Wednesday, June 03, 2009

On Packing Light

He who would travel happily must travel light.
-Antoine de Saint Exupéry

It was my first trip to Paris. Paris: City of Lights; fashion capital of the World; Renaissance headquarters in north-western Europe; icon of romance; epitome of haute couture (i.e. style police).....there was no question about it--I simply had to look fabulous at every moment. This meant taking along my entire wardrobe plus all the beautification accessories in my possession: makeup, jewelry, lotion, manicure set with polish remover and seven different colors of polish, curl enhancer, blow dryer, three hair brushes, hair straightener and curler, dangly earrings, perfume in four scents, sunscreen, flowery deoderant, hairspray, belts, purses, eleven pairs of sunglasses, and of course, shoes!

I spent hours painstakingly designing the most fashionable day and evening-wear outfits I could think of, with matching accessories, for each of the six days I would spend in Paris. I carefully organized and laid out all these belongings--unquestionably vital to my survival--on my bed before stowing them in my suitcase. I paused for a moment to consider possibly taking a few things out, after all, I would have to carry my luggage down three flights of narrow stairs before even reaching my front door. But no, I couldn't bear the possibility of leaving behind anything that might be of some use while walking the streets of France's most important city. No matter what I had to do, I was going to make sure that I looked my best as I nibbled baguettes in high-end cafés and strolled the legendary Champs Elysées.

Four hours later, after trekking through the streets of downtown Brussels--changing busses and trams to get to the train station, lugging the 50+ pound suitcase on and off of a greyhound-style bus, I found myself looking at a map of the Paris metro system. I was going to need to change lines exactly three times before emerging onto the streets of downtown Paris from a station 3/4 mile from my hostel. "No problem," I thought. I used the Brussels metro practically every day; changing lines seldom required more than walking across the platform from one train to another.

This wasn't, unfortunately, the case in Paris, as I would soon find out. Changing lines in the Paris metro requires clamoring up and down at least seven sets of stairs situated periodically throughout tunnels of up to 1/2 mile long. Remember that this entire time I am stuck carrying an enormous purse (what my brothers call "the bowling bag" because I could easily fit three or four bowling balls inside with plenty of room leftover for shoes) and a 50-pound, awkwardly shaped suitcase. I arrived at the hostel an hour later, extremely exhausted and somewhat embarrassed, only to be told that my room was on the fifth floor and there was no elevator. All of these belongings that had seemed so necessary just a few hours earlier now felt like a death sentence.

To say the least, I learned my lesson. I vowed that I would never again pack more than the bare minimum. I still struggle with shoes, but I have dramatically cut down on the things I "need" to go anywhere.

Today I'm packing for 40 days. We get to do laundry once a week, so I'm taking 10 outfits. I'd say that's sensible!

PS: My efforts were not in vain, I was one of the most stylish of my group all week in Paris! :)


  1. Hi Shirah! Looking forward to reading many more blog entries from you this summer. Take it easy for the next 24 hours!

  2. Thanks Bonnie! Unfortunately, I haven't actually started packing for this trip yet....every time I start I realize that I need to make a Target run. So tomorrow, when I get home from Target, I will officially start putting stuff in a suitcase.

    I'm sad you're not coming with us anymore! But we'll be in touch :)


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