I’m a pack rat. But not the hoarding kind that seem to be—inexplicably—popular on reality TV now. My inability to stop adding things to my stash takes over only when I go on a trip. I’m not a novice traveler. Through my job (earlier, when I was full-time), I’ve gone to conferences in Europe, Asia, and South America—even as far as Perth, Australia. I’m sure most people think I have the packing thing all wrapped up, so to speak.
I still struggle with it every time I travel anywhere.
Several days ahead, I start loading my carry-on bag, and here’s where I get a little obsessive. It’s important to note that I don’t like to fly. Therefore, I seek comfort by packing my just-in-case items (small plastic bags just in case I want to save my airline-issued pretzels, extra underwear and maybe a sweater just in case the airline loses my luggage, two books just in case take-off is delayed and I finish the first one, an extra pair of prescription glasses just in case my good ones break. I could go on but I’d embarrass myself.
There are two periods before leaving that are very stressful. One is when I’m trying to fill my travel toiletries kit with everything I’ll need. I have to make sure I pack my good eyelash curler just after using it that morning lest I foget and have to rely on the not-very-good one that’s always in my kit and risk pinching my eyelids. One might ask: Why do you keep the nasty one in the kit? The answer is that, if I forget to pack the good one, even a pinching eyelash curler is better than none. I also fill up my regulation quart bag with little bottles and tubes—not to exceed 3 ounces each—of stuff I would want with me if my luggage got lost. I have to make sure I have the right small containers for every shampoo, conditioner, foundation, serum, and, of course, Retin A cream just prescribed by my dermatologist.
The second stressful period is just before actually putting stuff into the suitcase: making that final decision about what clothing goes and what stays. I try to coordinate my wardrobe, but I always have one or two tops or bottoms I’m dying to take but that don’t go with more but one bottom or top, and that’s not practical. And I’m constantly checking the weather report for my destination city to make sure I’m packing the right jacket and shoes.
Did I mention the plastic cleaner bags I put all my clothing in? Or the extra hangers (besides the ones holding the clothing) I bring just in case the hotel room doesn’t have enough?
But no matter where I go and how much time I've spent in preparation, I'll always think of something I wish I had packed but didn’t and/or something I did take that has no hope of being worn during the trip.
It doesn’t get easier, possibly because, with age, I get more complex—in a neurotic sort of way.