Updated: Jan 17
We’re just home from a lovely little ten day break on the Welsh Pembrokeshire coast. The current trend at the moment is for us to explore more of the UK and incorporate a bit of a road trip. Luckily, we are only a few hours drive from most of the places we wish to go so packing up the car and getting on our way is not too tricky. Yes it was in October and yes we experienced all four seasons in a week but I don't mind that to be honest, there's less people knocking about and every now and then you’ll be given a little sunny surprise.
The prep for a holiday does require some planning and i’d like to think i'm ok at that bit. The airbnb’s we stayed at for this most recent adventure had been through a stringent selection process. There's a shortlist and everything. It’s like a two factor authentication, we both need to ok it before it goes live.
Then there's always that real pre-holiday prep bit that we tend to get done before we go away, washing, cleaning, taking the bins out (my main job as a bloke), strip the bed, eat everything that needs to be eaten, do a food shop, measure out all the dog’s food and of course pack our own clothes and accompanying gadgets. We’ve had the same cases for years, three different sizes based on the length of the trip but we only tend to use the small ones. Getting the cases out always brings back memories of my old packing habits that I was completely blind to that caused some anxiety and stress.
You see, for me, packing used to take a while, sometimes days. A few hours at a time, ‘have you started packing yet?’ Multiple options and various combinations of outfits would go through my mind to make sure I covered every possible eventuality that could come up on whatever trip I was going on. What if I needed a tie to get into a really posh restaurant (that has never happened), what if the aircon is too cold will I need a couple of jumpers? What if I need some spare this or that. The just in case disaster scenarios would be on overdrive when in packing mode.
The old me would seriously overpack. I’d spend hours making decisions, sitting on the floor in the middle of a pile of clothes, folding up things I hadn't worn in years thinking that the holiday, or whatever trip I was going on, would be the event to relaunch that stuff back into the world. Another excuse to keep hold of the thing. The old me would get quite stressed about what I hadn't packed rather than what I did. Leaving things behind, what did that mean!? My focus would be on what I didn't have, rather than all the things that I did have.
Then there's of course the weighing of the thing if flying and having to manage that stress, is it under the allotted weight? What do I do if it's over? I can't not take the four pairs of shoes! The volume of stuff would also sometimes be a burden, regularly having the case topple over due to the amount of gear squeezed into it, Me then having to pick it up and rescue it after sliding along the airport floor gathering dust and other delights which would invariably make its way on to me at some point.
I remember a time when I would be the only person taking a suitcase on weekends away with other guys who would all have overnight or ‘weekend’ bags (I have those bags too). While everyone else would just take their's on board the plane, my luggage would have to be checked in and then they would all have to wait for me at the other end as it made its way from the plane onto the lucky dip that is the airport conveyor belt. I’d always justify it by explaining that I ‘needed’ options when getting ready. There would be a weird sense of being acknowledged and emphasising my identity being known as the guy that takes ages to get ready and will probably be late. This combined with the necessity to be noticed, to have a status, to not be ignored. To be liked. Subconsciously I put all that ownership on the clothes, that stuff would elevate me to being ‘liked’ or ‘accepted’ status that I craved for each scenario.
I’d transport all my indecision, need for acceptance and stress from one place to the next and bring half the wardrobe along, dragging the oversized capsule of belongings behind me every now and then smashing my ankles and testing my back as I manipulated the case around travellers and other obstacles.
The whole packing process, before and after the event would just be a complete drain and on some occasions really take the shine of a perfectly good trip.
As I retrospectively peer into my old habits, this is the best metaphor I can think of that describes me in my peak comfort level. Completely oblivious to all the stuff that I dragged along, unaware of the ‘weight’ that I was carrying. Probably playing at about 60%.
But that was then. Now we’re good.
I don't have nearly as many options but what options I do have, are all viable and meaningful ones. It takes me considerably less time to put what I need in a case, there's no more disaster ‘what if’ inclusions or overpacking. Everything that went on this most recent trip got worn or used at least once. I even splashed out a bit on a decent pair of walking boots. It only took me a decade to buy them but they are the type of purchase that will probably last me a decade so I call that a win.
The packing bit is now a quicker and enjoyable experience and allows me to focus on the trip ahead rather than the stuff dragging along behind me.