I took a three-week leave from work; it was my first long vacation in a while and I spent it with family mainly onboard a cruise ship, the SS Mariner.
As my darling husband will attest, I am a very thorough packer. It takes me around three hours to pack for a five-day trip, so you can imagine that pacing for this was epic! When I pack, I lay out the outfit I will be wearing for the day, complete with shoes, accessories, and (believe it or not) the makeup look, taking into consideration the itinerary, weather, and in this day and age of Facebook and Instagram, how it will all look in photographs. I also include options, just in case.
On this 21-day trip, I started assembling my outfits a week before leaving, carefully documenting the clothing combinations on my iPad. Because the trip was so lengthy and there was laundry service available on the ship, I tried to get the most out of each item by making sure they turned up on two to three ensembles. I packed only one pair of sandals (the other one I wore) because shoes take up so much room and I really wanted to save luggage space for shopping.
During the trip, I would wake up each morning and stare at my iPad (instead of my closet, which happens in my everyday life, when clothing is never this planned), deciding on what I felt like wearing that day. Naturally, some outfits were much better than others. Because I drew the line at trying on each outfit before they went into the suitcase, some looked better in my mind than on my body, like a long-sleeved denim button-down from Topshop, which I paired with trousers from Zara that were high-waist, wide-leg, and brick red (the shirt was too short and threw the outfit's proportion off).
I thought everyone packed this way, until my sister told me she just threw pieces she liked into her suitcase and worried about the pairing during the trip itself. She wore the items she bought almost immediately—a no-no for me (I have no rational reason, I just like to wear what I've planned). In fact, the only newly bought thing I wore was a rocker tee from the French high-street brand The Kooples, which I had intended to buy and was listed in my wardrobe plan. Oh, and my going-home clothes, too, but that was because by the end of the trip, after all the food tours and eat-all-you-can onboard the ship, I had, uh, trouble fitting into some of the other bottoms I brought along.
Travel is a great teacher and as much as I learned about history and other cultures, I learned lots about myself, too—like how I don't make the best shopping decisions under pressure. I normally don't travel like this, cramming five countries in one trip. I like staying in one place and getting to know its ins and outs. So when the tour bus had to leave in five minutes or when I know I would never chance upon this little corner boutique again, I succumbed. There were so many things I bought that I wish I hadn't and many more that, on hindsight, I wish I had bought. I believe I've said in this column many times before that I'm a shopper kind of traveler; that the pleasure I derive from a trip comes chiefly from the shopping experience. I know now that even if shopping was a bust on this epic Meditterranean sojourn, I survived—and loved every minute—of 21 days straight with family. Not everyone can say that.
*This article originally appeared in Preview Magazine's June 2013 issue.