I travel a fair amount. I’m not one of those crazy airplane-commuter types, and I’m fairly certain that I’ll never take this kind of trip or be like this lady – I pretty much stick to Western Europe and hotels and such. But, nonetheless, I often find myself packing for a trip of indeterminate length.
I also find myself traveling alone, too – which means no one is there to watch all my stuff if I want to peruse the duty-free shops or catch a quick trip to the loo. I’ve gotta schlep everything with me wherever I go. It can be a pain sometimes, but it has taught me to travel light.
As for clothes: I don’t own a lot of them, so it’s easy for me to pack for a trip of any length. The four pairs of pants I own are all dark-colored – and that’s the way I like it. Dark clothing hides a multitude of sins – from fat asses to grass stains – and can be paired with tops that can show a bit more pizzazz, if that’s your style. I’m a New Yorker at heart, so black clothing is it for me: tanks, cardigans, turtleneck sweater and, of course, one perfectly crisp white shirt.
Shoes – I bring slippers for cold or grody floors, winsome flats for dinner or short excursions and my trusty vintage Chanel golf shoes for everything else. They are indestructible and easily the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. And they’re Chanel, for chrissakes – they’re gonna go with whatever I’m wearing.
My travel bag is from L.L. Bean. Again, indestructible and also quite fetching; I swear by it. I actually have four in various sizes and strap lengths. I got the idea from my grandmother, who has used the same one when she travels for the last 30 years. In this bag I put all my “tech” gear – laptop, camera, phones, Shuffle way-too-big DJ-strength headphones and all accompanying chargers and plugs; Sudoku. Ticket goes in the outside pocket!
Within this bag I have whatever smaller bag I’m planning to use as my purse while traveling. I keep all my toiletries in this one, although I dare say I don’t have nearly as many as most women when traveling – deodorant, lotion, toothbrush and paste, tweezers, mascara, kohl, eyebrow pencil, lip gloss, pocket mirror, Chanel no. 5. I like doing this because I can run to the loo on the plane or train without lugging every piece of electrical equipment I own and looking like a terrorist.
Also in the small purse are my day-to-day essentials: Small notebook (which for the last four years has doubled as a wallet and passport holder because I can’t find the perfect wallet), change purse, pen, mini sanitizing gel, two-gig USB key, lighters, phones, Swiss Army knife, cigs.
That’s it, really. Give me 15 minutes and I’m ready to go.
I have to say something here: I honed this skill while living abroad and traveling, to be sure; but the urge to pare down while being prepared started after September 11.
It was kind of an unspoken thing during that time, but every woman I knew had changed the contents of her purse after September 11. One girl carried dime store flip-flops after she walked home in heels that day; another carried a small flashlight, because the staircase of the building she had to evacuate was dark; still others carried snacks, change specifically allocated for payphones, baby wipes, an extra pair of underwear in a Zip-Loc bag, bottled water – whatever they felt would get them through another unthinkable emergency.
That urgency has faded, but when I travel I still think of what I would need in case I couldn’t go home again.
“The kit includes one of each of the following items: non-aspirin pain reliever, adhesive bandage, alcohol prep pad, antibiotic ointment, book of matches, compass, chewing gum, sugar, salt, energy nugget, duct tape, fire starter cube, first aid instructions, fish hook & line, note paper, pencil, razor blade, safety pin, reflective signal surface, tea bag, waterproof bag, whistle, and wire clip.”
My taste in travel won’t bring me anywhere near anyplace in which I would find myself needing almost any of this stuff; and I sincerely hope that I’m never in a cataclysmic emergency where I’m boiling water in a sardine tin to make tea.
But, I WANT ONE.
I want a sardine can survival kit, just because of how I felt that day. It’s my own private joke, to be sure, but it will remind me of who I was that day, and who I am now – and just how far I’ve come, in ways other than can be marked on a map of this big, beautiful world.