Packing is always the worst part of traveling, in my opinion.
I love going places… but I also love dressing nicely, and I also like having lots of options. So trying to force myself to cram everything that I want to bring with me into one bag is always painful.
Usually, I put off packing until the last minute, but I figured I should start early since this IS a four-month excursion instead of a weekend or week-long trip.
Before I talk about packing, I’d like to talk about WHAT I’m packing.
I know that a lot of people think that it’s shallow to care about fashion and to care a lot about how you dress, but I definitely disagree. It must be the communication theorist in me speaking, but I honestly think that clothing is a really important and often-overlooked form of nonverbal communication.
Whether we realize we’re doing it or not, we often form judgments about people as soon as we look at them, just by what they’re wearing. I don’t mean we “judge” them as in “decide their worth as a person,” but rather we try to make inferences about what kind of person they are based on the clothes they’re wearing.
Depending on the style, newness/crispness, colors, logos, quality, or sometimes AMOUNT of clothing a person is wearing, we can make educated guesses about what a person’s personality is like. You send nonverbal messages whether you intend to or not, so I personally choose to be attentive toward what my clothes are “saying” to others. Also, clothes can make you FEEL a different way, and I like dressing depending on my mood or an aesthetic I’m going for (I draw tons of inspiration from films, photos, books, people I admire, PLACES, and fashion spreads in magazines).
Actually, I’m really obsessive about clothing. I can’t stand the idea of wearing the same outfit within like, a three-week period AT LEAST, and I always mentally keep track of what I wore on what days and who saw me wearing it, so as not to repeat outfits and give the impression that I can’t come up with more ideas or wear the same stuff all the time.
Since I’m about to be entering a new culture, I know that I have to be especially aware of the messages that my clothing might send to others. So I’ve tried to do my best to prepare and buy clothing accordingly.
European fashion, as I’ve been able to glean from specific searches (and also the general knowledge of international fashion that comes from reading Vogue for several years), is a bit different from American fashion.
Fortunately, I dress differently than a lot of Americans to begin with. First off, if I could wear a dress every day, I probably would (and I do wear them a LOT of days). I just find them more comfortable than pants, and I feel prettier when I’m wearing a dress. I guess in general I like to dress really “girly,” which is funny because it contrasts with my personality and the way I talk a lot of the time.
I also love neutral colors. I know it’s the “youthful” thing to wear bright colors and crazy prints, and I think they look great on a lot of people. But I’m just drawn to grays, blacks, whites, browns, creams, beiges, ochres, olives, muted pinks, blues, purples and my favorite, NAVY BLUES, when shopping for myself. As far as patterns, I like solids, basic stripes, polka dots, florals, houndstooth, herringbone and paisley. There are, of course, exceptions to these, but as a general rule I find these colors and patterns to look the most tasteful, sophisticated, and aesthetically beautiful.
My normal style is a combination of dresses, skinny jeans, sweaters, tights, layered tops, MANY cardigans, flats, boots, scarves, and tailored jackets. Luckily, I’m going to be living in a part of Spain that has VERY mild winters, so I don’t need to bring many jeans, sweaters, or jackets. Which cuts down on packing!
I went on a massive shopping trip to the King of Prussia mall a couple of weeks ago to buy some more clothes before I left. I bought a lot more basic tops, cardigans, scarves and dresses. And check out these adorable flouncy skirts I found at Forever 21!
Apparently, shorts aren’t very commonly worn in Spain (though this is just from what I’ve read… I’ll probably go there and everyone will be wearing shorts like it’s nothing). Instead, girls opt to wear skirts and capris. I like these skirts a lot because they’re pretty, but not really tight and short so I can wear them during the day without worrying about having my ass hang out of them (I am so un-ladylike in my postures and actions that I always wear shorts under really short skirts unless I’m going out at night).
Anyway, once I decided what sorts of clothes I wanted to bring and how I wanted to look in Europe, I started separating all those clothes out from my other clothes. I’ve been doing this haphazardly over the past week, following a method that I developed called “throw them all out in the hall.”
I’m getting down to crunch time though, so today I decided to bite the bullet and actually try packing to see where I’m at as far as being oversize/overweight.
Since I’m flying Economy on Iberia airlines, I’m allowed to check only ONE bag. ONE BAG FOR FOUR MONTHS! Which is something I’m trying to be okay with, because I probably don’t NEED all the stuff that I have to begin with. But I’m awful at making decisions, because I want to have ALL THE THINGS.
Anyway, the bag is supposed to be within a certain height-length-width. My bag is literally EXACTLY to specifications, until you pull out the handle… so I’m afraid it’s going to be considered oversized (plus, once it’s full, it might bulge a bit and throw it off). It is also supposed to be 50 lbs or less.
From what I’ve read, if your bag is overweight or oversized, you get charged a $60 fee. Which I’m totally fine with paying. I just DO NOT want to have them turn my bag away and tell me that I can’t take it. I already know that if your bag is over 70 lbs it WILL be turned away, so I’m keeping mine between 50 and 70 lbs. But the airline’s website is really vague about what happens if your bag is overSIZED, not just overWEIGHT.
I plan to call the airline and make sure before I leave because I’m terrified that they’ll send me packin’ at the gate (I apologize for that terrible pun) for my bag’s size.
Today was more of a packing “experiment.” I like to move from general to specific, so my first order of business was to bring all of the clothes I wanted to pack downstairs:
There’s not any organization to it, really. Just everything dumped onto the floor. I made sure that I really grabbed EVERYTHING, even clothes that I’ll probably eventually cut out and leave here. In regards to international packing advice, I always hear the phrase: “Decide what you want to pack, and then take half of it,” so I decided to TRY and follow it.
Next, I sorted all the clothes and catalogued them in lists, separated by type (to make it easier to know what I have and make decisions about what to leave and what to take):
I pretty much just sat in the middle of this mess trying to make sense of it all. Also, I am a NEUROTIC LIST MAKER. I make lists every single day of my life… it’s just how I keep everything in order, and having everything on a list makes me feel less-stressed and more in-control of a situation.
After I sorted and catalogued everything, I then started the hard part–actually packing it. Protip: roll your clothes instead of folding them. YOU CAN FIT SO MUCH MORE!
As I continued to build up layers of little clothes-logs, I started to worry about how much I’d be able to fit, but in the end… I managed to fit everything that I brought and catalogued into my suitcase–with room to spare!
Now, I still need to pack a hair dryer, some towels and wash cloths, a voltage transformer, and some other things. But this is BEFORE I’ve even started cutting out clothes to leave at home. I’m also taking out two outfits (one to wear for travel, and one to take in my carry-on in case my bag gets lost).
But for this first run, I managed to fit:
- 21 shirts
- 27 tanktops
- 15 dresses
- 6 pairs of pants
- 11 cardigans
- 8 skirts
- 7 scarves
- 15 pairs of underwear
- 3 belts
- 7 bras
- 4 swimsuits
- 5 pairs of tights
- 3 t-shirts
- 3 pairs of shorts
- 1 pair of sweatpants
- 3 pairs of shoes
- stationery paper