Tomorrow, Eric and I will embark on an overnight jaunt to Naples, on the Gulf Coast of Florida. We'll be traveling with good friends, who could care less about what I wear. I don't expect to be running into anyone I know and casual is the rule in Florida, unless you're on the Palm Beach party circuit (I'm not). So, all I need to do is throw a change of clothes and a toothbrush into a tote bag, right? I wish. For me, packing is always an ordeal, no matter how short the trip.
My mantra in life is simplicity. In decor, I tend toward the austere—no tchotchkes on my shelves. I like spareness in writing—I'm not a fan of post-modern obfuscation. And I'm definitely not a multi-tasker—I prefer to tackle one thing at a time. As far as clothing, I favor jeans and tee shirts, usually in a neutral palate, so you would think that packing would be a straightforward proposition. However, one of the ways I endeavor to keep my life simple is by always being prepared for any imaginable situation. Thus, packing becomes an activity fraught with conflict and anxiety, as I try to pack light, yet worry about leaving some essential item at home.
Though we'll only be gone for one night, we've planned a variety of activities, from shopping in Old Naples, to lolling on the beach, dining at a nice restaurant, and walking through the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. A delightful itinerary, but what shoes should I bring? For shopping, something attractive yet comfortable seems called for. Since we'll be hitting the beach, I really ought to have my flip flops, too. When we go to dinner, I'd like to wear my favorite sandals—they're cute but not good for walking more than a block. And obviously, I'm not entering the swamp without walking shoes and my cushy Thorlo socks.
When it comes to toilet articles, it becomes even harder to limit the load. What if I develop a rash? Better bring along the cortisone cream. And sunscreen is essential. But which SPF, 15 or 50? When in doubt, throw in both. And on and on it goes.
What I've described above, however, is just phase one of the packing process. After I've created piles of clothing, shoes, and toilet articles, I'm invariably appalled by the excess. So, the paring phase begins. Do I really need those flip flops? Can't my comfortable flat sandals double for shopping and the beach? In a pinch, I can wear them to dinner, too. As for toilet articles, after deliberation, the cortisone cream stays, but the SPF 50 is out. I'm living on the edge.
My aim on this trip is to share a single small suitcase with Eric. My stuff will probably fill at least two-thirds. Compared to plane trips, packing for our overnight should be relatively relaxing. After all, we're traveling in our car. If I decide at the last minute there's something that I absolutely must bring, like a fleece jacket in case of a sudden cold snap (the weather's predicted to be in the eighties), I'll just stash it in the back of the car's trunk. No one ever has to know.