Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Battle the Bulge

I travel heavy. This may come as a surprise, since you might well assume that someone who travels as frequently as I do would be the type to throw a T-shirt and a toothbrush in a paper bag and go. Unfortunately this is not the case. I like selection when it comes to what I wear, especially while traveling. I like to pack and repack, envisioning all possible scenarios and the perfect ensemble for each and every one.

Trip after trip, my arms bulk up from hoisting my massive suitcase(s) to and fro. I limp to the airport, the train station or parking garage with my gross overload. On a recent trip, burdened and beaten, I realized that if I don’t change my packing habits; I’ll soon need to add a Sherpa to the payroll.

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2011 is to lose weight…in my suitcase. Like a closet eater who hides in the closet to indulge in private, I’m a closet packer. Quite literally, in the privacy of my own closet I admit to sitting and jumping on top of my suitcase to force the locks shut. I know it’s ridiculous and that I’m going to have to heave the massive bag across the world but I can’t help myself and add more clothes, shoes, and accessories to my already bursting baggage.

I’ve realized that preparedness is one thing, OCD is quite another. Is it really necessary to pack eight black shirts? On a trip a few years ago I asked my husband to get my black shirt out of the suitcase. He returned with a black shirt but it wasn’t the one I had in mind. He patiently returned to the luggage to retrieve another, again… not the one I had imagined. He rummaged though all of the clothes only to find eight seemingly similar black shirts. I honestly didn’t realize the excess until they were lined up in front of me.

Shamed by my over-packing, this year I will battle my bulging suitcase and pack only what I need. I will reject my strong urge to hold onto the familiar before embarking on voyages to the unfamiliar. I will leave the comforts of home, at home, and will be freer to nimbly explore all that a place has to offer.

Bygone are the sleepless nights spent worrying how I will be able to lift my two eighty-pound suitcases over the waist bars of the Paris Metro station by myself. Farewell to the days of flabbergasted looks from bellhops around the world. So long to back aches, broken zippers, and embarrassing orange ‘over weight’ airline tags crudely slapped on my big-boned bags. I’m doing this for me… and for baggage handlers across the globe.

It’s the eleventh day of 2011; ten days since many people broke their New Year’s resolutions. Not me…I’m already devising strategies on how to lose weight in my suitcase and keep it off. When packing, I resolve to heed the advice of experts and follow these tips:

-Make a list of items to pack. Edit the list by scratching off half the items, and only pack what’s on the list.
-When in doubt...leave it home.
-Find the right suitcase. A big suitcase begs to be filled. Buy a medium sized suitcase and bring only what fits.
-Fold clothes in an efficient, wrinkle-free way to maximize space.
-Every 7 pieces should yield at least 14 ensembles. Bring items that are versatile and interchangeable.
-Bring travel sized toiletries.
-If you can’t hold your packed suitcase over your head for 10 seconds…you have over-packed.
-Check the weather at your destination and pack for the climate.
-Skimp on shoes. Pack a dressy pair and wear another more sensible pair.
-Leave space to bring souvenirs home.
-Always carry a spare set of clothes and any medicine you may need in your carry-on bag in case your luggage is declared delayed or missing.

From my years of travel I’ve come to understand that attitude affects adventure, not wardrobe. Whether it rains in Edinburgh, swelters in Accra, or snows in Riga; the contents of my luggage have little to do with the outcome of the trip. I'll try to pack appropriately as possible. I'm not travelling to Mars- they sell just about anything I could need wherever I'm going.

Rather than buy another suitcase, the next size up, I’m going to put my current suitcase on a strict diet. I’m determined to ring in 2011 with freer arms; fewer airline surcharges on excessive luggage; and a new, lighter packing, outlook on life.

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