A Nerd Abroad

by Cheney — January 23, 2017

Travel planning blog post - Luggage stack

Pack early, pack often.

You’d think getting obsessive about travel planning would suck the fun out of a holiday, but for some of us, it only enhances it.

Last week, I started writing a packing list for a holiday I’m taking in mid-April.

Before you quit reading in disgust, would it help to point out I’m not planning on doing the actual packing until a day or two before I leave? Or does that just make me seem even weirder? Let me explain…

I’m a massive nerd. I define this as having enthusiasm beyond normal bounds for certain interests. When I’m into something, I nerd out about it – read obsessively, think long and hard about the best approaches, and then bang on about the various aspects of it to anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot. I have a partner who does this too (and a long history of dating fellow nerds), so sometimes it doesn’t strike me as a quirk until I’m outside the confines of my home and immediate social circle.

I nerd out about travel, among other things. I’ve written before about how I travel to eat, but I’m also obsessed with other aspects. How to have a better experience on your long-haul flight (this is particularly important because I a) live in Australia, which is a long-haul flight from just about everywhere, and b) am not rich enough to fly business class). How to find that perfect balance between seeing tons of cool stuff, but not coming home exhausted and in need of a second holiday. And most importantly for this blog post, how to pack the perfect suitcase.

Travel planning blog past - Backpack flatlayI’ve been an avid collector of packing tips since I was 19 and on a months-long trip to the U.S with a bag I affectionately nicknamed The Suitcase That Ate America. It was enormous, I’d packed it to overflowing, and it was so heavy I required assistance with it at just about every airport, train station and bus terminal I visited. Every time I made a purchase (which was often, since I was 19 and attracted to bright, shiny objects), something else had to exit the bag to make space. I left four boxes of miscellaneous stuff with kind friends over the course of the trip, to be posted by surface mail back to Australia. One contained 15 books I’d bought in a single visit to the Strand bookstore. Another contained items I’d thought essential to my journey when embarking – including a pair of knee-high Goth-style black patent platform boots and a chunky tome on alternative Japanese street fashion. I returned home convinced of the helpfulness of American strangers towards silly girls with too much luggage, and vowing I would always, always pack better for any subsequent trip.

Rolling instead of folding. Taking as few pairs of shoes as possible. Packing clothes in complimentary colour schemes to maximize outfit combinations. I’ve stayed true to my undertaking, and have been a packing minimalist ever since. That doesn’t mean I don’t want extra advice though – I can always improve. Whenever I return home from a holiday, I evaluate how well I packed and refine the details for the next trip. Note-taking is involved. I’m currently weighing up the pros and cons of packing cubes and trying to find an everyday bag that works for light hiking in rainy Islay, yet is cute enough to take shopping in London (if it exists, and that’s a pretty big “if”,  I haven’t found it yet).

Travel planning blog post - Mountain sceneBut writing out a packing list, for me, is not only about nerdy self-satisfaction and striving for perfection. There’s a bit of fantasy there too. While the trip’s still three months away, and I’m working 9-5 in the midst of a blazing hot summer, I can write down “waterproof jacket” and “hiking shoes” and be transported to the Hebrides, buoyed by a bracing wind and a warming flask of whisky. I can muse on outfits that will work in both Edinburgh and Singapore, and picture myself spending hours in museums or hawker centres instead of at the office or the grocery store. So while the perfect holiday, or the perfect packing list, might not technically exist, there’s always room to dream. And plan.

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