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On the Road Again: Packing like a Champ

Last week Aimée wrote about one of the wonderful perks that come along with the not so wonderful aspects of academic life. I too love traveling, and I tend to do most of my traveling for conferences these days. I have completely disregarded my the advice of readers who offered such fantastic insight into the question of how many conferences to attend in a year. As I write this I am sitting in the Air Canada terminal in Toronto. I’m pleasantly exhausted after one of those magical conferences that combined genuinely good papers with interesting conversation and new acquaintances. In the next few hours I’ll complete my lectures for tomorrow (two), finish this blog post, see my partner, prepare for the week (and maybe a strike), and then crash.

This is a cycle that in one way or another I am going to be repeating quite a bit as  I am traveling a LOT in the coming months. I’ve found that one of the things that makes traveling and working on the road more feasible is good packing. I used to be a terrible packer: four-pairs-of-shoes-and-a-party-dress-and-a-bookshelf-of-books for a three-day trip kind of terrible. I’m getting better. Here are some tips that are helping me enjoy the trip, get work done, and not feel too totally wrenched from the good routines in my life.

1. Plan your outfits
I never used to do this for traveling, I mean who knows if I was actually going to feel like wearing what I brought with me? The result of this thinking meant I brought everything with me including the wardrobe kryptonite item (as if I was going to figure out how to incorporate puce into my wardrobe while at a conference). These days I lay my outfits out on the bed beforehand. I make sure that they are remixable by taking an interchangeable colour palette, and I take a reasonable amount of shoes…usually.

2. Limit your books
I like working on airplanes and in hotel rooms, there is something about being out of my life and cut off from regular interactions that allows me to focus my mind. But let’s be honest, unless you’re off for a research retreat there is not need to take the whole bookshelf. My solution of late has been to scan documents into PDFs and load them on my laptop of my Kindle. I use my Kindle for taking the other texts I need, and I take a notebook. I only bring texts for work that has to be finished while I am away. I’m learning that the only thing I gain from loading my suitcase full of books is a heavy luggage charge.

3. Pack a lunch
Seriously! Airplane food is expensive and really unsatisfying. If you have any dietary nuances it is nigh on impossible to eat well in an airport. I have a cute little bento box that is made of plastic. It goes through the scanner in my carry on luggage easily, and let me tell you I feel awfully pleased with myself when I open it up to a sandwich, some almonds, and a diced mango. The effort is worth it, I promise. I also bring a water bottle with my and try to drink lots of water. I recently got a water bottle/thermos that has a detachable tea basket. It feels great (and decadent) to sip gorgeous tea on the plane.

4. Move! Get some air!

I am a regular yoga practitioner. It keeps me from feeling I am kinking at the hips because I have such a close relationship with my desk chair. I pack my yoga mat with me, and practice in the hotel room (ok, sometimes I take it and don’t practice, but at least it is there). I try to get out and get some air during the breaks between papers.

5. Steal some time
A trip is a trip. If you can, carve out some quality time for yourself. I have a really hard time doing this, granted, but it is worth it.

Happy trails, y’all!

One thought on “On the Road Again: Packing like a Champ

  1. I am ALL over the “Pack a Lunch” plan … I think it comes from a course I once took on Canadian Exploration Literature (too many grisly camp fire episodes involving stewed moccasins), and also from my acid reflux. A constant supply of snacks — and good ones — make all the difference! I love your little Bento box, too. Little Baby Bel cheeses are great; I also like to pack grapes and cherry tomatoes, to help with hydration.

    But tell me: can you really take your own food on flights now? I used to pack my own eatables for trans-Atlantic flights (I remember once tucking into a stupendously good ginger-squash soup, I'm sure to the envy of those around me), but everything changed post 9-11.


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