The Bags I Have Packed
I sometimes find myself wishing that someone will see me when I am tapping my foot to music or singing along with my iPod. I want people to see me as cheerful and lighthearted and musically inclined.

When I go outside, no one knows who I am. They don’t know who I once was, the songs I know, the risks I have taken, the courage I have shown, the mistakes I’ve made, the journeys I’ve travelled, or the bags I have packed.

I have packed a lot of bags in my lifetime. I have travelled often—-for pleasure, for work, for family. I have also moved house frequently. A couple of days ago I wondered aloud how many houses I have lived in, but I could not actually remember them all.

Because I have travelled and moved often, I now have packing down to an art. I know how to de-clutter and downsize for moving. I know how to pack for six months or six days. An overnight bag is a breeze. I once packed for a trip that involved going from Canada to both England and Kenya, and so I had clothes for every season. I even had a bag of clothes that I planned to leave behind with my hosts in Kenya. Damn, I’m good.

I have learned that it is better to travel with two small bags than one big one because outside of North America it’s hard to fit a big suitcase into a car. It’s also a struggle to drag one up narrow European stairs. I have learned that most places you go will provide shampoo and toothpaste, so you can leave those at home. In fact, anything you absolutely need you can get when you arrive, except your medications. Guard those with your life.

I could probably write a book about the craft of packing carry-on luggage, but the short version is to leave heavy books and laptops in your office, and take a shawl. It can be used as a blanket, a pillow, or a way to dress up an outfit.

So, when you see someone bopping along with their iPod buds in their ears and a smile on their face, they are probably hiding some delightful hidden skill. You can use your imagination to guess what that might be, but it’s probably even more useful than packing bags-—especially if they also have made a mistake that they are keeping as a delicious secret.


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  1. I appreciate the thought about the mysteries behind the person with the earplugs but I have to admit, I was completely ensnared by the photo of your suitcase. You really do know how to pack! I’ll be back for advice the next time I pack up. Great post.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. In the past I would pack far too much and try to keep clothes flat. I’ve given up on both those tactics!

  2. I always enjoy reading your posts, and I must say I am a bit envious. Other than a few trips that I completely over packed for 🙂 my travels are infrequent. Your comment about the secrets that a person may be harboring underneath their daily persona I have always found interest in also. Maybe because I have worked within the mental health community for many years the details and history of a life truly interests and fascinates me. I sometimes find myself in a crowd of people watching and wondering what experiences, challenges and influences others may have endured. Thank you for your post. With respect, hope, joy and love, Carmela

    1. Thanks, Carmela. In your work did you find that some of the quietest people have some of the most interesting life experiences? It often seems that way to me.

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