Most people enjoy visiting a new country but sigh at the prospect of packing. You, dear reader, may be one of those who appreciate the art of packing, who enjoys planning out different outfits to mix and match for every day you’ll be gone. I, too, enjoy this most mundane of tasks, but perhaps for different reasons.
I’ve come to see it as a metaphor for letting go of emotional baggage. It may seem silly to say this, but after I look at the contents of my suitcase with a critical eye and remove unnecessary items, I feel more in control of my life. The ability to cut out excesses when packing is a practice in letting go of things that might burden me. I remind myself to drop the emotional baggage because traveling is a freeing experience. Don’t let your suitcase bring you down. Next time you feel frustrated enough to kick your suitcase, think of other actions that are more difficult than packing, like battling hordes of people for Black Friday sales, shopping for premier mounts, or balancing a checkbook.
You’ve planned the trip, you’ve bought the plane ticket. Now, the large, empty suitcase on your floor is symbolic of the hill you have yet to climb in order to get to India, Spain, Korea, or wherever. The common worry, especially when you’re taking a long-term trip, is that you’re packing too much or too little. What if when you finally get to France you see all the ladies in their three-inch-pumps and you realize with a pang that you have just the perfect pumps to rival them but alas: you’ve left it back home.
Those pumps may be nice to bring along but are they really necessary? This is the question I ask myself every time I pick up an object to pack. Cutting down to the essentials will allow you to save space for the extra items that you may simply want to bring. More importantly, it will make going through airport security a cake walk. I believe I’ve gained enough knowledge through my travels to offer my personal packing regimen:
1. Lay out everything — clothes, books, pens, shoes, bags, everything — that I want to bring.
2. I tell myself to be strong, then I go through each object and think, ‘Can I see myself using/needing this in __?’ The keyword here is need, not want.
3. Once I’m down to the essentials, I take out the things that will go in my carry-on bag: contact lens case, toiletries, toothbrush, iPod, cell phone, wallet, sketchpad/book, etc.
4. Now comes the packing part: for clothes, I roll them because it saves space and prevents wrinkles. For electronics or other fragile objects, I layer them between clothes for the cushioning. For books, it’s better to space them out to distribute the weight instead of stacking them in one corner. Formal or business clothes that need extra protection go in garment bags, and shoes are wrapped in plastic or shoe bags. For liquids, gels, and aerosols, I make sure they are completely sealed and wedge them between clothing for the cushioning.
5. I close my suitcase and lift it to check the weight as well as to make sure I can lift it — no one wants to be the one struggling with their suitcase in the airport, and your back will thank you for it later.
6. And finally, it doesn’t hurt to check your airport’s current baggage and security regulations if you need to refresh your memory.