Pack light, gripe less

Map of Portugal and our route

Map of Portugal and our route

We recently returned from two weeks spent touring Portugal. The Rick Steves’ tour we were on involved white wine; a cork farm; cathedrals and medieval monasteries; ancient Roman cities; red wine; beautiful landscapes; Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque, and Rococo architecture; walled towns; art museums; aqueducts; and port wine. (By day eleven most of us were vowing to take a long break from wine.)

We were fortunate to have a well-informed guide, who was passionate about her country and its history, and very funny. We were in a companionable group of fellow travelers, ate ginormous meals, met and dined with members of two dynasties of wine and/or cork and olive oil producers, one in an area the typical traveler might miss, and another limited to Rick Steves’ groups.

Despite having most everything taken care of for us, from lodging to meals to city transportation, I found something to complain about. I had to refold my clothes and repack my suitcase daily, and after doing this, still couldn’t find what I needed. On day five I found the hairbrush I thought I’d left back home, and on day eleven I found the makeup I thought I’d lost on day four. Also, one compartment in my suitcase still contained brochures from a trip to Hawaii, which weren’t helpful when it came to locating the day’s agenda for this vacation.

Then a blog called Jane’s Journals arrived in my inbox. The title was “What would you pack?” The question referred to what Syrian refugees were bringing with them to Europe. The blogger linked to a website called Quartz, which shared photos from the International Rescue Committee of the contents of a few of the refugees’ backpacks.

For a mother: “A hat and a pair of socks for the baby; an assortment of medication, a bottle of sterile water, and a jar of baby food; a small supply of napkins for diaper changes; assortment of pain relievers, sunscreen and sunburn ointment, toothpaste; personal documents; wallet; cell phone charger; yellow headband.”

And from a six-year-old boy: “One pair of pants, one shirt; a syringe; marshmallows and sweet cream; soap, toothbrush and toothpaste; bandages.”

None of the backpackers sampled seemed concerned about a hairbrush or makeup. And none carried an itinerary. For them there were no schedules, no menus set in advance, and no means of transportation except their feet. Maybe for future trips I should pack fewer things, organize my suitcase better, and stop complaining.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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2 Responses to Pack light, gripe less

  1. Evelyn says:

    Thank you for the reality check. This is reason to reevaluate not only the suitcase, but also the closet and the drawers and maybe even our values. However, the trip sounds fabulous!

  2. stillalife says:

    Thanks, Evelyn. I’m looking at closets, cupboards, entire rooms, but it’s a huge job. And the trip was great.

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