Friday, October 23, 2009

My Packing Technique - Or, I Suck at Packing and Have Bad Clothes

Back before I was juggling two kids and a travel career, packing seemed easy-peasy and generally took me about an hour if not less. I never forgot anything important. I'd be making mental lists a week or so prior and then, when the time came, I'd just throw it all in my pack and it was done. This method simply doesn't work for my scattered and overworked brain anymore; so much so that I can't remember ever having the kind of mental clarity where that would have actually worked.

I've learned this the hard way. The last trip I went on (to the US where I got to pack a great big rolling suitcase for a change) I packed in my old-style, quick way and I forgot my toothbrush for the first time ever. As a travel professional this is pretty lame, but it's not the worst thing I've ever forgotten. On business trips I've forgotten to pack business cards, my brief, my camera, my razor, and so on; once for a seven week research trip to Canada I forgot to pack a bra.

So for my upcoming trip I'm going back to a technique that rarely fails me. My beautiful new travel pack (that deserves a blog entry of its own) is now officially open on the floor in my bedroom. The one-week countdown to my three week research trip to Thailand officially starts today so I'm going to make sure all the clothes I want to bring are clean (I have to start this early because I live in the developing tropics and don't use a dryer). Meanwhile I'm making lists and tossing everything I might need in my bag as I think of them. The day before I leave I'll go through everything and remove about 80% - then I'll be ready to go.

The other thing I'm terrible at is travel fashion. When I'm on the road I look like shit. You'd think that by now I'd have some sort of technique for looking remotely decent in sweltering developing countries, some great gear-clothes that weather the hard-knocks, but I don't. The worst is that I run into women on the road all the time who look fantastic. On my last trip to Malaysia I traveled with a Chinese girl who was carrying a pack smaller than mine, was on a serious long-haul budget, camped everywhere and yet she managed to look like she stepped off the pages of a travel fashion spread every morning. I on the other hand had my two pairs of capris and three shirts that were on the verge of falling apart, were stained, stretched and faded making me look somewhere between a down-and-out Stevie Nicks and a sand creature. My Chinese friend felt sorry for me and gave me a pair of her capri trousers which, bless her, managed to make me look less like a street person for about a week.

So although I'm the 'professional' who should be writing articles on this stuff and dolling out tips, I just suck at packing. I've looked for articles on the subject and nothing helps. Perhaps it's just one of those innate talents you're born with, some gene that I lack. In any case, I'm always up for suggestions. Maybe somehow, someday, I'll pack a bag weighing 5kg that contains everything I need to live in the bushes and still look chic and polished. Till then, I'm just going to embrace the adventure of buying new toothbrushes in foreign countries and looking bad while I do it. I'll just smile a lot and that I've found, will get you through anything.


  1. I think some people are just blessed with being able to wear simply cut clothes and look stunning, while the rest of us can barely manage to make jeans and tees look comfortable, let along stylish. I suspect wearing dark linen would keep you cool. chic and clean looking but... I'm no pro traveller.

  2. Yes dark is definitely the way to go. I find linen a little heavy and wrinkly but then again, nothing else is really working for me so I may as well try it! I always try to cover up since I tend to travel in Muslim countries alone a lot - the boxy look that goes with trying to look conservative really doesn't give me any style points. Thanks for your comments :-)



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