Streamlining My Style For A Semester Abroad (Or, The Unbearable Non-Lightness of My Suitcase)
A few days ago, I left my home in Washington state to spend the semester at my school’s campus in Costa Rica (faithful Wanderchic readers might recall that I visited this campus in January 2012 and wrote about such topics as my adventures with a microscope).
Travel is quite an education. We learn about new places, but we also come to know ourselves and our homelands in a different light.
I confess that I’m still learning about the art of packing. I’ve mostly been a carry-on-only girl since airlines started charging $25 each way to check bags. But for this trip, I knew I needed more stuff. Heavy stuff, like books. This threw off my packing mojo.
I’ve learned that packing is not unlike writing: both benefit from revision. Here I was, dutifully piling my wish list of clothes on the just-vacuumed loveseat, making tough choices about what’s most versatile. Should I bring my French press? What about a headlamp?
I was reminded of another important lesson: double-check your airline’s baggage specs before the night before your trip. While packing, I’d whipped out my best math field day skills, trying to guesstimate that gigantic rolling duffel under 50 pounds.
Then I checked in online and happened to browse Delta’s baggage rules. Turns out my bag was waaaaay over the maximum dimensions. Not so much of a problem except that it was 11pm, and my flight was leaving Spokane a scant 7 hours later.
Which reminds me of another lesson: Travel Angels abound. When I was flipping my lid, boyfriend found his niece’s suitcase in the basement that she said she didn’t need anytime soon. I barely know this kid (well, not a kid. She just turned 18). I was touched by her kindness.
I revised my pile of possessions into something that would fit in this less bloated suitcase. But it was still 14 pounds overweight at check-in! Yikes!
The forbearing gate agent let me paw through my stuff to the side of the scale for one final, under-caffeinated packing revision. It was kind of like a bad dream, opening this borrowed, cat-hair-covered suitcase wide and revealing its innards to fellow passengers: the ziploc bag of Emergen-C packets, the crinkled assortment of cotton bikini briefs, hot pink Crocs (don’t hate. I’m using them as slippers).
In her essay “School Lunches,” Anne Lamott claims that part of the drama of lunch time was exposing something private about your home life to other merciless school children. Did your parents use homemade hippie sprout bread instead of standard issue Wonder kind? Did you have questionable homemade baked goods instead of Little Debbie hermetically sealed treats?
As I removed things from the bag, I wondered what else could I get rid of.
And then I felt it, in the bottom of the bag. My September issue of Elle that had arrived just days earlier. Oh, and the September Vogue in the bottom of my carry on. (Thanks to justjeremy.com for both of the magazine covers.) After slim issues in the summer months, these magazines were the size of phone books. And they each weighed two pounds.
And though it gave me a little heart-pang to say hasta luego to both Katy Perry AND Lady Gaga, I know I’ll see them eventually. And I’m getting a lot more in return.
For more packing advice, read Lady Sherpa’s post about her travel essentials.1 comment