Eight ceramic mugs, four ceramic bowls and three ceramic vases qualify as my most underthought packing decision. We purchased this heavy set of souvenirs in Rajasthan during the heat of a Lariam-induced daze.
Nearing the end of a summer spent wandering India, there were still three separate train journeys and a series of long flights before we could unload the pottery. The ceramics were packed in boxes with handles fashioned from twine which dug into our hands. Our huge internal frame backpacks, and the secondary knapsacks we carried on our stomachs, were already bulging with hiking boots, rolls of to-be-processed film and paperback books. We were foolish.
But even packing fools can learn from their mistakes and three years later we carried one day-trip sized backpack each for a month spent in Turkey. We didn’t long for a single missed item, we jettisoned books as we finished them and we jumped on and off the country’s plush bus system with ease.
Turkey was, sadly, a happy, outlying blip on my packing timeline.
Entering a period of “black roller bag” business travel through Asia and Africa, I packed extravagantly with the knowledge I’d use hotel porters to shift my overloaded belongings. I was issued a heavy, thick Dell Inspiron laptop that I dutifully carted around along with reams of pre-digitized paper reference materials. Traveling to places where I couldn’t rely on hotel business centers, I packed my own travel printer. Tired of paying 35 US dollars for club sandwiches at Luanda’s Hotel Tropico, I brought cases of Cliff Bars. Recommitted to running, I squoze in trainers in addition to my casual shoes, dress shoes and airplane shoes. I was the RV of business travelers: why travel light when you can bring it all with you.
And then suddenly the paperwork and printer were out and the black roller bag was filled with sets of tiny clothes and shoes.
Traveling with two young children meant the sacrifice of my former list of personal carry-on essentials: ear plugs, iPod, extra eyeglass case, cozy socks, chapstick, book, headphones, and Tylenol PM. Now my must-have list solely includes items that quiet or entertain children.
We turn over a mound of belongings at the check-in counter, including a stroller, two car seats and several large roller bags. My own belongings occupy one-half of one of these bag.
But from this ugly peak of voluminous packing, I envision a future with the four of us carrying only daypacks. We will shed strollers, car seats and diapers. I will train my children to hand wash clothes in sinks overnight. Chargers will become universal, rendering my Ziploc bag of tangled cords obsolete.
One day we four will flit from a bus in Cappadocia as lightly as butterflies. And we will never buy pottery.