How to Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag

It’s Day 7 of BootsnAll’s #indie30 project; the question of the day is (fanfare, please):

What kind of packer are you?

What? Too much?

What? Too much?

I like to think that I travel pretty lightly. Though I’m not a backpacker, I usually head overseas with a small suitcase filled with a few sets of mix-and-match clothes, a toiletries bag, extra shoes, a notebook, and a voltage adapter.

Though there was that one time, about 10 years ago, when my life seemed to be falling apart and I fled to Spain to foist my sad and broken self on my friend Maria and her family…

The night before I was to leave the States, I pulled a small suitcase out of the closet, threw a pile of clothes on the bed, and realized that there was no way they were all going to fit. So in my emotional exhaustion, I did the only thing I could:

I got a bigger suitcase out of the closet.

I crammed all my stuff inside, zipped it shut, and hauled it to the airport. Because of storm delays, the bag got lost in Madrid; though I was going on to Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, my giant suitcase went to Barcelona. When the airline finally delivered it to Maria’s mother’s house the next day, my friend, knowing that I’m usually an efficient packer, marveled at its size. I just shrugged; I was too wrecked to care.

That weekend, we were to head to the north end of the island to stay with Maria’s sister for a couple of days. “I’ll give you a small bag,” she said, “and you can just take a few things and leave this one here.” I shook my tired head. “No,” I said, pointing to the mammoth. “THIS is my weekend bag.” I simply was not capable of curating clothes and sandals and putting together a weekend wardrobe. So the giant bag got hoisted into the trunk of Maria’s mother’s car along with everyone else’s little totes and duffels.

Yep, I was mocked. Yep, I didn’t wear half the things I had taken. But in the end, it was okay–the healing properties of that trip, the magic of tapas and helado in the middle of the day, the homemade wine decanted into an old Johnny Walker bottle, the drives into the mountains, the walks beside the sea, the wandering amidst the centuries-old architecture–and the ability to rest, to bask, without judgment, in the comfort of an old, deep friendship–made it all okay.

So. The moral of my packing story is this:

Travel heals; so go. Pack lightly, yes. Plan properly, yes. But if you just can’t, if you’re just too tired and sad to think clearly, if you simply have to flee the country or burst into flame, then just take a bigger suitcase out of the closet, and go anyway.

Postscript: The title of this post is from a World War I marching song, “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile.” No, I wasn’t around when it zoomed to number 1 on the charts. But yes, I remember it from watching old cartoons in the 70s. It used to be a well-known piece of popular culture. But now…who knows? Thought I’d identify it for the young’uns.

Image: By BazzaDaRambler (… luggage. Uploaded by Oxyman) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

#indie30 project: Day 1


How has your view of the world changed because of travel?

That’s the prompt for today, Day 1, of BootnAll’s #indie30 project. BootsnAll is a travel website specializing in RTW–Round The World trips for indie travelers. It’s the site that inspired my daughter and me to sprawl on my bed with a big map of the world a few years ago and try to list the 50 countries we’d like to visit next. (We failed: we couldn’t keep it to 50. We were up in the high 60s when we finally cut ourselves off.)

The #indie30 project is directed at anyone who is creative and loves to travel. Each day in the month of April, BootsnAll will publish a prompt, and anyone who wants to participate will respond to it in some creative fashion: a photo, a video, prose, poetry, even a Facebook post or a Tweet.

Of course, I’ll be participating. Read on:

The Top 6 Ways My View of the World Has Changed Because of Travel:

6. I’ve learned that outside of the United States, a lot of people love eating octopus as much as I do.

5. I’ve learned that a dog in a restaurant is not necessarily a reason to place a frantic call to the health department.

4. I’ve learned that a country’s government may be prickly and ornery, but its people are often astonishingly friendly and kind.

3. I’ve learned that some things that we’ve seen a zillion times on tacky coffee mugs and calendars and tee shirts–things like London’s Tower Bridge, the Coliseum, the Eiffel Tower–are so extraordinary in real life that I now understand why everyone puts them on coffee mugs and calendars and tee shirts.

2. I’ve learned that some things that we’ve never seen seen on a coffee mug or a calendar or a tee shirt–things like a late afternoon rainbow over Austria’s Wörthersee; a mother and her little girl giggling and playing Rock, Paper, Scissors on a Tokyo train; a crowd of grinning people dancing in the sunshine to a reggae band on a Barcelona sidewalk–are so extraordinary that I now understand why you can’t just read about these places–you have to go and see for yourself what is really there, in the small moments, in the spaces between cathedrals and monuments.

1. I’ve learned that to even have a view of the world, you have to get out there into the world.


Happy travels, everyone!