I crouched down on the sidewalk, rifling through my suitcase at a rabid pace, considering dumping all my worldly goods in my search. I looked up at the receding bumper driven by my host, then toward the elevator that I should be on, taking me down to the subway and eventually to the airport. I say should because I cannot find my passport and my breathing is coming at a rapid pace as I try to remember where last I had it. I’m the last of the study abroad students that stayed at the flat to leave back to the States, and I have no one to call if I can’t find my documents. By the grace of God, my host mother, as they like to consider themselves, happened to look at the rear view mirror and see my distress. Two days, a flight change and an early morning visit to the mailing company to open a suitcase that was supposed to be shipped back home to rescue my inadvertently packed passport and I was on my way.
You can ask anyone close to me, I can be absentminded to a fault when it comes to travel. In my early 20s, I was the “show up half an hour before departure” kind of traveler, overpacking my suitcase and yet forgetting toothpaste and a scarf to wrap my hair. After the travel abroad incident, along with a forgotten laptop that almost made my sister push me onto the Tube tracks, I knew I had to wizen up or risk some miserable trips. Working in the travel industry put me in contact with people who could pack a carry on in their sleep and make sure the baby had their favorite blanket, toy and food. Since I am not traveling with kids, I had no excuse not to learn quickly from their examples.
It began with figuring out how to pack one bag for several days. This decision was hastened by the increasing cost of checking luggage (seriously though, $25 per bag, highway robbery). The way that airlines are charging nickel and dime fees, soon I’m sure we will be paying for carry on bags too. The CEO of Ryanair thinks so too.
Soon after mastering single bag packing, I conquered the “all liquids in a quart size bag,” “getting to the gate with an hour to spare so you can actually breathe or have a drink,” and finally “ALWAYS take a piece of fruit and mixed nuts with you” because sis, these airlines are not here to provide you with sustenance. In preparing for an upcoming trip too see my sister, I reached a new level of preparedness: outfit planning. Like, proper “On Wednesdays we wear pink” kind of planning. Day outfit, night outfit for each day plus an extra just to be safe. And I managed to get it in my carry on size suitcase. Needless to say, I’m quite proud of myself, much like how those Candy Crush players get when someone gives them new levels.
Oh, and on this trip, my passport is safely in my bag…the one next to me.