The Road Trip and A Reluctant Traveler


My friend, Caroline, is the kind of person who can go on a 10 day trip with just one small suitcase.

I, on the other hand, am unfamiliar with the term “carry-on luggage.”

15 years ago when my husband and I flew to Bermuda for a short vacation (highly recommended to see grown men wearing knee socks with shorts), we arrived at the island airport with three huge suitcases. Two and 3/4 of them filled with my things.

(My husband asked me to tell you that he packs light; that I, not him, am the sole reason for the excess bag charges.)

The man at the airport who helped us with our suitcases directed us to the line for people intending to relocate to Bermuda. To move there permanently. I was embarrassed to tell him we were only visiting for five days. He smiled, sent us to the tourists’ line, having seen my type before.

My theory is that one must pack so as to prepare for all contingencies. This will not come as welcome news to Caroline as we plan to depart this Friday on our long-planned, Road Trip, driving cross-country from Washington, DC to Los Angeles.

I have been invited as a travel companion whose purpose is to provide lively conversation, map management and a guide to interesting restaurants. I have not been invited to do any of the driving. Caroline understands, as do all of my friends, that driving is not one of my better skills.

She has also told me, kindly but firmly, that her Subaru will be filled with furniture and the other items she is bringing to her son who recently moved to L.A. so I must pack lightly.

We won’t have a lot of room in the car. Remember, I am bringing all of Drew’s stuff to him. You can only bring a small bag.” she reminds me.

Uh, sure, Caroline, I’ll do just that.

But what if we hit an ice storm in Little Rock? or snow in Amarillo? There could be unusually cool weather in Kenab, Utah, too.)

(for those of you geography buffs following along, yes, we are driving well out of our way to visit the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah to volunteer for a day.  One of the bonds that Caroline and I share is our love of rescue dogs. One of those probably won’t fit in her car either.)

To accommodate the potential weather variables, I intend to pack an assortment of light to heavy pajamas and sweaters, boots just in case, a fleece or two ,(it could be that cold), short and long-sleeve shirts, pants of varying weights, sandals (it could be that hot) and sneakers, something nice to wear in case we go out, my kindle, various device chargers, magazines, maps (I don’t trust GPS systems) – and of course, my blow-dryer.

Caroline, who does not like to fly, which is the reason we are driving, laughs when I tell her this.

“Seriously, you are packing lightly, aren’t you, Nancy?,” Caroline asks me during a recent planning phone call.

“You won’t need your blow dryer.  Your hair will look fine. The people at the gas stations and motels really won’t care what you look like.”

I am trying to be convinced by this but still not sure.

It is not that I am particularly vain. I last got a manicure in May, 2011 before our daughter’s wedding. My daily make-up routine, now that I am no longer office-desk-bound, is minimal. And I am not so wedded to my blow dryer, as close as we once were: I did survive without her (it?) for weeks in the hospital.

But I am the kind of person does not handle change well. I have a need to know what to expect at all times, a character trait which hinders me whenever I travel, because travel reliably delivers change, doesn’t it?

So I fool myself into thinking that a trip will go precisely according to plan if I bring most, if not all, of my favorite possessions with me. To trick the system into thinking I am at home – while on the road.

Taking a break from packing, I read an article in the New York Times about an empty nester couple’s year-long, 46 city tour of Europe. From the photos, I could see that both traveled light, back-packs and one small pull bag each.

(And not to be at all catty about this, but from the look of the wife’s hair, she seems to manage without a blow dryer. Her hair looks naturally curly, mine is that flattish kind of stick straight that we all admired in 1970 but not so much anymore.)

Even though this couple had minimal luggage, I was heartened to read that even these adventurous travelers brought their personal pillows with them to each city they visited.

I totally get that, that need to have a bit of home with you at all times. So while I am (sort of) looking forward to traveling across the country, I am already also looking forward to being back home again.


Filed under Baby Boomers, Empty Nest, Female Friends, friendship, Midlife, Travel, Women

6 responses to “The Road Trip and A Reluctant Traveler

  1. Patty Kusovitsky

    Good one! Have fun.


  2. Enjoy the trip – and take the hair dryer. Nothing can ruin a day (or days) like bad hair.


  3. You and I? We would need at least two cars. I can not pack light. I pack with “what if” in mind, too!


  4. What a great adventure, have a great time! Leave the hair dryer at home. Motels usually have them and there is nothing wrong with a ball cap or sun hat for bad hair days while driving.


  5. Donna

    Ha! I used to pack too much until my husband reminded me (many times before it sunk in) to pack light and buy incidentals along the way. Rest assured that they do have stores outside of DC. It turns out that I rarely needed to buy anything on our trips, although I have a few souvenir sweatshirts that will make great gifts for guests who packed light. 😉

    Just before you leave, ask your friend (who sounds like she has mastered the fine art of packing) to repack for you into a little bag. Allow her to get rid of enemy No. 1–the hair dryer–and most of the other things on your packing list. Not only will she get piece of mind, but you will get a tad more leg room. Imagine all your great conversations on the road about your new little bag and how it changed your life. And you will have the added excitement of an excuse to shop!

    Hope you enjoy your Thelma and Louise experience. Happy traveling!


  6. Oh so cool to have a trip happening. Think of all the writing fodder!


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