Roses and the Value of “Packing Heavy”

As you know, this is my “year of roses” – a time devoted to me figuring out how to live my values on an everyday, practical level. Life is so much more than a paycheck (quite an important part of this Diva’s life, to be sure, but quite far from being the only thing that matters!) and it’s so, so easy to lose our way in that particular wood.

I’m spending this week at an academic conference. Plenty of people who go to conferences as part of their job complain mightily about them and certainly the disruption of routine can be jarring. (Not to mention that, at least in my case, I’m still quick-checking work email and that sort of thing.) I would gently point out to these folks that – perhaps – a deliberate change in attitude can shift what can be a irritant into something that can be viewed as a delight.

Case in point – this conference is a long way from home, across two time zones. Getting here involved switching planes in Atlanta and a rain delay. But – because I’ve mastered the art of “packing heavy” – it actually wasn’t bad at all.

Stick with me, here.

In my younger days, I prided myself on my ability to “pack light” – I once packed for a ten-day trip across four European countries in a backpack – and this was the late 1980s, so probably a third of that space was taken up with cosmetics and mousse!

And that was then. THEN I also would pinch every penny and sacrifice comfort by sleeping in some-admittedly dodgy youth hostels for the equivalent of $12 a night. THEN I could dance until two a.m., go to the after party, and still make a 9:00 train to Vienna. THEN I could eat pastry, drink wine until you were charming, and still lose five pounds over the weekend.

I very much enjoyed those days, but today is different. NOW when I travel, I pack heavy, for my comfort is very much key to my having a good time.

For Christmas, my Beloved gave me an artist’s backpack – think of it as a Swiss Army knife for the traveler who paints. It’s crammed with compartments, brush holders, space for a laptop, and charger cable pass-throughs. This was, without a doubt, an incredibly thoughtful and loving gift – after all, I’m very much a newbie artist and having the support of those around me – well, the importance of that cannot be overstated. So I checked a suitcase and assembled this as my carry-on.

Since discovering the importance of “packing heavy,” I use a lot of bags to keep things organized and the backpack contained brushes, paper, paints, various other tools like tape and an eraser, and a book with some projects to consider. I also included a throw-sized blanket, bunny slippers (yes, people might have stared, but I was far more comfortable on that three-hour flight and I changed back to my boots before deplaning), a bag with Airborne, lip balm, and face mist (airplane cabins are so dry!), my conference presentation and laptop, some snacks, and a book.

This is not travelling light. It is, however, travelling for comfort. Once in my hotel room, I set up my space, looked around at what I needed and set out to get it. It’s a nice hotel and very polite asks at my age often achieve results – they may think that I’m a bit of a Southern eccentric when I ask for a small pitcher of milk for the coffee machine instead of the powdered creamer (ick!) that they provide and the hotel restaurant management may have thought I was a touch peculiar for asking for a ceramic mug and some salt (the salt’s for painting – it soaks up pigment and can give you some lovely, unpredictable results – the image on the left is an example of that technique that I worked with yesterday in between conference panels), but they kept their opinions to themselves and I was well on my way to having a comfortable home base. Please note – the key to this part is to be unfailingly kind. No one HAS to help you out here – that’s why you pack heavy – but often people WILL because (a) most guests – more’s the pity – aren’t especially kind to reception/waitstaff folks and (b) people enjoy feeling like they’re helping out with something a touch out of the ordinary. Be kind and remember that you might not get everything  you ask for, but that if you don’t ask, you’re sure to get none of it.

Right around the corner from the hotel is a florist – I found them when I first came to the conference (gulp!) 14 years ago. There’s nothing like fresh flowers to make a room seem luxurious, so I budget for a cut bouquet – and I made sure to include roses! It’s quite pretty – the store made a bit of a fuss over me when I explained why I was buying myself flowers (the bouquet cost less than dinner at the hotel restaurant) – and I’ll leave it for the housekeeping staff who’s doing a superior job of keeping me loaded up with fancy toiletries and coffee.

More on the conference itself – and the importance of “clearing the brush” for those behind you – soon. For now, my Divas, remember that you deserve to take up room. Don’t apologize for being particular about what gives you comfort and remember to be kind to those around you.

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