I am frantically packing for Christmas holidays back home in Portland, Oregon, and shocker of shockers, I have actually learned how to pack light! Backpacking around Eastern Europe has reformed this packaholic. Something about lugging everything on your back for six weeks teaches you quickly the powers of traveling light – no waiting for checked luggage to appear at the airport, the freedom to quickly exit the trains and navigate inexpensive public transportation to the hostel, and the ease of carrying one backpack up the ubiquitous flights of stairs found in all European budget accommodations (the only elevator I encountered was in Vienna).
As I throw clothes and toiletries into my carry-on suitcase, I ask myself a simple question: “Will I use this item daily while I am in Portland?” If the answer is no, then I don’t pack it. As simple as that! No more “I might go skiing on Mt. Hood, so I should pack every scarf and pair of gloves I own” or “It’s a vacation, I’ll pack the twenty books I’ve been meaning to read!” If I decide to go skiing, I’ll borrow wraps from my parents and rent the skis. (Besides, there’s always that uncertainty – will my body allow me to go skiing?) Realistically, I’ll be so busy seeing old friends, playing board games with my family, and visiting nieces and nephews in Seattle that I won’t have time to miss my books or slip up to the mountain. And I’m not flying to Siberia – I can always purchase an item I discover is indispensible.
“But what about all those Christmas gifts?” you ask. Simple. Stuff a small empty duffel bag into your luggage. If I can’t fit all my gifts into my suitcase, I can always fill the duffel bag with my clothes and check it on the flight home. As a last resort, the post office now offers flat rate boxes, as well as the book shipping rate. Much cheaper than checking a second bag.
The holidays shouldn’t be about stuff anyways. It is about seeing my family, nieces and nephews, long-lost high school friends and rediscovering why I love my hometown so much. Portland has enough microbreweries, museums, holiday festivities, and outdoor activities that I will never long for that never-ending reading pile.