Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Traveling Vanities

After I wrote about my two Kipling bags, I merrily packed them, tossed them in my car and headed to The Farm for a long writing encampment. YAY! But once I got here, I had to carry my largest bag up 20 steps. That was up, in case you missed it.

The gasping incident got me to thinking about something I said (hear the happy chirp in my voice?), which was that I can always stuff one more thing into those bags. However, is that the Good News or the Bad News? Today, my back tells me it's the latter.

Let's consider the pros and cons of all expandable bags.

  • can accommodate vacation souvenirs
  • one more book fits down the edge
  • one more rolled pair of jeans tucks into a corner
  • one more anything, really, always fits
  • one more anything always fits
And still, for this trip, even though I continuously added one more item to my ab-fab bag, I forgot to bring a few necessary items with me. Yet, I also stuffed in several more items than I need. That's the way it is with me and packing and expandable bags. When I'm off my carry-on only style packing, I'm often off my good sense.

The Good News is that when we forget something, we can almost always buy what we forgot and pack it in the expandable bag. Then hope we don't have to carry it up any stairs, or that it now doesn't fit in the overhead bin. (How often have you witnessed that?) The Bad News is that we can also saddle ourselves with exhaustion--especially if it's a multi-legged trip.

Let's consider a new point of view: finite space. If, when packing for a business trip, (fill-in-the-blank) doesn't fit and we choose not to swap it out for something else, we can usually make do without it for a trip. No shopping. Packing multi-purpose items is smart. A lipstick serves as a blush. We can dress up jeans with the right top, sports jacket and/or accessories. Toothpaste cleans my jewelry and plugs nail holes in walls. (I'm just saying ...) Socks and underwear can be washed, or, if desperate enough, worn again. I realize we have the euwwww factor there, but I'm talking desperate and efficient, not Hygiene 101.

And let's face it, when I get on an airplane or climb behind the wheel, I am dressed in at least one of everything I need to proclaim decency. If I forgot to pack a second whatever, it's not the end of the world. In cash-strapped times such as these, I ask: is "having to shop" to maintain appearances for one trip really necessary, or is it a vanity? Unless, of course, you're the best man at a wedding and wearing Bermuda shorts. Then again, no matter what anyone is wearing, vows can still be taken, right? Lifelong commitments don't depend upon decorum, no matter what the wedding photographer says. And in the world of business, contracts can still be signed, deals negotiated and widgets sold. To show up and admit your clothes don't match because you are human and forgot to pack something might even tip the scales in your favor. Honesty and humor don't take up any space in a suitcase, and they might even help seal the deal.

If I take myself to my own bottom line, the only thing I truly can't live without on any given trip is my medications. (Even when I once ran out of meds on an extended trip, Walgreen's bailed me out.)

I can already hear you saying, "But Charlene, what about phones and laptops?" Come on, people! They're all around us. Do I want to travel without them? No. But I could. My speaking notes? Can I talk for an hour without them? You betcha! Would I be coherent? Maybe. My winter coat during January? Can I not layer enough other stuff? Don't I usually just scurry from the airport to the hotel room to the venue anyway? Hey! I used to live on a farm. I can tough it out for a day or two, can't I? Sunscreen? Bet I could borrow some, or pay somebody for a squirt of theirs. Money? Got my credit cards.

So I ask you, what could you absolutely not do without? Or better yet, what could you leave behind that you always lug along, yet almost never use? Seriously, I'm asking.

As for me and my bags, I'm thinking expandable can be abused, and finite space can be tricky. But given the choice, I'd pick traveling lighter--and with someone who brings a giant expandable bag.


Tim said...

The one thing I always carry with me, especially when flying, is a pair of ear plugs. Another thing I always carry are ear phones that block out some surrounding sounds--thus I can listen to the music the airline feeds me, or what I brought.

Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

Thanks Tim. Great idea! I appreciate your participation.

I've decided miscellaneous sizes of leak-proof plastic bags is important to me. I'm always putting something in them, i.e. things that leak, break, I don't want to lose, doggie bag backups, jewelry, things I can easily pop in my handbag and/or transfer back to my suitcase ...

But quiet time for myself? GOOD ONE!