The Attic on Eighth Packing List
Here at the Attic on Eighth, we love to travel, whether it’s to go on holiday with family, to fly to another country to present at a conference, or a rare chance to see friends across a body of water or two. Traveling, we believe, should be a second nature, a way to pick up our belongings and take off in comfort, knowing we have everything we need to see what else is out there in the world, and where we might belong in it. As such, we like to take inspiration from another writer who hit the road frequently and with a purpose – Joan Didion. After all, who can read Didion’s non-fiction without wanting to pack their bags and head out into the world, ready to take notes and better connect to other human beings? Needing to travel frequently when she worked as a reporter, Didion kept a packing list taped inside her closet door so that she could “pack, without thinking, for any piece I was likely to do.” Everything on her list was anonymous enough – practical but versatile and chic. Commenting on her list in The White Album (1979), she jokes that she had everything she needed on her list except for one important item that she never got: a watch. “In other words I had skirts, jerseys, leotards, pullover sweater, shoes, stockings, bra, nightgown, robe, slippers, cigarettes, bourbon, shampoo, toothbrush and paste, Basis soap, razor, deodorant, aspirin, prescriptions, Tampax, face cream, powder, baby oil, mohair throw, typewriter, legal pads, pens, files and a house key, but I didn’t know what time it was. This may be a parable, either of my life as a reporter during this period or of the period itself.”
Taking Joan Didion as inspiration, we’ve compiled our own list, customizing to meet the needs of today’s 20-something cultural critic, writer, and academic. Follow it below and read on for the things each of us can’t travel without (and think about what your watch may be)!
Three Items I Can’t Travel Without: a fun book, a scarf, medications
While I love to use a trip, no matter its purpose, as an excuse to dress my best, my travel essentials are far more practical. A generally anxious person, I like to make sure that whenever I embark on a long trip – especially a long flight! – I have a book with me that’s guaranteed to engage me for hours. I like to do my research before leaving, sometimes putting aside a new book from a favorite author or something I’ve been dying to read if I know I have a trip coming. I also like to take along a book of essays or short stories so that I can break up my reading if need be. Nora Ephron and Joan Didion are both favorites for this. With those, I know I’m set to wrap myself up in a scarf cocoon (cotton or wool, depending on the season) and read away for however many hours I’m on the road (or more likely in my case, on the rails or in the air). A modernly anxious person, my most important travel accessory these days is a pouch (red, leather) full of any medication or supplement I may need for however long I’m gone, whether it’s for a day or a month. (Often, this pouch includes a pack of sour gummy bears to help curb motion sickness – a trick I picked up from Raquel.)
Three Items I Can’t Travel Without: thermal water, a hoodie, and a Hozier playlist
If I’m travelling by plane and my destination is a warm place, then thermal water is my n.1 travel friend. And if summer sun beats mercilessly, then spraying some of it on your face or arm can give a much needed release from the heat. The air conditioning on planes tends to dry your skin so some hydration boost is often needed anyway. The intense air conditioning can also stop me from resting and can even cause me ear pain, so I always bring a hoodie with me to protect my ears. Then, because I like to take naps on planes and, and I am usually on relatively short flights (from 2 to 4 hours), I tend not to bring a pillow with me. A hoodie however allows me to create my own cocoon, which helps me to rest more comfortably and is perfect when I turn to my relaxing playlists to further tune out – which, being as obsessed with Hozier as everyone else, let’s face it, often consists of hours of his sublime melodies.
Three Items I Can't Travel Without: a handkerchief, foldable tote bag, probiotics/vitamin c.
This isn’t the most glamorous of lists but for me the greatest priority of travel is making sure nothing goes wrong once I get there so that I can fully enjoy my holiday, be it falling ill or being ill equipped for a small disaster, and so these are the items I’ve come to carry over the years for those cases. I live with a handkerchief in my bag at all times whether I’m flying across the Atlantic or running out for groceries, because the truth is I have sensitive eyes that cry sporadically and seasonal allergies year round that have me sneezing at least once a day. Paper tissues build up and I hate the texture of them anyway so I’ve got a small collection of vintage and handmade cotton handkerchiefs that never fail me (I give them a quick wash in the restroom sink and hang to dry overnight — think of it as more old world and Wharton-esque instead of being paranoid at the thought of it being unsightly or unclean, which it’s not). Travel can also wreck my immune system, so I go with a small cache of dedicated over-the-counter meds that work for me, the most important being an enzyme probiotic that soothes my sensitive stomach so I can enjoy the local food without worry, and vitamin c packets for whenever I start to feel sluggish. A folding cotton tote is another item I just have on me all of the time — they save plastic, carry more, and make it easy to transport souvenirs, book purchases, or in one case the entire contents of my bag, which had tragically, completely fallen apart during the course of my travels.
Three Items I Can’t Travel Without: socks, a small over the shoulder bag, a magazine or newspaper
Like Raquel, I like to be prepared on my trips. I always keep a spare pair of socks in my carry on bag, even if I’m traveling somewhere warm. I like to take my shoes off on long flights but I’m not a monster, so obviously I will put socks on for hygienic reasons (and planes are always cold!). My feet also get very dry, especially if I’ve been in the sea and on sandy beaches all day, so I like to wash my feet at the end of the day, lather them in lotion, and put socks on to lock the moisture in. Still on the practical side and having learned from countless panic attacks looking for my passport in my huge handbag, I’ve now started traveling with a small over the shoulder bag where I keep my passport, boarding pass, and phone. It’s so much handier and I know where my most important items are at all times - plus if I run into a strict staff member who maintains a “one small bag” carry-on policy, I can just pop the small bag into my big one. On the plane and as I travel, I do my best to keep my screen time minimal. Especially when I have no phone service, I hate to be just mindlessly messing around on my phone. I’ll always bring the latest New Yorker or New York Times with me to read – it’s a more relaxed way of reading the news as I travel, plus it just looks more sophisticated, don’t you think?
Three Items I Can’t Travel Without: my iPad, a foldable tote, a teddy bear
I am the sort of person who makes lists when I travel and then subdivides those lists into other lists. And yet I often manage to forget something. Luckily, these days you can buy almost anything everywhere but I find that it can sometimes be hard to find a good book when you race through all the ones you brought with you. On my iPad I have hundreds of books available to me through the Kindle account I share with my mum,plus games to play when I can’t concentrate on reading. When I say I can’t travel without a foldable tote, I mean I literally don’t go anywhere without one. It saves on plastic, is a great way to carry around a cardigan or jacket if it gets too hot, and means that I can just chuck the essentials in there, so they’re easier to find. Like Lauren, this is my tactic to avoid last minute panics at the gate and it can just be put into my bigger bag if needs be. Finally, the last item on my list will surprise exactly nobody who knows me. I have a large collection of soft toys and I still sleep with one; it eases my anxiety like nothing else. If I’m on a rough ferry or a turbulent flight, I have absolutely no qualms about taking out a small teddy bear and giving it a cuddle to help me stay calm. There’s nothing embarrassing about a coping mechanism if it means I can travel alone. Sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
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