Monday, September 14, 2009

Packing Prompts Inspiration

Graduate school classes have resumed. Back to the grind of reading 300-page books in two days, writing paper after paper, and sitting through three hour lectures and workshops. Luckily, this is what I want to do with my life, so I find most of it pretty enjoyable--with the exception of speeding through books without getting the chance to really enjoy them. But what I really like is when I get a good writing idea compliments of my professors or something I heard in class or read in one of our various assignments.

This time it came from my memoir writing class. One of the writers we are studying is Abigail Thomas, and in one of her books she talks about how to write a personal story. In one chapter she provides prompts for writers who may be struggling with getting their story started. I was reading through some of these prompts--write 2 pages about a time you were dressed inappropriately, 2 pages that take place in water--and I came across one that I thought was really interesting, something I had never thought about before: Write 2 pages about what goes through your mind when you're packing for a trip.

Personally, the process of packing can be stressful. First, I make out a list of everything I think I'm going to need, writing down numbers next to each to indicate how many I plan on taking. 4 t-shirts. 3 long-sleeve shirts. 5 pairs of pants. 1 dress. It appears anal, borders on obsession. But I like to have a plan, and with a list at least I can check things off and make sure that I have them in my suitcase.

Then it comes time to actually grab that bag and put everything inside. I lay out everything I am going to need, grabbing one thing and putting something else back. When everything is laid out on my bed, I scan it to make sure I have everything, plus extra just in case. Then I think, "what's the weather going to be like where I'm going?" I lunge for my laptop and enter the weather channel website. I look at the weekend forcast, the 10 day forecast, the chance of rain, etc. And since I'm on the internet, why not check some of the places I might want to visit, restaurants, bars, monuments. So I need to make sure I have outfits appropriate for those outings, as well as any necessary accessories or toiletries. Sunscreen for a long day at the beach, hats and boots for a day of hiking, jewelry and makeup for nice parties and dinners.

Somehow I get lost in the excitment of everything, and I'll start thinking about how much fun I'm going to have on my trip. And while packing is my priority at this point, I take a moment to appreciate that I can pack a bag and jet off to somewhere unknown. When I place that dress in the suitcase, I wonder what memories it will collect as I wear it. Will that sunscreen protect me, or is a burn in my future? Will my camera even be able to capture the moments of my trip, the experience I will ultimately come away with? Packing no longer becomes a quest to assure I have everything and how to pack it practically. It turns into a game, guessing where an outfit will take me, or better yet, where I'll take it.

What do you think about when you pack for a trip?

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