Getting prepared for my first international trip in over two years, it occurred to me that I have forgotten how to pack.
I’m off to the Arctic, and I don’t know what people in Iceland wear.
I watched a very dark Nordic noir series set around Reykjavik to get some clues, but the protagonists were all wearing those scratchy Fair Isle sweaters and they make me feel hot and look fat, two things I am constantly trying to avoid.
I must admit I am a sucker for a theme, I get very literal.
I’ll be on a ship, so of course I’m thinking heavy navy pea coats and chunky, blue and white striped sweaters with lovely furry knee boots. That, of course, will take up half of the Samsonite before I put in the pyjamas.
The modern traveller wears layers. I get that it’s all performance-wear and high-tech and everything rolls into a ball in a backpack. But, given I’ve been inside with the ceiling fans on for the last two years, I’m confused.
After the North Pole, I’m going to Paris. I don’t think my thermal layers and sleeveless puffer vest made of recycled plastic are going to be quite the thing for lunch at Le Grand Véfour.
I have learned, from years of packing in Australia and arriving in Europe during the opposite season, that whatever snazzy outfit you packed is going to look horribly wrong.
I remember going to Paris several years ago, not during Fashion Week, but in civilian time, when everyone wasn’t clutching a Bottega Veneta handbag and wearing a dayglo fur balaclava.
I hated everything in my suitcase, so I spent two days in the café downstairs from my Airbnb trying to remember what I wore when I lived there in the ’90s, and observing the locals going about their business.
I did not want to wear some designer get-up that was making a statement. What I did need was some cool trainers, an oversized American Vintage cardigan, a shopping basket, jeans and a T-shirt.
I remember feeling sooo much better after I bought the cardigan, it was like my trip could begin and I could relax. There is really no point in taking fancy clothes all the way across the globe, wasting carbon points and lugging around heavy bags.
You only need basics that fit well, the clothes that you always reach for when you are feeling a bit bloated and glum, because guaranteed that is how you will feel after 32 hours in economy.
Then, if you need to add anything, you can buy it at your destination, a nice souvenir of your trip – a tote bag, a scarf, a hat, some earrings or a pair of sandals or even a scratchy sweater.
You will feel more at ease in your new surroundings than if you lug along the oversized hot pink pantsuit that looked fine at lunch in Bondi, but isn’t doing the same thing in Greenland.