Traveling by Stage

If you’re like me, and I always feel better if someone else is, the length of time you need to pack for a trip is just slightly less than the length of time you have available to do it in. You start out in the “I have all the time and room I need to pack whatever will make me feel at home while I’m away” phase of your journey. You still don’t want to do it though. 

So your packing begins as a leisurely, disorganized ritual, but soon degenerates into the “I have to get this done! Wait! Did I remember socks?” stage of your trip. That’s exactly what’s going through your mind as you sit on your suitcase, trying to zip it. You finally give up and toss a few things out. You won’t discover until later that you really need some of them—your pants, for example.

A similar situation arises when you pack your car. You do a fabulous job! You’re proud of yourself, and you should be. Everyone’s luggage fits! Unfortunately, the trunk won’t close. Or worse; you discover that you forgot to leave space for some very important items: your passengers. 

You take some things out of the car, rearrange, and put them back in—most of them anyway. You won’t realize until you reach your destination, exhausted and ready to rest, that your spouse’s suitcase is sitting forlornly in your driveway, waiting for your return. 

But that’s the furthest thing from your mind as you drive away from home. That’s because you’ve entered the “Did I lock the front door?” stage of your vacation, though locking the front door doesn’t begin to cover everything you’re imagining. As you get farther and farther from home, you start to wonder if someone left the space heater on, even though no one in the family has used it since December, and it’s now July. 

Then you wonder if you left the water running in the bathroom sink, even though you’ve never left the water running before. But, two hours from home, you’re convinced that you did, and that you probably left the drain plugged too, though you rarely plug the drain. You’re sure that, by this time, water is pouring over the side of the sink, and it will be for the duration of your trip. This is exactly the kind of stress that makes vacations so important.

You don’t mention your anxiety to anyone. You just snap at them. But they don’t suspect, because that’s what family vacations are for. And you resist the urge to turn back, so eventually you arrive safely at your destination. But you can’t relax yet. You’re now entering the, “Who cares if I left the water running; I forgot to pack pants,” phase of your trip. You dig through any baggage you remembered to bring—including the cooler. (In that last minute rush to finish packing, anything could have happened.) Then you dig through it all again. And again. No pants! Plus, after all the digging, your suitcase looks like your laundry basket back home. Living out of a suitcase is hard enough; living out of laundry basket is even tougher, though I’m not sure why. You’ve been doing it for years. 

Despite everything, you’re having a pleasant vacation. It would be even better if you weren’t spending so much of it shopping for everything you left behind, and better still if your spouse didn’t keep reminding you of the fact. 

At last it’s time to head home. You’re now entering the final stages of your journey: the “It all fit in the car before. Why doesn’t it fit now?” phase. It will be several more hours before you enter the “Did anyone remember to grab my suitcase?” stage.