Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Some Things I Learned From a Long Trip - Baggage

Before I begin, let me say one thing - 2013 has felt like the year of packing poorly - and I have always been a pretty efficient and smart packer.  But this year, so far, has made me rethink that.

So, the first thing I have realized is that a) you'll always need something and b) you'll always have at least one item you don't wear.  How is that helpful?  Well, it's not, by itself; however, let's take this a bit further and use it to make a guideline.

(Stay with me here; there's a little background/digression coming, but I swear, it'll all come around to my point.)  As you know (if you don't, pretend), clothes are very important to me, and while in Berlin, I did have a bit of a crisis around my wardrobe and feeling like myself.  I won't go into too much detail except to say that my clothing and how I dress is an integral part of my identity (I have ideas for an article around this).  How can one pack for a trip longer than a week or two and maintain one's sense of self (I know, pretty intense) without carting, say, five suitcases?  (By the way, our extra suitcases cost us €50 each, which is already pretty expensive, but the person to whom I paid the fee told me that if we'd flown out on Saturday, the rate would've jumped to €150 each!  He went on to say that American Airlines made something like $8billion in excess baggage fees alone last year.)

Now this is a work in progress, but I have an upcoming 5-week trip to put it to the test.  What I think would work best for someone like me is to start with some key pieces, like a dress that always looks fantastic and that you can dress up/down and wear in multiple temperatures.  I would've had that with my Patagonia dress (the one of the traumatic day in Marrakesh), but I had jettisoned the hoody I wear it with when we were in the "lightening the load" frenzy before we flew to Berlin.  This time?  Dress and hoody.

These key pieces should be distinctive but malleable, and this is where I plan to do more experimenting.  For example, I almost never think about wearing a skirt over another dress to create a different look.  This technique has great potential and is quite versatile.  I tried a variation of it with a long white shirt over a fully pleated skirt, and it was pretty cool.  Also, the jeans that fit you perfectly should be packed.

A number of my friends had said to me, "You'll buy clothes in Berlin," and I've already discussed one of the issues with that.  Nonetheless, there is something to be said for not packing and getting basics like t-shirts, for example, where you land (if possible).  While there can be issues with that approach (spending money, buying things made in China, etc.), it can also save you the headache of the "lightening the load" frenzy one might be engaged in to avoid paying €150 for an extra suitcase.  To make this really work, I'd suggest donating whatever basics you've bought abroad to a charity (I doubt you want to pay €150 to bring some t-shirts home).  I did end up making a number of items including a t-shirt and a skirt, which I have yet to blog about.

Now shoes can be a tricky animal.  I often bring a lot of shoes because they can really transform an outfit, and shoes can be more difficult to purchase abroad (often because of price).  Let me tell you about the shoes I brought to Berlin with me:
  1. Blundstone boots - wore these a lot
  2. Red cowboy boots - got a lot of wear, but they weren't conducive to tons of walking
  3. Running shoes - wore them
  4. Black Trippen shoes - wore them maybe two or three times
  5. Black basic heels (Aerosoles) - never wore them.
I'd sacrificed two other pairs of boots and a pair of Pumas in the frenzy and had no sandals.  My mother had bought a pair of sandals for me but forgot to pack them (oops); I tried to be casual about it, but I was wearing those Blundstones with almost everything, and it wasn't always a good look.  I got three pairs of shoes while we were away:
  1. Bright blue Birkenstocks (hey, we were in Germany)
  2. An off-white pair of Trippens (Mother's Day gift to me from my mom)
  3. Red leather sandals from Morocco.
All three got thrown into rotation, especially the Birkenstocks and sandals.  I'd envisioned our trip to Berlin to involve a bit more dressing up, but it didn't end up that way.  In hindsight I probably would've brought just one pair of cool/nice shoes that worked in multiple ways.  I think the Blundstones are great to have and super versatile.  Additionally it's nice to have a little bit of pizazz so think about bringing a show with some colour or idiosyncratic styling; the cowboy boots worked in that way.

Of course these ideas have to be modified based on the kind of trip you're taking and how you're traveling (planes generally have more constraints than cars, for example).  We're headed to Nova Scotia soon where it's mostly chill time at the ocean so it's more about comfort, which doesn't mean one must sacrifice style.  But it does mean I can wear the caftan (!) my mother brought me for our trip to Morocco, and I won't need stockings or tights.  (Oh yeah - tights.  Tights are super important in my life - yes, in my life.  They are one of the greatest ways to revise/reinvent/reconfigure a dress or outfit, and often you can find them where you land.)  I'll also be wearing a lot of the same things over and over again, which I've become accustomed to since our life has been a little peripatetic. 

But I'm planning on bringing a few hats - there needs to be something to raise an outfit out of the mundane.

No comments:

Post a Comment