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.