Packing A Life: Decisions

packingPacking for short trips is not really a problem for me.  Or at least, not compared to packing for three months away.  Especially when those three months include a couple of different seasons.  Even with my own apartment and some clothes in storage, I inevitably pack enough for two suitcases.  Unfortunately, I only get one “free” checked bag and have to pay for the second.

As you can tell from the photo, I pack a variety of things.  Clothes, items for the apartment (especially sheets and towels and bedspreads).  And food.  Here, you can see the Community Club coffee (presents) that I pack for some friends.  What you don’t see is the second suitcase, which contains the frozen crawfish (in dry ice) that is a staple for me.

No, the dog did not get packed, though she wanted to go with me.  ZsaZsa simply climbed into the suitcase, turned around a few times, and curled up quite comfortably.  A small hint, but not one I followed up on.

Some friends laugh at me and tease me about my packing.  I start long before I leave.  First, I collect things I want to bring.  I pile them in boxes and bags.  The week before I leave, I get out the suitcases and begin to pack.  First are the clothes — cotton and linen pants, t-shirts, etc.  Shoes.  Then come the apartment items.  Food gets in there too, but the crawfish is only packed the actual morning of departure.

A couple of days before, I close the suitcases and weigh them.  Then begins the de-construction.  I remove things.  I switch things from one case to another.  Finally, the morning of departure, I make final selections, zip the bags, and weigh them once more.  The roll-on bag gets packed only the day before departure, and it too gets the final departure once-over.

That roll-on bag and my purse contain absolute electronic necessities — laptop, iPad mini, camera, phones (and all cords).  Plus adapters.  I include medicines for three months.  I jam in a notebook.  My iPod and earphones.  Snacks?  Sometimes.  Sometimes, as this year, I ended up forgetting them altogether.  They were still in a bag when I returned last week.   And of course, there usually is a change of clothes.

When I’m in place in the apartment, I reverse the packing and manage to unpack in a matter of an hour.  I put things up as I go.  The very first thing I take out, of course, is the frozen crawfish, which goes right into the freezer.  Everything else gets unpacked on the second day.

With two big bags, you’d think I’d manage to remember everything. But oh no– I usually forget something.  But never the passport or the computers or the phones or meds.  Other things?  Yep.  I manage, though.

And when I’m there and travel, then I have to decide all over again.  What will I need?  What can I manage without?  I am getting better at it, but still manage to pack more than I actually use.  I also sometimes forget that I will buy things while I’m wherever, and that I’ll need room for that.

So when I was in London in May, I needed to buy a bag — and I picked out a rolling backpack for the plane.  I checked the roll-on bag.  And it was jammed, expanded inches and all.  Every zipper pocket was filled.  The large travel purse had my iPad and phones and journal.  The new wheeled backpack held the teapot I bought, other items, and was full.  Next time, I’ll just pack a larger checked bag.

For Istanbul in June, I was prepared.  I used the larger suitcase, not the roll-on bag, for checked luggage.  I also had the roll-on bag. Plus I carried my travel purse, which holds a lot (lightweight, easily cleaned, with lots of pockets and zippered areas).  Nevertheless, my acquisitions from various shopping expeditions meant that I once more jammed the checked bag as full as it would go.  And the roll-on bag held as much as possible.  It’s amazing to me just how the guys at rug stores manage to reduce a large rug to a relatively compact (though not light) package, complete with its own carrying bag.  The two small lamps I bought?  In the suitcase.  And they made it back to the U.S. unbroken.

Sometimes I long for the trip I made in 1992, when I went to Greece for about a month with only a duffel bag.

But those days are gone.  Now I am simply glad that I can manage at all.  I always look at new suitcases and roll-on bags, seeking the absolutely perfect bag.  Sometimes I think I’ve found it — only to discover some problem.  This summer the problem seemed to be that the roll-on bag which was no problem at all on the eastbound journey to Greece somehow didn’t meet the approval of personnel for my westward return journey.  The measurements hadn’t changed, so who knows?  Maybe I just need a slightly smaller bag.

Oh well, I’ll start looking soon.

Somewhere, I know, there’s a bag waiting.

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