Confessions of an Ambivalent Traveller

One week from today, from this very moment, I will  be wearing Bose noise-canceling headphones, crammed into Economy Class, somewhere over the ocean heading to Madrid for eleven days. I will be attending Board meetings for the International Clarinet Association and our annual festival, ClarinetFest®…my first solo trip to Europe. I really do love to travel…I just have a few issues. I am excited. I am anxious. I am overwhelmed. I am….trying desperately not to overpack. 

When Dan and I went to Italy for ClarinetFest® two summers ago, I insisted that I needed the behemoth suitcase at Target. We were going to be gone nine days, for goodness sake. I might need something and not have it, heaven forbid. I of course got to Italy and had to drag this giant suitcase onto trains, up and down stairs, over the cobblestone streets of Florence, Assisi, and Rome…all with my clarinet and a backpack on my back, and while my husband shook his head and bravely attempted not to say the dreaded words, “I told you so.” 

Let’s just say I am packing-challenged. My issues date back to Girl Scout camping trips when our troop leader, Salty, (I can’t make this stuff up) gave us detailed instructions about what we needed to pack. I went over the list scrupulously, again and again…and I still knew there were things that I just had to have with me on the two day trip that Salty had neglected to include. And so I overpacked my rolled up sleeping bag. It looked like a hay bale on steroids, and I was the butt of many Girl Scout jokes as we made S’Mores over the fire. Those Girl Scouts can be cruel. 

This trip to Madrid is my chance to right the wrongs, erase the emotional scarring from years of packing faux pas. I am prepared; I have my Rick Steves Spain book, and I’ve printed off not one but two Rick Steves packing lists, of which I have gone over with a fine toothed comb several times…and made additions. They were necessary additions, though…really they were. 

I began packing and unpacking two weeks ago. This angst-ridden ritual has been a part of my traveling life for as long as I can remember. My husband? He throws things in his suitcase the night before or the morning of. The thought of packing like that gives me hives. I need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will have what I need wherever I go in the world. The other challenge? I am going to Madrid to perform and attend a conference, so I not only have to pack my clarinet, music, and all of the related paraphanelia, but I have to be able to dress for the recital and for the five day conference. This takes planning, people. Planning!

I have gotten lots of good natured advice from friends: “Choose clothes in the same color family!” “Plan an outfit for each day and roll it up together!” “They have stores in Spain- buy what you need there if you forget something!” I appreciate these suggestions and will do my best to incorporate them, but it’s just not that easy…for me.  There’s my yoga mat- have to have that. Oh, and my laptop to take notes in meetings, my iPad to read, my phone to stay connected.  Don’t even get me started on clothes- performing clothes, conference clothes, sight-seeing clothes, evening clothes, workout clothes, just-in-case clothes, shoes…oh, my head is spinning like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist, and I’m spitting out green pea soup. 

My method of choice is to be begin packing early…weeks early. I put everything in that I think I need, and then over the days and weeks until the trip up until the trip, I obsessively unpack, pack, replace clothes, add things, take things out. I am hoping that by next Friday when I leave, that just the right amount of everything will be in my giant suitcase. There is nothing worse that getting on the plane and having that sudden thought, “Oh NO! I forgot the most important thing!” I shudder to think…

Sometimes, I realize the folly of my ways. I’m not going to a Third World country- I’m going to the amazing city of Madrid…and I’m pretty sure that they have stores there. I’m hoping this trip will be different…I will let go of worrying about what I take to Madrid, and more about what I get from Madrid….inspiration, knowledge, beauty, an opening of my mind and a broadening of my experience. So much more important than all the needless worry. At least I tell myself that…now which color shoes will I need?


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