Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 264: Traveling Light

One of the first times my sister-in-law Katie traveled out of town with our family was for a weekend-long family reunion in Ohio. She and my brother Jeff were just dating then and flew in from Charleston, South Carolina, where they live. I flew in from Atlanta, and was waiting with my dad in the rental car when my brother called to tell us they had arrived.

I could only hear my dad’s side of the conversation, but after he asked the question, "So you’re waiting at baggage claim?,” I could tell that my brother’s response surprised him, and pleased him greatly. He put the car into drive and began driving towards the airport.

When their phone call was over, my dad put his phone down, looked at me with a little smirk and said, matter-of-factly, "They're already standing outside. Katie didn't check a bag. She carried on." He was beaming all the way to the front doors of the airport and barely put the car in park before jumping out of the driver’s seat to envelop Katie first, then my brother, in a big warm hug.

Now my sister-in-law has a lot of wonderful qualities. A lot. So many, in fact, that her ability to pack for a weekend trip in a single carry-on wouldn't even make the list if I were to ever write one. But clearly the fact that she and my brother had walked off the plane carrying everything they needed for a weekend away in their four hands had impressed my dad so much, he could hardly contain his excitement.

Nor could he contain his own disappointment that his own daughter (me) had checked her (my) bag and had packed close to everything she (I) owned.

In my defense, I was continuing my travels to several other locations after that reunion with my family. I was going to be out of town for a week, so a weekend carry-on was simply not a plausible luggage option. I tried to explain this to my dad, but he was uninterested. He just seemed so elated that finally my brother had met a nice girl who was decisive enough to choose exactly what she needed before she left and low maintenance enough to fit it all into a 22" x 14" x 9" travel bag.

Also in my defense, I only own two pieces of luggage: a duffle bag I take to the gym, and an over sized suitcase on wheels (the same huge suitcase that took me to Palm Springs, Boston, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Panama.)

But it is true, unlike Katie, I consistently over pack for trips. Since I usually put off packing until the very last minute, I'll toss things randomly into a suitcase without a lot of thought, and when the suitcase is full, that is when I know it's time to stop. My affinity for procrastination paired with a natural indecisiveness is a recipe for disaster.

But on Day 264, after a conversation with my dad that involved telling him that I’d likely have to check a bag for my trip to Wilmington (North Carolina, where I was headed) because all I had was my big black suitcase, I pondered for a moment the possibility of me packing everything I needed in a single carry-on.

Doing so would mean changing everything that I am as a person. But simplifying my traveling self, limiting my weekend belongings to one duffle bag that I carried on was Day 264’s thing I’ve never done before.

The whole task was challenging. Packing for the beach in and of itself can be hard between day wear (swimsuits, cover-ups) and night wear (shirts, shorts, sundresses), not to mention the things that I need regardless of how long the trip is (makeup, shoes, jewelry, contact solution). I was limited. I actually had to think about what I was packing and make a case for each item before putting it in the duffle bag. Every time I’d start to put something in there, I’d have to tell myself, “It’s just one weekend, Stephanie; just two days.”

Once I arrived at the beach with my limited wardrobe, though, I felt liberated. There was no fussing about which swimsuit I was going to wear (I only packed two) and no stress over what to wear to dinner each night; I knew exactly what I was going to wear because I had already chosen it ahead of time. I didn’t particularly like lugging my laptop, purse, and carry-on bag through the airport, but not having to wait at baggage claim was quite nice.

And by traveling light, I earned a great big bear hug from my dad when I saw him at the beach, but I’m pretty sure that had more to do with him being excited to see me, and less about my luggage.

Regardless, could this mean that I actually am low-maintenance, after all? I guess if I have to ask that question, then the answer is probably no.


  1. I started reading this post and got really excited to acquire a new tag! Clearly, Stephen and I giving you a (gently worn) small carry-on luggage and its matching duffel bag so this never has to happen again means nothing to you. Sniffle sniffle.

  2. Also you should state that Katie packing light might be b/c she is so tiny that her clothes don't take up much room! Just a thought...that was how I always rationalize it when i used to travel with her!
    Anne Bum Hopkins