Wishful Thinking: Packing Lightly

Never enough space
Never enough space

I prided myself on having officially mastered the art of packing lightly with all the traveling I had done during my semester abroad in 2001, and I thought this mastery would keep with me for life. I was wrong; not only have I not managed to retain this particular skill, but it’s growing increasingly more difficult to re-learn.

Case in point: my recent trip to Milan. Since I was staying for more than a week and it was winter which calls for bulkier clothing, I knew my usual carry-on wouldn’t hack it so I opted for a suitcase that’s a little bit bigger (pictured above). Now I thought, “oh sure, I‘ll have plenty of room left over  and for once in my life, my tote will be light.” Again, I couldn’t have been more wrong; not only did I have one stuffed-to-the-brim tote, I had two. And a very heavy suitcase.

To start—and I know I’ve mentioned this before—but, like Paris, preparing to visit Milan is no small feat.  You need day clothes and night clothes, I always bring plenty of shoes, my flatiron, curling iron, Prada bag (inside one my tote), iPad, Kindle, Filofax (call me old-fashioned, but I just can’t commit to a digital organizer) and, among many other things, all those darn toiletries. I don’t understand how or why I need so many but for some reason or other, I do indeed manage to use them all. They’re really heavy, too, plus they take up a considerable amount of valuable suitcase space.  You might be thinking, why doesn’t she invest in travel size toiletries? Trust me, I did, but they all manage to add up weight-wise.

Now on to the clothes: this time, I attempted to implement the rolling technique while packing, which didn’t work as well as I had hoped as it was difficult to fit everything and I therefore had to inaugurate a second tote for the spillage. The worst part is that I probably could have made due with about 60% of what I packed because I didn’t wear everything. But Milan is Milan after all, and the Milanese take pride in their appearance—which there’s nothing wrong with—so even if a piece of clothing doesn’t make contact with my body during a particular visit, I find solace in having the option of wearing certain items during my stay.

Another reason why this time of year is more demanding falls on the shoe front.  I usually try to manage by wearing one cute pair of walkable shoes but with last week’s forecast (rain, rain & more rain with a little bit of sun), I had to wear my big, bulky boots which take up way too much suitcase space so the only way I transport those is on my feet. Despite the suitcase and my two totes, I still had to sacrifice bringing a certain pair of shoes which I did miss and wished I had the opportunity to wear this time around.

Anyhoo, on to my usual tote. I’m eager for WSET to be over as well if anything so I won’t have to lug those books with me everywhere I go….they heavy!  The WSET books usually accompany my laptop, computer charger, iPhone charger, external phone batteries (thanks Aunt Liz & Uncle Nick!),  notebooks, folders, pens, Italian Vanity Fair and perhaps an Italian monthly such as Vogue, Elle a Tavola or Marie Claire, which I buy at the station along with a bottle of water. Depending on the time of day, I might grab a panini or something to nosh on during the train ride. I usually have my eyeglasses and both prescription and non-prescription sunglasses in there as well as all items pertaining to my contact lenses: case, solution, back-up lenses, eye drops, etc. I gave up squeezing the iPad and Kindle in here and instead pack them into my suitcase  as I usually never read them on the train since 99% of the time I’m working. And if I’m not working, I’m studying for WSET. 

Now I’m going to backtrack a bit because I’d like to state that when I prepared for my semester abroad, I followed a tip from a study abroad guidance counselor of sorts who advised us to pack two suitcases filled with everything we wanted to bring then unpack them, and choose from those items only what will ultimately make the luggage cut. For this particular trip to Milan, I adhered to that policy–obviously with only one suitcase–and even with everything I had removed, there still wasn’t enough space. (Damn son!)

My arrival was smooth and I hopped on the metro at Garibaldi and rode the four stops to Loreto, managing to arrive at my accommodations without a hitch. However, for some reason everything is so much heavier when I leave and I’m not sure why…it can’t solely be my receipts—they’re paper. I had to unfold and fill one of my canvas totes that I usually pack for grocery shopping, so yes, upon my return, I had three totes.  Granted the third was a little lighter/smaller, but still…it wasn’t easy to balance them all on my shoulders with my meager upper body strength! Then to add insult to injury, I didn’t have the capacity to hold an umbrella so there was no way I could have schlepped to the metro in the rain and waddled my way down the stairs, all while attempting to remain relatively unscathed, so I had to call a taxi. I’m trying to cut back on taxi rides as they’re usually an unnecessary expenditure, but this occasion was a necessity as I probably would have been hospitalized if I had attempted to descend the Loreto metro stairway. Thankfully (& surprisingly!), the elevator to the train platform at Garibaldi was functioning.

What did I do in Rome? Took the metro from Tiburtina to Termini, where I caught a taxi. The walk from Termini is feasible under normal circumstances, but it would have been too difficult with everything in tow; the metro to Cavour was out because there was no way I could have gracefully ascended two sets of stairs to get home. And speaking of home, you know how I mentioned that everything was much heavier on the way back? Well it turns out that I forgot a blazer, two pairs of shoes and God knows what else in Milan. They’re safe and sound at a friend’s house so I’m not worried about them, but what the heck? I just don’t understand this!  Here’s to my upcoming two nights in Florence being a little less hefty (fingers crossed!)….


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