An early fall day last year, shortly upon my return from my summer travels to Egypt and Qatar, I bumped into the mail delivery lady serving my area who wondered where on earth I had been for the last 3-4 months. After answering that I just returned from a long visit to the Middle East she started narrating her recent (well, one year ago) second visit to her mother’s country of origin, Poland, and Germany. Animatedly she spoke to me of people she had not seen since the last time she went as a teenager, places she could not recognize because of the rapid development occurring since the fall of the Soviet Union, and similarities and differences between Europe and the States. I (rather ignorantly) asked her why she hadn’t gone for so long, and whether she planned to visit again soon, given her apparent excitement about having been back, upon which she answered that she had been saving for several years to be able to make the trip, and that she would love to go back, but that it would take her additionally many years to prepare for her next stint. Her answer struck me hard. It may seem arrogant, but the many years of taking my multiple overseas travels as granted necessities, a right I cannot accept to be without, I had forgotten how privileged I am to have the opportunity to do so, elhamdlilah. Being among the rootless “world citizens” (cliche phrase, I know..) out there, I’m thankful for the blessings of not only eating well and having sufficient shelter, but also for the additional resources that contribute to the enrichment of my person the way exposure to new peoples and places do.
Now to the less profound part. So as many of you, I love to travel, and thus I tend to not spend more of my time in the US than I absolutely have to. I don’t, however, love or like the style limitations of living out of a suitcase for an extended period of time (this becomes increasingly difficult when one wears hijab). Every previous trip I have found myself with two huge bags and a too heavy carry on, including additional plastic bags and purses here and there, having to pay a fortune for excess baggage, not to mention struggling to move around with the whole spectacle. Despite this, I find myself not having enough outfits as well as carrying around outfits or garments I will simply not use. This time I decided to pack smarter. I started some days ahead of time with one main rule; every garment I would pack would have to be used in at least two to three outfits for it to qualify, with the intention of bringing less. Thus, I would start with one outfit and then continue with each item for that outfit creating new individual outfits, and again, out of the new items going into making the new outfits, I would make additional outfits. I also took the time to take quick phone snap shots of each outfit as it was gathered on the floor, as a reference for later, when needing to get dressed quickly. This systematic way of packing yielded quite satisfactory results; not only did I have way less baggage – a small carry-on and a suitcase; I also spent way less time thinking up what to wear, and I did not face the dilemma of not having sufficient outfits. Mission accomplished. Of course, taking all this hassle to pack is only worth it for several weeks to months long trips. Note how the “sample” outfits above and below mostly incorporate the same garments.