Last weekend, your neighbor Elizabeth took 24 pieces of luggage to a resort. “Out of Africa” is her favorite film, and she travels as if going on an expedition with the Queen. Of course this includes all manner of suitcases and carry-ons; three garment bags; six bags of snacks and drinks, and a mini-bar. “We are worried that we may get hungry, thirsty or cold,” she says, matter-of-factly. They even take empty suitcases, she says, “where we can pack souvenirs that we buy while on vacation, or to load our dirty laundry.” She wants a steamer trunk and a hat case.
Fortunately, your husband witnessed this marvel as well. He travels with a leather duffel and one old leather case, which is identical to the one your father owned, back in the 1960’s– it has a beautiful burnished patina and brass clips and hinges.
Elizabeth has now trumped any luggage history you might have had. You felt light as a feather, expertly rolling your ol’ Samsonite on clogged shaky wheels into the lobby, (duffels slung on either shoulder and carrying a handbag the size of a porta-crib and clutching a cooler and a large brown sack of groceries). Maybe you did need a bell-hop.
Several times you have made the grave mistake of watching travel host Rick Steves on TV. Rick wanders down narrow streets, and stands atop hill and dale. Rick travels light. Rick has on the same outfit in every scene–bless his heart–no-iron khakis, a gray, green or blue button-down shirt, and a winsome smile. He probably washes his socks out in the sink. That you can do.
What you will not do, is pack so lightly that you have to wear a Kinko’s uniform every day. You are a woman. Heaven forbid you land in Italy or France. The stylish denizens will think, “There is the usual American wearing the postal uniform.” Uniform de poste–c’est horrible.
You want to look nice. You are old-er. You can no longer throw on cut-offs, a tee shirt and tennis shoes and call it a day. You need complete outfits. You need all manner of wraps (as your mother calls them), for all sorts of different occasions, especially in January. When you are, sitting in the outdoor cafe in below freezing temps, (no offense, but you do ‘act Canadian’ when it comes to vacations and force yourself to be outdoors, therefore you need: dressy coat and hat, pashmina, gloves, trousers, socks and high-heel boots) Versus, when your hair is about to blow off while at the scenic overlook atop the mountain. (parka with hood, ski hat and gloves, scarf, sweater, jeans, ski socks and hiking boots). You always need a pair of heels. Just one pair. You will not waltz out for the evening wearing Crocs, Tevas or Topsiders.
You are so sorry, Mr. Rick. Aside from snacks, magazines and books, here is your classic winter packing list:
Parka with hood
Dressy jacket and coat
Purse, tote and backpack
Jewelry and belts
Tops and blouses
Jeans and dressy pants (no khakis)
Skirts and a dress or two (Elizabeth would add ‘resortwear’ but you don’t have any and aren’t exactly sure what it is)
Work-out pants, tops, jacket and one pair tennis shoes. Swimsuit (in case there’s a hot tub within fifty miles).
Loafers (Your pair of crinkled patent loafers–basically laminated–with comfy rubber soles are quite similar to the fiberglass door you once purchased: they will still be floating and intact after any windstorm or hurricane. One could be used as a football during the Super Bowl and escape unscathed.
2 pair flats
…and one pair of snake print kitten heels. Eat your heart out, Mr. Rick…