Goal: To Pack Light (for real this time!)

I have been scrambling through the last items on my to-do list for my trip to Eastern Europe, and at the top of my list, in big bold letters and underlined three times, is Pack Light (for real this time!).

I am the queen of over-packing. On a weekend visit to my sisters in Seattle, I will pack enough books to last me a month. When I left for my freshman year of college, I stuffed a suitcase full of books, yearbooks, and videos. On my two-week honeymoon, my suitcase was big enough for me to fit into, and somehow I schlepped it onto Amtrak, Greyhound, passenger ferries, and local buses all over the Pacific Northwest. Ironically, I don’t pack a lot of clothes or shoes like most women (I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy); I pack items to amuse my brain, like books, music, and projects.

Now that I am traveling with a chronic medical condition, and visiting multiple countries over a 5 week period, it is time to repent of my over-packing habits. Key #3: Pack Light. I will be taking a single, carry-on sized convertible backpack/suitcase. For 5 weeks.

This may seem crazy, and I’ve had my moments of doubts – living out of one bag for 5 weeks?! However, I am realising it is essential to make my trip as stress-free as possible. Packing light will even ease some of my fibromyalgia pain. Instead of lugging around multiple heavy suitcases from train to hotel several times a week, I will pop one light bag onto my back and, with hands free and less strain on my shoulder muscles, reach my destination in better physical shape. You may argue that a suitcase with wheels is a better option, but navigating the cobblestone streets of cities like Krakow and Prague, not to mention the stairs of train stations and public transportation, is immensely easier with a backpack.

This week I am concentrating on figuring out how I will pack light and still bring a realistic amount of clothes and supplies. Here’s my plan:

– I am packing 5 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, a cardigan, a fleece, 5 pairs of underwear, a pair of sandals, a pair of pajamas, a swimsuit and quick-drying towel, a pair of walking shoes, and a lightweight jacket that stuffs into its pocket. Every article of clothing will fit into a color scheme of browns, blues and greens to make mixing and matching outfits easy. I am also packing biodegradable castile soap and 2 gallon Ziplock bags so that I can do my laundry on the road for free. (Soap, water, and shirt in Ziplock bag, agitate, rinse, and hang to dry.)

– Instead of carrying all six of my heavy guidebooks, I have ripped out the sections for the cities and regions I will actually be visiting, and stapled them together into my own homemade guidebook.

– I will only be packing enough soap, shampoo, and toiletries to get me started. When I run out of my travel-size toothpaste, I will buy more. I’m visiting Europe, not Antarctica, and toothpaste is readily available.

– I have retired my CDs. Instead, I have downloaded over 600 songs onto a 4GB mp3 player which is smaller than the palm of my hand. Technology is amazing! I have also decided to ditch the laptop, and will use the free Internet at hostels or go to an Internet cafe to keep up with my email and this blog.

– The hardest change is leaving my library at home. I will only bring one novel (gasp!) on the plane with me, along with a couple magazines. As I travel, I will pick up new reading material and discard the old. (Unless I stumble across a jewel, like a rare book). I will also focus on writing my own stories in my journal or chatting with new friends as I zip between cities or lounge in a Viennese coffeehouse.

Packing light has never been my forte, but I am proud to say my dress rehearsal back in April went extremely well. On a weekend sojourn to Chicago with my girlfriends to see RENT with Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, I brought one school-sized backpack. Even with a dressy evening of dinner and a show to pack for, I did not feel deprived.

Maybe there is hope for us packaholics after all!


About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
This entry was posted in travel tips, travel with fibromyalgia and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Goal: To Pack Light (for real this time!)

  1. Barb Ward says:

    You sound soooo organized. I am not at all surprised. I am going to pass along your blog to my sister and a couple of friends. They all travel a lot and will find this fascinating, as do I. I look forward to following you on your journey with great anticipation. Take care of yourself and travel safe!!!


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