‘Did you pack this case yourself, madam?’ the customs official asks. ‘Yes,’ I say. What I actually should’ve said was, ‘No. I don’t have a clue how this mad collection of shit ended up in my suitcase.’
Never, on any holiday of my life, have I ever packed a case with the sense and economy I aspire to.
My packing ambition is for a perfect capsule wardrobe in which I never run out of clothes and nothing comes homes unworn; in which every endless speculative configuration of weather fluctuation and activity is stylishly and practically anticipated.
What actually happens is I get to my hotel, open my case and marvel, can I possibly have been sober when I packed this?
Traveling to Marrakech I was warned several times to ‘take lots of things you can cover up with, lest you receive unwanted attention or cause offence in the Medina.’ ‘Yes’, I nodded, sombrely. Arriving at our rhiad, I opened my case to find I’d packed as if for Spring Break, with the intention of having many cocktails made in my mouth.
During my most recent holiday, also in Morocco, months of uninterrupted Essaouiran sunshine were interrupted by unexpected rainstorms. Except they weren’t unexpected, because we have the technology to predict weather with some degree of accuracy. And my boyfriend had waved the weather app in my face with all the little dark clouds and lightning bolt symbols. So, why then, did the contents of my suitcase not reflect this?
What sort of packing Tourette’s leads me to repeatedly pack such wildly inappropriate stuff? What sort of a fugue-like state was I in when I assembled this deranged collection of disparate clothes and accessories? Why did I pack all these eyeshadows and brushes? I never faff around with eyeshadow at home so why did I imagine a beach holiday would be the opportunity to start experimenting with new, elaborate make up techniques? When did I imagine I’d wear these six-inch heels whilst holidaying with a toddler in a desert?
If I’m honest, I know very well why I’m bad at packing… it’s because I’m filling a suitcase for the person I want to be rather than the person I am. The precise gap between the self I evidently aspire to be and the self I actually am can be accurately quantified by the level of regret I feel when I reach my destination ond open my case.