The challenge: 14 days and a duffel bag
“He who would travel happily must travel light.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
After many years, I’m on the eve of some well earned inter-continental travel again, which inevitably means that it’s time to pack. This is when my personal mantra of never taking more than I can carry on really gets put to the test. Sure, over the last several years there have been trips: two days, business trips, short ones, long ones (south of the border and Maui included). Regardless of length, I’ve always managed no more than a “weekender”, which has to be one of the best style sobriquets invented.
The quote above is highlighted for two reasons:
- I’m a firm follower of the axiom that the enjoyment of your travel is in direct proportion to the amount of baggage you carry with you.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery is an inspiring historical figure: an aviator, activist and writer (Night Flight, Flight to Arras & The Little Prince, among other titles), who fought for the right things during a most critical time.
Also, as most watch enthusiasts are aware, since 2006 IWC has been making editions of their Pilot’s watch in honor of Antoine de Saint-Exupery. IWC contributes to Monsieur de Saint-Exupery’s descendants’ foundation, which helps disadvantaged children, by donating funds from auctioned timepieces. Among some of these special editions is a Le Petit Prince version that happens to be on this writer’s wish list. You know, just in case his family may at some point be reading this and have an inclination.
Bring It On
But back to the matter at hand…I’m staring down a full on fourteen-day to Tokyo & Thailand that is my stiffest test yet. Now, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs; or, to put it another way, in order to really travel light there are some hard choices I will not be able to avoid.
For context, my packing philosophy basically boils down to this: pack only your favorite attire that you know you’re going to wear – this means do not pack for potential calamities, occasions or destinations; and leave the “throwaway” sweater at home because why use that valuable real estate to travel elsewhere looking or feeling less than your best? Related to this is the fail-safe notion that if you, however improbably, find yourself invited to that “embassy ball” Robert Edison Fulton wrote of and need some brogues or a dinner jacket, well my friend, you can pick it up there, and then you’ll have the souvenir you were going to get anyway…but one with provenance and a backstory.
Another guideline to follow is how to pack. By category, certain clothes lend themselves better to rolling up: underwear, t-shirts, even jeans; and others get folded into thirds: shirts, jackets, sweaters. Throw in your dopp-kit, your chargers, etc. and you’re good to go.
And just when you think you’ve got this packing thing licked, you realize that over the course of a week, based on your activities, you need up to 4 different kinds of shoes…cue dolly zoom! This is where things can go horribly wrong. Footwear – including those boots you love – is the heaviest, bulkiest, space eating-est item you can pack. Choose poorly and you’re screwed: not only will you not wear the shoes/boots you thought you had to bring but you’ll also have the indignity of lugging them halfway around the world for exercise.
But this is also where our fail-safe comes in. Typically I pick 3 pairs of shoes I think I need, put them out along with all the other things I’ve decided on and then do something really crazy. I take one item away from each category (except underwear, you can only stretch some things so far). Sorry grey t-shirt, so long 2nd pair of Made & Crafted jeans, goodbye lug sole boots.
This usually gets me down to weekender capacity, where a nice, leather or combination leather and fabric bag (see below for some recommendations; there are many available, from affordable to expensive to excessive) is malleable enough to fit into most domestic overheads, and certainly into every international one.