As I sit writing this column, I should be packing, getting ready for a vacation in San Francisco. For someone who loves to travel, I ought to be better at packing—although, over time, I believe I am getting better. I have two weaknesses when it comes to packing: first, I overpack, and, second, I wait until the last minute, my indecisive self always getting the better of me.
I do better when each day of the trip is planned out, so that I will know better what I might want to wear on a trip. However, I’m also the sort who enjoys some spontaneity, so sometimes I resist having a set day-by-day itinerary on a pleasure trip.
When it comes to clothing, I like having “options,” and I always bring at least one extra outfit on a trip. One never knows—especially if one tends to be clumsy—when the sauce from that sumptuous authentic Mexican taco at lunch will end up dripping from the wrapper onto one’s pants or drops of that glass of red wine from dinner will end up dotting one’s shirt. Thus, I feel it is always better to travel like a Boy Scout: by being prepared.
However, the problem with being so indecisive and wanting “options” is that the airlines now charge for almost every square centimeter of space available on the plane. One day there will probably be a surcharge for breathing, since it requires that the person exercising his or her involuntary air intake have extra space in front of the mouth and nose. I almost invariably have to check a suitcase both going and coming, which generally adds up to an extra $25 each way on most airlines. My friend Tom, with whom I occasionally travel, refers to it my “steamer trunk.”
Another part of the problem with having a carry-on for me is that, thanks to the 2006 London terrorists who derived explosives from liquids and gels, I have to check a bag, considering that I have trouble fitting my toiletries into a quart-sized bag.
I have worked on doing better, but every time I try, I fail miserably. I vow eventually to devise my own methodology to compact multiple liquids into such a minute space, as a woman may desire several liquid-based toiletry items on a daily basis. These items include, but not limited to, shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, concealer, mascara, facial moisturizer, hairspray, hair pomade, and lotion. I’m willing to bet the powers that be that made a rule that no one can stow bottles larger than 3.4 ounces, all of it fitting neatly inside a quart-sized bag, in a carry-on bag on a plane were definitely not women.
My system for packing is pretty simple: I lay everything out on the bed by outfit, pants on bottom, then tops, then underclothing. I pack it all in zippered bags, called e-cubes, which fit on one side of my hardside spinner suitcase. That way, all outfits are organized together. The other side of my suitcase is reserved for toiletries, shoes, and belts.
One main problem I have, though, is that I am not as neat in folding dirty clothes as I was in folding the clean ones when I originally packed the suitcase. Therefore, I end up with a suitcase bursting at the seams when it is time for the return flight.
When I am packing to leave, I generally have to sit on my suitcase to zip it. When I pack for the return flight, I not only have to sit on the case, but I also have to finagle the two zippers in a several-minute struggle until I get it to close. I wish good fortitude for the airport worker who decides that the inside of my luggage must be examined on the return flight. He will need it to get my sprawling suitcase re-zipped after opening.
Nevertheless, despite my obstacles in getting ready to travel, the trip is always worth it. I often think I enjoy the journey as much as the trip itself. It is exciting, being on the brink of the unknown, ready to explore and have new experiences. St. Augustine compared travel to a book, and “those,” he said, “who don’t travel only read a page.”
(Daily Corinthian columnist Stacy Jones teaches English at McNairy Central High School and UT Martin and has served on the board of directors at Corinth Theatre-Arts. She enjoys being a downtown Corinth resident.)