Packing: Not Just Toothpaste and Undies Anymore

Packing is hard, and I’m really terrible at it. I never know how to balance what I need with what I want and then how to make that appear out of what I have. Shopping inevitably results. No summery athletic clothes whose purpose is the critical act of wicking moisture from my sweat-drenched to-be-newly desertified body? A trip to EMS results in success plus cute summery dress (also in a breathable fabric!). Check. Something like killing one bird with two stones. Oops.

I tried the tactic of laying out – in meticulously ordered piles – all the clothes I was going to bring. Lo and behold, my years-long dedication to buying any and all pants long enough for my 5’9″ has finally caught up to me and I have something like an order of magnitude more pants (and skirts, and shorts) than I do presentable tops to accompany them. To the GAP I go! Luckily there’s a sale. There’s always a sale. It’s an outlet. I come away with a substantial supplement of tops that will be fitting and appropriate for the climate (meteorologically and culturally). Check.

This idea that the more stuff I have the more prepared I will be extends far beyond vestments. I have acquired this bizarre habit of writing which, when combined with my inborn need to write to-do-lists and notes-to-self, often in gratuitously large penmanship, necessitates being well-stocked with college-ruled notebooks and day-per-page agenda books. Yes, I used a Filofax for years, and I loved every minute of it. My current notebook-in-progress threatens to run out of pages imminently so of course the photocopy-all-important-documents trip to Staples turned into a mind-bending exercise in decision-making: which notebook? tiny, small, or regular sized? eco-friendly? hard or soft cover? spiral? composition? girly pattern or solid color? After much agonizing the chosen notebook also had a new planner to bond with during the flight. You never know what pressing engagements might arise that I will need to keep detailed track of. And the photocopies. Check check.

Electronics? Check. Adapters for said electronics? Check. Toiletries in 1 oz. containers in a 1 qt. ziploc? Check. An assortment of footwear to meet any possible need? Check. Travelers cheques for emergencies? Check. Junky airplane reading? Check. Passports, foreign currency, contingency plans, alter egos? Check. Mental and emotional readiness? Yeah, right.

Prepared? Ready? So it would seem. But then there’s what I don’t have and what I can’t pack and what I won’t find no matter how many sales I hit. A guarantee, an ultimate direction, a sense of confidence in this adventure, a friend to experience it with, a clue, a guide to a new life. It is impossibly daunting. What I’m really doing – moving to the other side of the world, uprooting my life, risking the loss of friends, venturing into the unknown – makes it impossible to approach in any way other than the blindly practical packing list.

So here I am and off I go with an amateur’s excuse for a packed suitcase, with a blank notebook and an empty planner in tow. That’s all there is to it, packing-wise.

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