As I prepared for my first international trip in over two years, it occurred to me that I had forgotten how to pack.
I’m going to the Arctic, and I don’t know what the people of Iceland wear.
I watched a very dark Nordic noir series around Reykjavik to get some clues, but the protagonists were all wearing those scratchy Fair Isle sweaters, and they made me feel warm and look fat, two things I constantly try to avoid.
I have to admit I’m a sucker for a theme; I get very literal.
I’m on a ship, so I’m naturally thinking of heavy navy jackets and thick, blue-and-white striped sweaters with nice furry knee boots. That, of course, takes up half the Samsonite before I put on the pajamas.
The modern traveler wears layers. I understand it’s all performance clothing and high-tech; everything rolls into a ball in a backpack. But I’m confused since I’ve been indoors with the ceiling fans on for the past two years.
After the North Pole, I go to Paris. I don’t think my thermal layers and sleeveless puffer vest made from recycled plastic will be a thing for lunch at Le Grand Véfour.
From years of packing in Australia and arriving in Europe the next season, I’ve learned that whatever hip outfit you pack will look horribly wrong.
I remember going to Paris a few years ago, not during Fashion Week, but in civilian life, when not everyone was holding a Bottega Veneta handbag and wearing a fur dayglo balaclava.
I hated everything in my suitcase, so I spent two days in the cafe downstairs from my Airbnb, remembering what I wore when I lived there in the 90s and watching the locals go about their business.
I didn’t want to wear designer clothes that made a statement. I needed cool trainers, an oversized American Vintage cardigan, a shopping basket, jeans, and a T-shirt.
I remember feeling so much better after I bought the vest, it was like my journey could begin, and I could relax. There’s no point in traveling in fancy clothes, wasting carbon points, and lugging around heavy bags.
You just need basics that fit right, the clothes you always reach for when feeling a little bloated and gloomy because that’s guaranteed to be how you’ll feel after 32 hours in economy.
Then if you need to add something, you can buy it at your destination, a nice souvenir from your trip – a tote bag, a scarf, a hat, a pair of earrings, a pair of sandals, or even a scratchy sweater.
You’ll feel more comfortable in your new surroundings than dragging in the oversized bright pink trouser suit that looked fine for lunch in Bondi but doesn’t do the same in Greenland.