While preparing for my first international trip in over two years, it occurred to me that I had forgotten how to pack my bags.
I’m going to the Arctic and I don’t know what the Icelanders are wearing.
I watched a very dark Nordic noir series around Reykjavik for clues, but the protagonists were all wearing those scratchy Fair Isle sweaters and they make me feel hot and fat, two things I constantly try to avoid.
I have to admit I’m a sucker for a theme, I get very literal.
I’ll be on a boat, so of course I’m thinking big navy blue pea coats and chunky blue and white striped sweaters with cute furry knee boots. That, of course, will take half the Samsonite before I put on the pajamas.
The modern traveler wears layers. I understand that this is performance and high tech clothing and everything just rolls up in a backpack. But, considering I’ve been indoors with the ceiling fans on for two years, I’m confused.
After the North Pole, I go to Paris. I don’t think my thermal layers and my sleeveless down jacket made of recycled plastic will do for lunch at Grand Véfour.
I have learned, after years of packing in Australia and arriving in Europe during the opposite season, that whatever stylish outfit you have packed will look horribly fake.
I remember going to Paris many years ago, not during Fashion Week, but in civil times, when not everyone was carrying a Bottega Veneta handbag and wearing a dayglo fur balaclava.
I hated everything in my suitcase, so I spent two days in the cafe downstairs from my Airbnb trying to remember what I wore when I lived there in the 90s and watching the locals go about their business .
I didn’t want to wear a designer outfit that made a statement. What I needed were cool sneakers, an oversized American Vintage cardigan, a basket, jeans and a t-shirt.
I remember feeling so much better after buying the cardigan, it felt like my journey could begin and I could relax. There’s really no point in hauling fancy clothes around the world, wasting carbon points, and lugging heavy bags.
All you need are snug-fitting basics, the clothes you always wear when you’re feeling a little bloated and sullen, because it’s guaranteed to feel like you’ll feel after 32 hours of economy.
Then, if you need to add something, you can buy it at destination, a nice souvenir of your trip – a tote bag, a scarf, a hat, earrings or a pair of sandals or even a scratchy sweater.
You’ll feel more at home in your new surroundings than if you were dragging around the oversized hot pink pantsuit that looked good at lunch in Bondi, but doesn’t do the same in Greenland.