Packing for a day at the park can be a difficult challenge for me. What if we need the potty? What if we need a sun hat? What if we need sweaters, or snacks, or sand toys, or a picnic blanket? Twenty minutes later, the stroller is full. I stroll this small land yacht a whole block from home to the park. Packing for this trip to Japan was an enormous undertaking. Should I pack two electric pumps or just one? What if my pump fails? Could I hand pump for days or find one in Japan? What about an ice scoop? A nursing cover? How many sets of pump parts? All of them? Do we have a bag big enough to fit the cooler? An absurdly long packing list was trimmed and trimmed and still ended up filling the living room. Even the freezer was emptied to make space for ice packs, and all of the breastmilk came out for one final count. Would this be enough?
I was able to squeeze all of the necessary (and unnecessary) equipment into three bursting bags. Everything was put together in time for Uber to swing by and pick me up, but not in enough time to take a step back and reflect on this baggage plan. Yes, it all fit but was it still too much? I mean, after all, this is a four-night trip, not three weeks. Glad that everything fit, I hustled to the airport. My first encounter at the airport was with a luggage scale. It turns out that each bag was about forty pounds, and I never weighed my heavy carry-on backpack at all. Here I thought I was packing efficiently, but in reality, I was huffing more than 84 pounds of stuff to Japan so that I could carry home a single gallon of liquid.
In one quick swoop, the airline agent took my check bag and threw it on the ramp. Away it went into a dark tunnel. I was on the journey now. Some quick premonition flashed forward upon seeing the number eighty-four that this would be a workout to huff to the hotel. I remembered (only then) why my step-father had bristled at the idea of borrowing this particular suitcase. Even though it did have wheels and an extended handle with a low profile, which allowed the cooler to stack on top easily, it was absurdly heavy. My mom said steel reinforced. He said way too painful to lift. At the time the trade-off seemed inconsequential, it was my only solution for getting wheels on this cooler. I never did choose to travel with this suitcase again. My hand was throbbing in pain by the time I arrived at my hotel in Japan. More than an hour of dashing through crowded metro tunnels dragging this pile of overzealous packing was lesson enough. Every trip since has been an exercise in minimalist packing.