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!