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Overpacking Woes: 6 Struggles of a Traveller Who Can Never Pack Light

I’m Gaby, and I have an overpacking problem.

(Hi, Gaby.)

My complete inability to pack light has been a running joke between me and my family; all my good friends know this about me, too. There are many ways I’d describe myself with regard to my packing style: I’m part girl scout, part tita, and a pretty anxious traveller. Getting caught off guard just never sits right with me; I would even describe myself as “addicted to being prepared”!

And so whether it’s my suitcase or my carry-on bag, as long as it’s mine, you can expect one thing: “Light” is never the term anyone would use to describe it.

But all jokes aside, my overpacking problem really has caused me some trouble — it’s a burden, both literally and figuratively. Keep reading as I share a few struggles I encounter as a traveller who can never seem to pack light.

1. Let’s start with the obvious — my bags are always heavy

explore, travel, overpacking woes: 6 struggles of a traveller who can never pack light

… Sometimes, even heavier than I can handle. Back and shoulder pain are no strangers to me, especially when I’m on the go. You might think that my overpacking woes end when I’m no longer in transit — but sadly, this isn’t true. Even when I’ve made it to my destination, my everyday bag still tends to be heavier than the average traveller’s. There are just too many things I can’t bear to leave behind!

2. Packing is always quite anxiety-inducing

explore, travel, overpacking woes: 6 struggles of a traveller who can never pack light

Image credit: Boyko Blagoev

Here’s the thing about having an overpacking problem: I’m fully aware of it, and while it might not seem like it, I am constantly trying to be better about it. I write down lists, I try to reduce the things I’d like to take with me. I’ve even stocked up on travel-sized everything just to make sure that my suitcase is never any heavier than it has to be!

But here’s the thing: Packing just enough is never an option for me. Being unprepared is never an option, so I don’t feel comfortable without backup. My train of thought always goes something like this: Let me add a few extra outfits in case the ones I chose don’t look as good on me as I hope they will; another pair of shoes in case I get blisters. Plus, another outfit for any unforeseen formal occasion. A book for when I have downtime — and why not bring my tablet, too? Oh, plus some heavy-duty makeup in case my skin decides to break out! The list goes on.

Up until my suitcase is finally zipped and locked, I constantly worry about keeping my luggage within the weight limit and having extra space for shopping and pasalubong. (Yes, to add to my packing problem, I’m quite the shopaholic, too! A killer combo, don’t you think?) Of course, on top of that, I worry that I’m packing more than I can carry. Sure, suitcases come with wheels and handles — but lifting my luggage before and after it’s scanned by security is always a problem. Not to mention, grabbing it from the luggage carousel!

3. Repacking can get incredibly frustrating

Trust me, I’ve tried everything — travel-sized bottles for my toiletries, packing cubes for all my things, rolling my clothes à la Marie Kondo, stuffing socks and other small clothing items into my shoes. But no matter how hard I try, repacking my things is always inevitable!

As I’m on my nth round of repacking and it feels like I’ve unloaded much of my suitcase’s contents, the amount of things I remove just never seems to be enough. For me, packing is an endless pursuit of perfection — never the pleasant, fleeting experience I hope for it to be. (And yes, I am fully aware of how dramatic I sound right now.)

And if you think this sounds like a nightmare, just imagine how much worse it is whenever I’m headed back home! As I’ve mentioned, I’m an avid shopper — plus, in typical Pinoy fashion, grabbing pasalubong for all my loved ones is never just optional.

4. For us with overpacking problems, winter travel is the enemy

explore, travel, overpacking woes: 6 struggles of a traveller who can never pack light

Image credit: Tech. Sgt. Jason Schaap

As a child of the tropics, the idea travelling someplace cold and wintry is often quite exciting — until I realise how many heavy coats I have to pack. Thanks to my overpacking woes, winter travel elicits a special kind of dread in me, especially when it comes to long-term visits to countries where temperatures fall below zero. Just one coat already sets me back a significant amount of luggage space — but of course I have to add one or two more, plus all my insulated gear! (Cue: panic, and lots of it.)

5. I dread seeing the looks on the faces of anyone who helps me carry my luggage

Let’s face it — with the amount of things I pack, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I often need help carrying my suitcases on planes, trains, and at the airport. As I’m quite the petite traveller, the chances that a kind stranger takes pity on me as I struggle to lift my suitcase are usually very high. And while I appreciate these acts of kindness, I can’t help but feel guilty every single time. (I mean, I packed my suitcase myself — I know just how heavy it is.)

I can always tell what they’re thinking — ”What the heck could this tiny girl possibly have stuffed inside her suitcase?” The looks on their faces always tell me so! And I can say that there is truth to this — my dad is one of the poor souls who’ve had to carry suitcases around for me time and time again. “What do you have in there?!” he’s asked me countless times, while jokingly putting on a pained expression. “I already took so many things out!” I always tell him, feeling extra embarrassed — imagine just how heavy my suitcase would have been if I kept it in its original state!

6. No matter how much I try, I can never seem to get the hang of packing light

explore, travel, overpacking woes: 6 struggles of a traveller who can never pack light

Image credit: Samuel Hansen

I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but packing light still seems like an impossibility for someone like me. The closest I’ve come has been packing the exact amount of things I need (admittedly, still not quite that light) — but let me tell you, it was very unsettling!

You know what they say — we should accept the things we can’t change, find the courage to change the things we can, and hopefully have the wisdom to know the difference. I’m Gaby, and I have an overpacking problem. It’s a challenge, but I’m definitely still trying to change this! How about you?

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