I Used to Love Packing

Once upon a time, packing for a trip was almost as exciting to me as the trip itself. I’d start with well thought out lists categorised by suitcase and carry-on, which were further broken down by clothing, toiletries, electronics and extras. I’d have lists of things I needed to do before I left, things that I hoped to buy while on holiday and a growing list of bookings for travel, accommodations and activities. My approach has never been minimalistic, but I’ve been realistic in that I can’t bring everything with me for any eventuality. Worst case is that I buy something while abroad if I found that I absolutely needed it and hadn’t packed it. I’m borderline OCD and took great pride in my very organised style.

I’ve collected various travel items over the years to make my life a little easier from secure day bags and baggage to packing cubes to an array of zippered pouches to organise. Normally just the sight of these things excites me. And perhaps that’s because I got great joy out of using them in the before times.

But we’re no longer in the beautifully blissful before times, are we?

This time I’m stressed the fuck out. My anxiety creeps up higher and higher as my trip gets closer.

Normally I travel when the weather is nicer, which means that I can pack lighter clothing and not worry about freezing to death while abroad. Perhaps that’s slightly dramatic but I’m overwhelmed so please forgive me. Warmer clothing means heavier clothing. Baggage weight allowances and space in my suitcase for purchases I plan to bring home means that I’ve packed and repacked my suitcase 4 times over the past week, mentally going over each item to make sure it’s justifiably being lugged with me. To the point of insanity. For hours today I played table tennis in my mind trying to decide if bringing my iPad was a good idea or not. I’m still undecided.

The same lists I’d use with pride feel overwhelming. On top of the usual to-do items, I’ve got to consider health passes, proofs of vaccination, Covid insurance, declarations of being symptom free and booking a PCR test for my return to Canada. Plus I check almost daily to be sure that the regulations haven’t changed so I can be prepared and not be barred from boarding any flights. Oh, and I’ve had 2 separate flights cancelled on me. So that’s been fun.

Work is a shit show (I work in international ocean transportation which, if you watch the news at all you’ll know Vancouver is currently facing pandemic related congestion strains on an under-equipped infrastructure that have never been seen before .. oh God why am I thinking about that during my weekend?!) and I have to make sure my desk is up to my standards before I hand it over to my Manager. All while fighting the growing urge to quit and hide in a blanket fort with my cats. In those moments, travel should be an escape for me but it’s become equally panic-inducing.

It’s been A LOT.

And because I have panic disorder and my anxiety levels continue to rise, I feel myself shutting down. Breathing exercises are child’s play at this point. The thought of packing (for the 5th time) overwhelms me. I’m starting to worry that I’ll be such a mess once I arrive to Paris that I’ll be unable to function and/or leave the hotel room. It wouldn’t be the first time. But this time is during a global pandemic. I’ve been working from home for 20 months, have given up socialising and seriously limit interpersonal interactions. Why did I think my first outing being in one of the busiest cities in the world was a good idea. Yes I love Paris but have I lost my damn mind?

I need to go lay down. But before I do, does anyone else who’s traveled during the pandemic – or has plans to – feel the same crushing anxiety? Do you have any tips or advice on how to calm down and get perspective back?

I so miss the before times. Le sigh.

13 thoughts on “I Used to Love Packing

  1. People often talk about the excitement they feel just before a trip, but not many discuss the part on anxiety (e.g. what to pack, how much to pack, getting to and from the airport, to the accommodation, etc.). Prior to the pandemic, I didn’t have too much anxiety before travel, as I was more excited than anything to be getting away for some time. I think if I were to be traveling internationally now, I would feel the anxiety, but mostly due to the COVID-19 situation and to take measures to make sure I’m safe from it. I tell myself that, while that’s outside of my control, I know that I can control the immediate things around me, including knowing exactly what to pack, how to navigate the airports, and the itinerary that I set for myself when I’m in town. Perhaps this could help you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Rebecca. It feels like I’ve set myself up on this trip specifically. Or I guess during these unique times specifically. It’s getting harder to keep perspective. But I like what you’re saying about focusing on what I can control.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t have any particularly great tips for packing, although I will say this: Remember that the people you meet won’t know that what you’re wearing today was worn just the day before yesterday. In other words, try to lighten up as much as possible on clothing. A nice v-neck cashmere sweater is light, easy to pack, and can be worn every other day for two weeks, unless you’re into heavy perspiration. Hope that helps a touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t envy you the stress of international travel at this tie, Marla. Here’s hoping that your methodical attention to detail will pay off in a safe and easy flight and that you are soon enjoying Paris.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Dan. In the end, I was over prepared with all of my documentation. Which was very surprising. Of all of the required paperwork, I was only asked once for proof of vaccination. And that was at Vancouver on check-in for departure. I’m so happy to finally be in Paris and have already seen several doors I plan to go back to photograph sans suitcase. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We just got back from a trip to see Polar Bears in Churchill, in your beautiful country. I started the trip with a post about how different it felt. Like you, I’m usually extremely organized, but now I felt like it was first time I’d left town. My anxiety level was elevated and my usual pre-trip excitement pushed to the back. I didn’t even want to say we were going, in case the whole trip got cancelled. Flying was a supreme hassle, but we were saved a lot of potential problems by the decision to carry-on our bags. We had cancelled flights and delayed flights – 8 in all. The COVID testing and records needed, not to mention worry about potential quarantine, were real. But in spite of all that, once we were walking around Winnipeg, meeting our fellow travelers, and seeing the incredible northern lights and majestic polar bears – we forgot the hassles and even forgot we were wearing the required masks. The experience wasn’t “normal,” but it was so good to be back out there. So, have faith! Expect logistical issues, take a deep breath, and embrace our new reality. Safe travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for this! I was a mess leading up to yesterday but once I checked in at the airport most of my anxiety melted away. Now that I’m finally arrived into Paris I’m excited! Which I wasn’t sure if get to this point. I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed your visit to Canada. I’ve never seen a polar bear except in captivity. That must have been surreal!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.