by Madeleine Kando
Some people like the excitement of traveling, while others find it anxiety provoking. I react with a mixture of both, but as soon as I start packing, my bohemian ancestry takes over: excitement wins over anxiety.
This is odd, considering that I have recurrent dreams of getting lost in a foreign city, with the realization that I have no money, no passport and no place to stay. Above all I don’t know anyone. I wake up in a sweat and thank whoever is up there that it was just a dream.But either way the problem of what to pack is a universal dilemma. After all, whether we like it or not, as travelers we have to accept the reality that a suitcase has a finite amount of room. And that in itself makes packing a very zen experience. It forces you to focus on the essentials.
’Partir c’est mourir un peu’ say the French (leaving is a little bit like dying) and packing is a little like preparing to die: you have to decide what is essential to bring with you and what is not.
Most people hate to part with their possessions, and having to decide which little pieces of your life you are going to take with you is a very difficult process.
Standing in front of my empty suitcase, I am ready to start the painful selection processs. I open a drawer where I keep my socks, but I find myself unable to select which ones to bring until the whole drawer has been purged and everything is neatly paired and rolled into tidy little sock-balls.
I am not just preparing to travel you see, I am also preparing to leave. I am preparing to die a little bit. Just in case I don’t come back, I want to make sure that whoever will be looking for me won’t find any smelly socks in my drawer. My house is never as organized and well kept as right before I go on a trip.
At the airport you can judge people’s reluctance to part with their day to day existence by how much luggage they carry. I think it reflects a fear of disappearing. The more you bring with you, the more you think you can prove that you exist somewhere out there in the real world, outside of the airport and the neither here nor there world of traveling.
Aside from choices based on purely practical reasons (I wouldn’t recommend packing an umbrella if you go to Hawaii or suntan lotion if you plan on going to Holland in the winter), packing forces you to get down to basics: do I really need 5 sweaters? How about those 3 handbags: would I be ok with just one?
As I get older, I have noticed that more and more of my finite suitcase space is taken up by paraphernalia that is supposed to keep me healthy on my journey: blood pressure gage, pills, vitamins, thermometer, flue medicine, tempurepedic pillow... Forget the 5 sweaters at my age. I am lucky if I have enough room for one. The irony is that the closer you get to your ultimate voyage on this wretched earth, the more room you need to keep you amongst the living.
With age I have also become more frugal in what I pack. One very practical reason is that I just don’t have the muscle power to lug around one of those monstrosities that you sometimes see on conveyor belts.
If I could afford it I would not pack at all, just bring a lot of dollar bills so I could buy everything I need wherever I go. And I would dress in my pijamas, that being the most comfortable outfit in my wardrobe. What better way to spend countless hours in a cramped airplane seat designed for a lilliputian than in your favorite pj’s?
leave comment here
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
by Madeleine Kando