanted, they could be any size, and any weight.  And airports had porters travellers could pay, to schlep their bags.  But even so, one day I had enough.

One of my jobs involved a lot of travelling.  I was going somewhere every week or at least every two weeks.  And the constant packing and unpacking really started to get to me.  Dragging all the bags.  Waiting for them once we landed.  And then, never using half the stuff I’d brought with me.

And that’s when I packed it in.  The over-packing.  Finally, I learned how to travel.  Light.

  1. I kept my colour scheme pretty much to black in winter and either all white or white and a neutral (like sand or taupe) in summer, or for more tropical destinations.  This greatly reduces the number of accessories required.
  2. Take a pair of comfortable shoes for walking during the day.  Take a pair of shoes that work for more dressy activities.  Take a pair of sandals or flip-flops to use as slippers (never walk barefoot in hotel rooms) and to go to the gym, pool, beach.  Lightweight running shoes if you absolutely must.  Or try yoga and pilates instead.  No shoes required.
  3. Take a handbag for during the day and a small one for evening.
  4. I avoided bulk (and weight) by layering.  Lightweight jersey knits or linen travel really well.  A tank top or two, a short-sleeve T-shirt or two, a long-sleeve T-shirt or two, and a cardigan or a blazer can see you through a number of different changes of climate.  Layer several when it’s cold, and wear them one at a time as it gets warmer.  A pair of pants (that can go from a meeting to a cocktail party), a pair of casual pants, jeans or leggings (which you can travel in, with one of the tops) and a skirt and you’re good for a week or two.  A pair or two of tights and a couple of pairs of socks.  If you must add a dress, do so.  But you really don’t need one.  And I’ll bet you could get it all in a carry-on bag, if you wanted to.
  5. If you’re off on a vacation, and depending on whether it’s a beach destination or a museum/theatre/shopping extravaganza in New York, you can add a pair or two of shorts, a couple more tank tops, a couple of bathing suits and a cover up (sarongs are great because they also double as skirts, paired with a tank top or T-shirt.  And you can always lay on them, on the beach.  Adding a sun dress probably wouldn’t be the end of the world.  If it’s going to be hot where you’re going, you probably won’t need the long-sleeve T-shirts or the cardigan.
  6. You really don’t need more clothes.  I guarantee you won’t wear them, if you do bring them.  Nobody knows you there, and no one will ever know that you’ve worn the same skirt three times.  I travel with things I can hand wash, by the way.  I’m not suggesting that you wear dirty clothes.  And I’ve never been anywhere I couldn’t find a dry cleaner.
  7. Use accessories like jewelry, scarves and shawls (take up no room, add hardly any weight), to freshen things up and make your outfits look different.  And also to dress them up, or down, depending on where you’re going.
  8. As for toiletries, leave whatever you can at home.  Take your tooth brush, floss and a travel-size toothpaste.  Deodorant. I never travel with shampoo, conditioner or body creams any more.  Or a hairdryer.  Even cheaper hotels give them to you, now.  I pare down the amount of skin care products I take to cleanser, moisturizer, eye cream and one face cream.  And at that, I take them in travel size.  Same thing with my make-up.  One or two shades of eye shadow, blush, a mascara and lip gloss.  I do not take polish remover or polish.  Frankly, I’d rather treat myself to a manicure and pedicure when I’m there.  Some anti-bacterial wipes and sunscreen.  Perfume.  And vitamins (pack each day’s allotment in a separate, tiny baggie).

What are some extras I might take?  A small travel umbrella if it’s called for.  I have a fabulous micro-fibre raincoat (in black) that, when folded, is the size of a small, paperback book.  But nowhere near as thick.  A hat of some kind, if I’ll be in a very hot climate.  When I went to India I went to a travel store and bought a great wide-brimmed hat.  It was made out of hemp and, even when folded and shoved in a suitcase, it regained its shape the minute you shook it out.  It was perfect!

And I must travel with a camera and computer.  When I went to India, I had a big decision to make.  I knew I’d have a laptop because I was blogging about my trip.  I was going to be dragging it around with me for a month.  Did I also want some heavy SLR camera hanging around my neck?  No, I did not.

Went to a camera shop and told the salesman where I was going.  He recommended a point-and-shoot, but a very good one.  It was a Panasonic Lumix, with great zoom.  It weighed next to nothing.  It fit in my pocket.  And you would not believe the pictures I took.  There was a professional photographer on the trip and she couldn’t believe the quality of my photos; and the range I was getting.  I probably wouldn’t travel with anything else, now.

The one change I would make is, I would now leave my laptop at home.  Even though my Macbook Air is relatively light, it’s unnecessary.  I’d just take my iPad and the lightweight, wireless keyboard I have.  Aside from being smaller and marginally lighter, it’s more practical.  In one device I’d have a computer, my music, books and even email, if I wanted it.  And I could even buy an attachment that would let me download my photos directly on to the iPad.

What I’ve just described could take me away, anywhere, for even several months.  And there’d be no wear and tear on my nerves, my shoulders, my arms or my back.

If I can do it, so can you.  Piece of cake.  Promise.

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