It is that time of year when almost everyone I know is either leaving on vacation or in midst of planning one. I look forward to vacationing almost as much as I dread packing for it. And so I procrastinate the ritual of packing till a few hours before my flight, just as somebody in denial of death scripts his will minutes before he is ordained to breathe his last.
You may think that packing is no life or death matter and this metaphor is inappropriate. But to me, not finding the right clothes when I dig into my luggage on a holiday is the equivalent of a near-death-experience (NDE). And so I avoid such NDE’s by packing all the options. When in doubt, don’t make a choice; throw in all the possible choices. This is the dictum I live and travel by. As it turns out the husband is no different in this regard. One look at his suitcase and you will know that we are a match made in ‘excess baggage’ heaven.
For what it is worth, the husband does not like to stay over at friends’ or relatives when we travel as he feels it is unfair to impose on somebody else’s space. I, on the other hand, have no such reservations. During my solo sojourns I have scared many a hosts with the size of my suitcases into believing I was not merely visiting them but in fact was considering moving in with them permanently. Friends and family with a more positive outlook however make no such assumptions and merely expect to be at the receiving end of many gifts carefully packed inside them large suitcases.
Truth be told, I have often looked at the contents of my suitcase and asked myself “What was I thinking? Who did I expect to meet on this trip – the queen of England?” I figure heavy packers like me and the husband like to be well equipped at all times. It is good to be prepared if the head of state calls on you while you are vacationing in his/her country you know.
I remember arriving into Venice with the husband and the kids and settling into the speedboat with all our bags a few years ago. The beautiful Italian boatman and his helper were awestruck as they went about loading our luggage one after another. If I was any better at math, I would be able to arrive at a directly proportional relationship between the number of bags we had on us that day and Berlusconi’s sexploits in that particular year and ever since. It would not be an exaggeration to say that as the last item of luggage got loaded onto that boat, I saw the water levels in those canals rise and felt a definite shift in the plates of earth below the Adriatic Sea. If any tremors were felt subsequently, they might have gone unnoticed in that floating city where the ageing Venetian structures manage to stay upright only by the sheer will of the local tourists and not much else.
On yet another holiday, even before the children had arrived, I spent the better part of my vacation making trips to the airport and sending luggage back to Mumbai with a dear friend who was a flight attendant with British Airways.
This other time our children sat in the back of the rented car suffocated, as the husband’s oversized suitcase could not fit in the boot and had to be accommodated between the kids on the seat. It almost seemed like we were taking that suitcase on a holiday and showing it around while the kids had been fitted on either side for the sole purpose of holding the suitcase in place. Our poor children could not walk straight for a week thereafter, to say nothing of having bad memories of driving around Italy to this day.
We went to a spa resort near Rishikesh two months ago and in spite of being told that we will not have an opportunity to flaunt our own clothes as most people stuck to the white cottons provided by the hotel, you should have seen how many clothes we took along with us anyway. It was ridiculous in hindsight. But we are compulsive packers. Send us to a hermitage and we will be no different.
I recently took lessons on how much to pack from a friend who travels the world with just one or two items of hand luggage and no check-in baggage whatsoever.
So here is how one is to pack: A pair of comfy walking shoes and a pair of evening shoes in a neutral colour.
A white shirt, two other shirts/blouses to wear in the day, a pair of shorts, a pair of jeans, a night suit, a scarf, a little black dress, a pair of casual linen pants and a dual coloured belt, a winter jacket and a cardigan/jumper if one is going to a cold place. That’s it.
That’s it?!!! Only monks can travel like that. No evening bag? No extra evening dresses? What about a pair of dark jeans and a pair of fade-outs or ripped jeans? And flip-flops for a warm day and boots for a cold day (for countries where the weather can change suddenly)? And track suits? Will one not get bored of wearing the same jumper day after day? What if it gets wet in the rain? And white jackets that always look so chic? And a black jacket for the white is bound to get dirty in two days?
The answer is: use the laundry service and buy the extra shoes or the extra dress if the need arises and cut out the frills.
I have pondered over this recipe for good packing and I am determined to travel light in the future. This would probably mean that henceforth I will only be headed to destinations with beaches for sunblock, swimsuits and sarongs can’t require much space. But at least I will be able to proudly tell everyone that I too can travel light.