Our vacation is still a few weeks away, but I’m already thinking about packing. And this article in last week's Boston Globe by Beth Teitell made me smile with recognition.
I have often thought I am about the world’s worst packer. I couldn’t pack light if my life depended on it. And it always seems to me that by an inexplicable principle of physics, no matter where I’m going and no matter what piece of luggage I choose, my suitcase is always this close to bursting, the zipper always this close to tearing away from the fabric. I always seem to have just one more thing than my suitcase can realistically hold.
Beth Teitell describes a number of obstacles to effective packing. I’m guilty of all of them – and then some. For one thing, even though I’m a writer and much of my livelihood depends on my ability to imagine situations beyond the reality in which I’m immersed, I seem to be incapable of picturing any weather beyond that which I’m experiencing at the moment I pack. Weather.com might as well be written in Mandarin for all the use it does me when I look up the forecast for my destination (and I always do). If it’s 47 degrees and raining at home as I pack for a visit to a Caribbean island, I’m sure to find myself in a tropical bungalow with jeans and wool pullovers. If it’s 92 and humid as I pack for a trip to the Colorado Rockies, I shiver away my time in the mountains in sleeveless blouses and cotton skirts, no matter that I’ve visited the Colorado Rockies nearly every summer of my life and I know it always dips below 60 degrees by the time the sun sets.
Even when I do pack appropriately for my destination, I pack too much of everything. If the weather is just right for cropped pants and cotton t-shirts, I’m not going to want to wear the same ones every day, am I? If it’s chilly in the evening and I need a blazer over my blouse, I don’t want anyone to get tired of seeing the same blazer, day after day. And what are the odds that blazer will match more than one or two outfits? So of course I’ll need more than one.
My other mistake is that I tend to pack aspirationally. That is, I pack for what I hope will happen on the trip rather than what I really think probably will. And so I pack dresses and attractive shoes because it’s a nice idea to think I’ll walk around my destination city in stylish dresses every day rather than a touristy costume of shorts, t-shirts and running shoes, even though once I’m faced with the prospect of a full day of sightseeing ahead, I’ll want the shorts and sneakers. I pack extra outfits with the idea that I’ll change before dinner every evening despite the fact that we’re never that formal when we travel. In short, I pack for the person I want to picture myself being while on vacation, rather than for the person I know I really am.
Still, I’ll keep working at it. Just as I dream of becoming someone who regularly arrives at appointments ten minutes early instead of two minutes late, I dream of zipping up a suitcase with room to spare. And if I never reach that point? There are always bigger suitcases out there.