Here’s an idea: Pack for one week
What’s amazing is that even after five decades of trekking the globe, I’m still learning how to be a competent traveler.
My first solo trip was as an eight-year-old.
My parents loaded me on a Greyhound bus for a 300-mile trip from Long Beach to Salinas to visit my cousins.
Since then I’ve honed my packing skills and know to pocket Dramamine, extra cash, Kleenex and bottled water wherever I go.
We just returned from India where I needed …
- Dramamine for five hours of endless curlicues to the high plains of Munnar (and I still threw up)
- Extra cash for the restrooms that charge a user fee
- Kleenex because there’s no toilet paper in the restrooms that charge a user fee
- Bottled water to avoid diarrhea-inducing tap-water
The biggest life lesson for me was learning how to pack fewer clothes.
The epiphany emerged when I spent a summer in Washington, D.C. on fellowship at the National Museum of the American Indian.
I packed and repacked and packed again, until I made a fateful decision: Just pack enough for one week.
Taking one carry-on bag was liberating.
I packed only enough clothing for one week and used the washing facilities at my sub-let.
I learned to limit my clothing palette to the basics: white or beige and black or blue, with colorful scarves and sweaters to add spice.
When we travelled to London this month I sported one vibrant scarf, one dress, one pair of leggings, one pair of socks and one pair of boots, which I wore for three days and then packed in my carry-on bag (along with my winter coat) and stored at the hotel while we traipsed from London to India.
To plan for India, I had tucked a smaller bag inside my carry-on when I arrived in London.
Once packed for India, my bag and purse weighed 2 kilos less than our allowable 7 kilos (15.4 pounds).
I boarded the plane at Heathrow with sandals (in December)—sturdy, sole-supporting and breathable Keens—and took three pair of capri leggings, four summer dresses, one lightweight wedding-appropriate dress, one summer nightgown, one sweater, one scarf, and a week’s worth of underwear.
With bright, hot weather I needed sunblock which doubled for body lotion and found a lipstick that lasts 24 hours, which I topped off with chapstick throughout the day.
After years of searching for the perfect purse I settled on a cross-body—rather than a backpack or shoulder bag—constructed of thick fabric rather than heavy leather.
The sturdy and light-weight bag has three distinct, zipped compartments and holds my wallet, passport, cell-phone, book, medicine bag, large water bottle and leaves enough room to close the top zipper.
Turns out I had everything I needed to traverse India: cool clothing, bottled water, and motion-sickness meds.
It only took 50 years to sort it out.
8 January 2018