I like clothes almost as much as John does, but we were reinventing our lives and daily musing over what to wear each day is not on the daily agenda. Instead, we have to make all our clothing decisions at once and there is no going back. Cue doom music.
In 2016 we began the process of creating a lifestyle of full time international pet sitting and decided we’d just bring a carry on and backpack each.
It was quite unnerving and certainly created an uneasy tension between John and I, but we were committed to not lug a bunch of clothes with us as we traveled the world.
So, the time came for us to pack all of our “stuff” in two small suitcases for a year of international pet sitting was upon us. We laid out our travel clothes on the bed and chair in our guest bedroom. I immediately had the urge to flee the room and lock the door behind me. It was a project I did not feel ready to take on.
It gave me a queasy stomach and a profound sense of self-doubt that shows up for me when taking on a challenge like this. It felt a bit better when I found that we were not alone in our response to the staggering challenge of packing light. When we spoke about “full time” travel and “carry on” luggage many people just laughed it off as a nightmare they adamantly choose to avoid.
I proceeded to look at every packing Youtube video, read blogs and articles and sought out suggestions from seasoned, like minded travelers. Strong opinions were firmly and resolutely directed my way regarding the use of packing cubes, folding methods, capsule wardrobes, dressing in layers and color selection, liquid product alternatives, types of carry on suitcases, and things I didn’t know about then and can’t remember now.
How did Mary Poppins
The many suggestions helped immensely but there still was a nagging dread and too many clothes and stuff to conquer our packing challenge. Finally I realized I needed a little mental adjustment to ease the frustration and pressure. I realized that the mindset I used to declutter our house was what I needed to declutter my suitcases. So here are the two biggest mindset suitcase saboteurs that once handled eased our packing woes.
The “But, what if” saboteur
We knew we were going to spend a month in Palermo, Italy. I also knew that John has watched the Godfather series so many times that undoubtedly we would be standing on the exact Teatro Massimo Opera House step where Michael Corleone’s daughter was shot! Of course, John would dramatically recall the scene, word for word.
Here’s where the “But, what if” saboteur showed up. “But, what if” we actually go to the opera? Do I have what I need? Do I need a better dress? Cute hat? What will I wear for shoes? It will be Christmas and Italians love Christmas. Do I need a Christmas outfit? And so on. My mind was actually trying to convince me to pack a perfect outfit in my itty bitty suitcase for this “one time” possible event and the saboteur was winning.
I finally squelched the “But, what if” saboteur by reassuring myself that there are stores all over this vast beautiful world and if I needed a “fancy pants” outfit or warmer clothes or whatever, I would buy it at a store, consignment shop or thrift store. A mere mindset shift and I was enthusiastically extracting the special little velveteen opera outfit as well as various other “But, what if” items such as exercise accessories, workout tees, and extra dental floss. As well as a floral scarf, belt, a cute jacket, and a gob of jewelry. I had slayed the “But, what if” saboteur by arming myself with the fun possibility of shopping abroad.
And indeed, I have shopped while traveling several times for an occasional “one off” outfit for a special event. I bought a warm jacket in Agadir Morocco as we were heading to England which was experiencing a cold snap. And, on occasion, I happily indulged in a “cheer me up” accessory like a scarf just because it felt good.
“The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.” – Clairee from “Steel Magnolias”
I have also bought jigsaw puzzles to get me through the cold wet British weather, a tablecloth for a welcome back dinner for our Tasmanian homeowners and an occasional knickknack just because a little shopping is fun for me. The super great thing is that I get to donate it back when I am done with it, thereby helping to support some very worthy causes.
“But, there is a little room” saboteur
I had eliminated a bunch of stuff from my carry on and I was feeling pretty good about the end result. I felt confident that I had what I needed for my year of travel and was thrilled with the organization of my clothes and the weight of the suitcase. I knew that unpacking and repacking would be a breeze and that a light suitcase would make the travel between destinations so much easier.
But suddenly I noticed that I had room to spare! Automatically I proceeded to add stuff back in and around my packing cubes. Mentally I was figuring that this little addition wouldn’t make a difference. It doesn’t take up room. It’s light. Here’s the sucker punch-
Everything makes a difference when packing light. It all adds up!
And that ultimately having a bit of space and being able to effortlessly zip up the suitcase is a very good thing.
What I found was that a gently packed carry- on was just plain easier to handle, easier to repack as we wandered from place to place, caused our clothes to be less wrinkly, and generally conformed to the numerous airline weight restrictions so we could carry it on. And that hauling my suitcase up and down the various stairways in airports when there was no jetway or rail stations when we couldn’t find the elevator or effortlessly throwing it into the cab made travel between places much more enjoyable.
Just one more thing
John and I were being interviewed on a travel program and were asked “What is the one thing that you wouldn’t travel without?” The obvious answer was the phone which is loaded with apps to help with our travel plans, secure pet sitting assignments, language learning and translation apps and Libby, my library app so I can access free audible books. I feel like a teenager with the amount of apps I have downloaded during our travel adventure.
However, there is just one more thing that we travel with religiously and that is our French press coffee maker. We started out with a small glass press that I cautiously carried outside of my suitcase in my backpack. I wrapped it in a sweater and gently placed it in the center of my pack. For almost two years we traveled that way until we went to Henstridge, England. We were heading to a sweet town near our sitting assignment and came across a hardware store. I love hardware stores so we ambled in and took a peek. There it was. A perfect coffee press made out of metal. A perfect size and unbreakable. Nirvana!
Why this one more thing exception? My morning cup of rich coffee just starts the day off with something familiar. Perhaps it gives me a sense of home as we travel to unfamiliar places. My first sip makes me smile as I caress the cup and happily take another.
So what’s your one thing you wouldn’t leave home without?
Remember, it is one thing, not ten things. Without making this decision you’ll have a tendency to keep adding and adding. Before long, you’ll have to sit on your suitcase in order to zip it. Decide now what one thing you absolutely cannot live without and keep in mind this is one thing. OK, two or three, but no more. Otherwise, your back will break from the weight, lugging your suitcase will make you feel like a sherpa and your luggage fees will break your bank.