Last May I had the pleasure of taking a group of my students to Paris and while we all arrived safely, some of our bags did not. In fact, my bag wasn’t delivered to the hotel until 10:30 the night before we headed home. Guess what? I had an absolute ball. Yes, I did purchase a few essentials, but I basically spent 9 days recycling the outfit I wore on the plane, a pair of pants and a jacket I bought there, and the t-shirt the baggage claim folks gave me (along with the teeniest little toothbrush/paste I’ve ever seen). And I had an absolute ball. I’m not sure if you got that, but even though I didn’t have all the stuff I’d planned on wearing, I had the most fantastic time watching my kids explore Paris for the first time. Bliss.
This week I have the pleasure of returning “home” to Oxford, England for about a week. Dr. Kyle’s job took us there in ‘o3 and ‘o5, and now I get to go visit my dear friend Laura for her second stay there with her family. I can’t wait to hug some necks, have some tea, and revisit some special places.
I’ve already learned that it is entirely possible (and quite likely) that I can have a great time without all my stuff, but there’s no need to tempt fate. This time I’ll be carrying on what I need. Ten days worth, in fact. And yes, it can be done. I promise. There are just a few things I like to keep in mind as I pack.
1. Unless you’re going to a third world nation, you’re not going to a third world nation. My point is, resist the urge to over-pack toiletries. If you forget your toothpaste, it’s very likely you’ll be able to purchase some there. It may not be what you’re used to, but that’s part of the adventure, right? Exception: make sure ALL necessary medications go in your carry-on. Period.
2. Lay out your stuff in a pile, then put half of it back. I’ve always found it helpful to start a “pile” a week or so before I leave. As I walk past it, I put stuff in and take stuff out as I discern what clothing I’ll need. You’ll want to take far more than you need. Put half of it back in your closet. Trust me.
3. Pack to dress in layers. As you decide what you’ll want to wear, especially if you’re going to a cooler clime, consider dressing in layers. This will allow you to add and subtract as the weather dictates, Another bonus? You’ll only need to change the layer closest to your body, like camis, t-shirts, and the like. That’s the only layer that will actually get dirty, so you can recycle the outer layers and not need to take as much stuff. Smart, huh? Have some old t-shirts and undies that have seen better days? Pack ‘em! They’ll be under other layers, so no one will see them, and you get to chuck them as you pack to come home, leaving room in your suitcase for things you may pick up along the way. Genius.
4. Prioritize good footwear. If your feet ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Oh, and tuck in a good, comfy pair of slippers. Your dogs will be barking by the end of the day, so treat ‘em right.
5. No one really cares what you’re wearing. I mean, you do, but truthfully, few people will be looking closely at what you’re wearing. Of course you’ll want to feel pulled together and dressed appropriately for the weather and your surroundings (FYI: many churches/mosques have a “dress code” of sorts, so pack accordingly), but recycling outfits isn’t just practical, It’s downright European. In fact, most Europeans have a fraction of the clothing that we do in the states. Note: don’t let tip #5 be a bummer, let it free you of the shackles of overpacking and having to lug all that extra stuff around with you.
Here’s a little peek at what I’ll be taking with me. Of course I’ll take a few toiletries and unmentionables, but this will give you an idea of what I’ll be layering and mixing/matching while I’m there.