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Are We What We Wear? Two 1/2 Weeks, One Carry-On


IMG_2581I attempted to do something radical: go on a long holiday and only pack a carry-on bag. Realizing that I would be getting my own bag on and off trains and along cobblestone streets as I traveled around Italy, I was forced to come to terms with the fact that I am a serious overpacker. Normally, this hasn’t been much of a problem because I travel to places where I land with a large suitcase and don’t worry about it again until I get to the airport and am charged for it being overweight (this has happened to me multiple times). I’m that girl buying a new bag at the airport and opening up her suitcase at check-in to transfer things rather than pay 50£ for it being overweight (thanks Heathrow). Also, I come from a long line of overpackers. My parents and sister freely admit it and see absolutely nothing wrong with it. Just to plead my case, I did spend four months backpacking through Europe after college, and I think it made me never want to repeat an outfit or carry my life on my back again (but it was amazing).

Something happens when you overpack, you just keep adding things to your suitcase that you don’t wear which has it’s own frustrating effect. I hate looking at my suitcase filled with clothes I don’t even wear that much at home. Knowing this hasn’t changed the fact that I overpack. But I was bound and determined to break this habit… enter Youtube videos and Pinterest. There are a lot of people out there who are really into packing tips. This one was my favorite video in terms of good advice and not an annoying person. Thank you www.woltersworld.com

However, while reading a packing tips article in Real Simple, I read something that made me rethink why so many of us (mostly women, sorry but it’s true) overpack. It said, “When traveling, people become fearful of going into the unknown and use clothes as a security blanket.” I thought about that. Was I overpacking due to insecurity? I have a list of insecurities, but new places has never been one of them. I always thought I was an overpacker due to a mix of laziness, self- indulgence and wanting to be fashionable. Often as I’m packing a bag, I’ll pull some favorite shirts off their hanger, and then grab two or three more “just in case” tops as well. Nine times of out ten, I never wear those “just in case” items. But all of this got me thinking about clothes as our security blanket.

In many ways, clothes are a lot of things. They tell the outside world a lot about ourselves. They can be a security blanket but also a declaration of our tastes, likes, style and personality. I love fashion but I’m not a huge fashion risk-taker, nor is it my world. I am currently writing this article in workout clothes (I put them on convincing myself that wearing the clothes will make me workout). I’m not afraid to wear hats and bold colors, but I don’t think I’d be described as fashion forward. And years of watching TLC’s What Not To Wear have shown that thousands of people hide behind their clothes.

So thinking about all of this, for the first time ever, I got really meticulous about packing. I made a list and thought how my pieces could make multiple outfits. More Pinteresting and googling led me to some great sites. This one was pretty awesome (thank you Pertually Chic). I thought of all the things we’d be doing (walking all over cobblestone streets (no heels), dinners, churches with dress codes, beaches, etc.) and I learned the value of rolling over folding (although the idea that there are less wrinkles with rolling is kind of a lie). And did I do it? Absolutely! Did it all work out perfectly?

Not exactly. Upon arriving in the Milan airport, Lufthansa lost my luggage. You ask how is this possible since I brought carry-on? Lufthansa was very strict about carry-on weight (I’ve never had a carry-on bag weighed before, but apparently over 8 kilos is too much – mine was 14 kilos), so we both had to check our carry-on bags. This seemed like some sort of lesson. As the conveyor belt stopped spitting out suitcases, and I was standing there like the last girl picked to dance, I tried to stay calm. My husband got really annoyed dealing with Italian airport lost and found, but I thought, I can do this. Why? I’d dressed in layers, and I’d packed my purse wisely (p.s. always have a toothbrush, moisturizer, light makeup and maybe a ponytail holder with you on the plane). Although, the irony was not lost on me that I had spent more time on what to pack than ever before and was now forced to wear the same outfit for almost four days. Well, Sunday and Monday were on a plane. Tuesday I peeled off some layers, used my scarf and was really pleased that my long maxi jersey skirt made going commando an easy choice. Tuesday night I borrowed one of my husband’s t-shirts (tied in a knot to fit better) and rocked a headscarf for some sort of change for dinner, and by Wednesday morning my suitcase arrived. Also two shirts were ruined when moisture from my toiletries bag leaked color onto the shirt. It still hasn’t come out. Looking back it was a slight blip on the holiday. (This picture is how you handle any stress from lost luggage.)

first dayLessons from a Recovered OverPacker?

  • Everything in my suitcase needed to be there. Not overpacking actually made getting dressed much easier. I didn’t over think things. I had some fun coordinating different pieces, and I really learned that I love dresses and skirts while traveling a hell of a lot more than jeans and tops.
  • Scarves are key. I packed four – two for my head, two long ones – and they were essential.
  • Pack the clothes you love to wear. That one dress you wore once to that thing but you think you’ll look great in some new location… yeah, don’t pack that.
  • Rolling clothes is awesome because you can see at a glance almost all of your choices.
  • Sometimes you need two ziploc baggies because your facewash just had to ooze out and ruin two shirts (asshole facewash).
  • Buy a hat while traveling and you instantly feel more fashionable and more like a local.


Good luck and happy travels!

p.s. This is the wonderful woman at our hotel who made sure my bag arrived about an hour before we left for Venice. I was very excited to change clothes. Sorry it’s a little blurry.

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