I’m rubbish at packing. Be it for a night away or for several months, I’m hopeless. I never, but never, fail to forget something essential. A toothbrush, medication, pants, the suitcase itself – you name it. And always, but always, more than half of what I take isn’t needed. I’ve given up worrying about this. When I was a younger man I was foolish enough to harbour hopes of one day wanting for nothing while I was away. Never happened; never will.
But I’d rather be me than one of those clever dicks who fits enough for a month in the tiniest, piddliest little cases which, notwithstanding their laughable smallness, are nevertheless equipped with no fewer than four wheels. Four! You see them in airports, these things, their smug owners wheeling them around like they’re walking prim little poodles off to the shops.
I curse them all, apart from my mum. She has many gifts, and this is her greatest. Weeks before going off to Croatia for months on end, she will begin packing the very tiniest of wheelie bags. Honestly, I take a bigger bag to work. I bought it for her, partly as a joke. “This is too small, even for you,” I said. I was wrong. She doesn’t so much pack it as curate it. Over many weeks, bits go in, come out, are turned around and upside down and endlessly rearranged. Come departure day I am summoned to sit on the thing to facilitate zip closure. By now this tiny bit of luggage is improbably heavy, like one of those remarkably dense metals. She can barely wheel it, let alone lift it. If flying alone, she is reliant on the kindness of strangers to get it up into the overhead bin. Many a poor chap has had his holiday ruined, his back in spasm having been fooled by the size and assumed light weight.
Meanwhile all I can do is take the biggest suitcases I can carry and stuff them with anything and everything that comes to hand. The more I pack, the fewer things it’ll turn out I haven’t got. Pitiable logic, I know, but it’s how I have found my peace. How liberating it is to travel without hope.