What Kind of a Traveler Am I Anyhow? Part One: Packing

I can be a bit of a kook actually. Sometimes I’m frighteningly calm, other times I’m manic. Doesn’t traveling amplify all of our crazy, quirky, compulsive traits? Travel can be about totally letting go, but it’s also about zeroing in on the most minute details. For me, I love being in this mode of complete bipolarity when it comes to touring and discovery. But when it concerns the logistics of travel—planes and packing, for example—it can make me nuts. Or I just respond with a total laissez-faire attitude that can potentially make others around me go ballistic.

Let’s take packing. I’m from the bring-a-wide-selection-so-that-you-have-a-choice mindset. That’s totally Old School, especially with the baggage surcharges enforced by the airlines today. It’s tough though since I love to look my best when traveling and that often means switching out handbags and shoes along with a few different sweaters and a couple of coats. (We’re already approaching the limit here.) I had a near breakdown when I traveled to the east coast in September which prompted a major intervention I performed on myself (in the privacy of my bedroom, thank goodness) when I prepared for a second east coast trip in October. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I almost choked at the United counter in September when I had to pay $75. for two bags that I hadn’t even registered online. And that was just for the outbound segment. What made it worse was that I was to be spending most of my time in beach communities in Virginia Beach and The Outer Banks. How much room could a couple of bathing suits, sandals and assorted casual wear take up? This is pathetic, I thought to myself at check in. Granted I had a heavy silk dress and jacket packed in there for a wedding I was to attend (with, of course, the requisite matching sandals and bag). I was cursing my boyfriend, Steve, to myself for having urged me to take my sneakers. (Now that’s a space eater if there ever was one—who walks on the beach in sneaks anyway?) I had also thrown in my hairdryer since it appeared I might be without one for a bit. (Who travels with a hairdryer these days?) And my toiletry case ended up being the joke of our ten-day trip since it was stuffed with twenty some odd bottles (mini, but still), containing my prized potions and lotions that I presumably couldn’t live without. Now really? My God, an intervention was definitely in order. Clearly I hadn’t followed my own packing tips outlined here.

I know better. But an overflow of stress, combined with a what-the-hell kind of attitude provoked me to throw all my stuff into one suitcase, a duffle bag and two carry ons. I schlepped this proliferation of possessions from plane, to car, to another car, to taxi, to bus (yes, even on the Greyhound; read Riding the Bus), then to more car, plane and car, cursing myself the whole way. You get the idea.

I swore I’d never do that again. And so I haven’t, at least not on my October trip back east. I followed my own advice and cut my wardrobe selection in half and let it hang on door handles in my room for a few days before departure. Then I thought more about all—accessories and toiletries included—and neatly folded my trim little selection into my suitcase the morning of my departure. Phew! The intervention had worked. Plus I had registered my one bag online within the twenty-four-hour period allowed. Boy was I feeling mighty!

Suddenly I’m struck with that panicky feeling again, a strange sort of anxiety brought on by pre-departure packing plans. I’m leaving tomorrow with Steve on an almost week-long jaunt to Colorado Springs. He’s the General Manager at Mountain Lodge in Telluride and he’ll be attending the annual Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association conference at The Broadmoor. I’ll be joining him at a few events in search of story ideas and more. I already had my wardrobe planned in my head (and on my door knobs), thinking I’d draw from some combination of Rocky Mountain casual and Parisian chic. (It is The Broadmoor after all.) Then suddenly he tells me he’d like to add on a day of skiing on the return trip. “Oh, sure, sure, that’s great,” I said. But then I thought about having to pack my ski pants and ski jacket, mittens, hat, the whole shabang. I had already been wondering where my skis and ski boots were located since I didn’t see them in my storage area in Montrose, an hour and a half from where I live, when I went to pick up my winter things there ten days ago. I’ve been meaning to check my other storage area in Telluride as well as my ski locker at the mountain. My heart quickened. I’ve been on the verge of throwing Getting Ready for Ski Season: Part Two into motion, but now I need to get it into full activation mode. (Fortunately I’m already well into Getting Ready for Ski Season: Part One.)

Jeez, this is really confusing. And then I wonder how many other people go through these kinds of mind games regarding travel. Our supposedly more relaxed lifestyle of The West can be thrown a curve ball when you add on “just one day of skiing” to a business trip/elegant romantic getaway. One would think I’d be a professional traveler and could handle any scenario. When I’m in full ski instructor mode I sometimes sleep in my long underwear, get up, have breakfast, wash my face, brush my teeth and fly out the door to the mountain in near record time. But this travel combo so early in the season almost seems daunting. I take a deep breath and remember all the calming words I uttered to myself during my little intervention. Ssssh, ssssh, ssssh, stop, I say to myself. So what if I have to take two different pairs of mittens, socks and a variety of layers in order to be properly prepared for any type of weather for our one day of skiing, our maiden voyage of the ski season. I can handle it, I tell myself. And you won’t bring more than one file along with your laptop, I add on, almost as an afterthought. Can it be a fat one? I ask myself pleadingly. All right, all right.

Thankfully Steve, who travels considerably for his work, is no better than me. Actually worse, I think. On our east coast trip in September, he also checked two bags and a guitar! I’m not altogether sure what he had packed in his duffels but he mumbled something about his wetsuit and booties taking up a lot of room. Like my hairdryer, his wetsuit, booties and guitar were used only once during the entire trip. He employed his surfboard considerably more but that he leaves stashed back east. I wouldn’t think of doing a packing intervention on him. In any event, I love the fact that I travel with a guy that brings more stuff than me.

I wonder how it will be for us this trip.  I’m already beginning to feel slightly superior after my October test, despite my sporadic mind chatter that has raised some new packing insecurities.  We are driving and neither of us has to worry about baggage allotments.  Hmmmmm.  Oh dear, I sense a binge coming on.

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