The Writer on the Road
My grandfather (here) was famous for his ability to pack. His parcels for mailing were works of art: methodical, compact, secure. It’s a knack I inherited, and used to impress my husband when I could take his suitcase apart and re-pack it with half as much again inside.
It wasn’t the poetic descriptions of the purity he felt on distant hikes, or his practical tips on conditioning; it was the fantasy of self-possession, coupled with his minute fascination with the Stuff. Particularly his near-religious dedication to paring down every possible gram of excess load.
I’m now channeling my inner Colin Fletcher, as I stage my possessions for five weeks in Europe, mulling over the paring-grams process. My customary burden when I’m on the road doesn’t vary a whole lot whether I’m gone for a weekend or a month: a carry-on rollie suitcase, and a generous, light-weight backpack that slips over its handle.
This means few luxurious extras, and many things with multiple functions. A tiny Nook reader instead of actual books. A decorative light-weight woolen shawl for either dress-up or warmth. A rain jacket that looks like a normal coat. Trousers and shirts that all go together. Fast-dry clothing for rapid repeats—and yes, by the time I get home, I’ll be so sick of every single thing, they’ll go into the back of the closet for months.
Not everything is multi-purpose, such as the business jacket I probably won’t wear other than meetings. But the thing I deeply resent is shoes. I can’t do with less than three pair: comfy black Merrell clogs for travel (and yes, those clogs are as formal as I get: when it comes to a night out or a business meeting, I’m an artist, dammit Jim, not an actor.) (where was I?) (oh right—), some sandals I can walk in all day—and a pair of proper walking shoes. With laces. And (following a trip to rainy, be-tiled Lisbon) slip-resistant soles. Lord, I hate those. Why did I have to be saddled with size 10.5 feet? The accursed shoes take up half the suitcase, even when I stuff their insides with socks and such.
So what do you do for travel? Anyone out there found the ideal answer to the nomadic life?
And my greatest conundrum at the moment: Why doesn’t Nalgene make their excellent containers in 3-ounce sizes?