Friday, December 14, 2007

Like, Um, What Are You Wearing?

So do you ever have the Forest Through the Trees problem? I do. And it happens to me most often when I’m in the middle of planning something huge. I tend to get fixated on the wrong thing, and then there I am, stuck and fixated on this wrong thing, and I can’t get unstuck or un-fixate until I’ve dealt with whatever I’m stuck on.

Some of you may remember that this happened when I was planning my wedding. There I was, twenty-four years old, just finished my first year of law school, about to make the biggest commitment of my life, and the only thing I could think about was the fact that the chairs at our reception venue were ugly. And to be fair, I’m not talking run-of-the-mill ugly. I’m talking straight-up, flat-out, UGLY, ugly. Fugly. And even though Julie assured me that no one was going to be looking at the chairs, and my dad assured me that there was no way in hell that he was paying for chair covers, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fugliness of those chairs. They haunted me, those chairs. Ultimately, I managed to pull my head out of my ass and realized that chairs were low on my list of priorities next to such important things like, oh, the fact that I was getting married. But there was a time there, a shameful, egocentric time, when chair covers mattered a lot more than the vows I was about to take.

The chair covers incident became a marker for me. Whenever I find myself getting fixated on the wrong thing, I tell Matt that I’m being all "chair covers" about it. But now that I’m the one making most of the decisions in my life, I have the luxury of being all "chair covers" about something without having to worry that I’m going to screw up my dad’s idea of the perfect wedding by demanding that chairs be covered at the expense of feeding his guests, or something.

Lizzi, get to the point! Okay. Here it is: I’m coming clean about my chair covers incidents for the trip. There were two. Yes, I know, TWO. But these two particular chair covers incidents were enormous to me. So huge, in fact, that I dreamed about them, night after night. And here, in a moment of cathartic revelation, I am going to share them with you.

Chair cover # 1: Wedding Bands
Yes, Matt and I are already married. And yes, we have perfectly acceptable wedding bands that we wear every day. Except when we go to bars and take them off. Just kidding! Ha! Fooled you. Anyway, wedding rings. I love my wedding ring. But somewhere many, many months ago I read some stupid thing on some stupid website about the fact that we shouldn’t wear our actual wedding rings on this trip. And I got it into my head that we needed NEW wedding rings and that they needed to be gold wedding rings and that they needed to match. As if we don’t look enough like Americans already, right? Right. So I spent weeks, WEEKS people, looking online for wedding rings. Um, I found them. Online. They’re fine. And ever since we got them in the mail, I’ve totally and completely forgotten about my incessant obsession with wedding rings. Oddly, the space leftover in my brain did not immediately make room for physics equations as you might think it should. It moved onto obsession number 2.

Chair cover # 2: Like, um, what are YOU wearing?
Clever readers will notice that this is the very same title of this post. Clever readers will realize that this was the crux of my issue for several months of planning this trip. And even cleverer readers will realize that it took me THIS long just to make the point I set out to make in the beginning here. I have GOT to get better at sticking to my point.

So here’s the thing: when you’re leaving on a trip like this, you can only take a backpack. One backpack. And as the name implies, you carry the backpack on your, uh, back. So it has to be as light as possible. When you factor in the fact that you have to carry a pharmacy with you for all of the just-in-case illnesses you might acquire, as well as seven different Lonely Planet guides, a computer and two cameras, you quickly realize that you cannot, under any circumstances, take too many clothes. And even more disastrous, you must limit your choice of shoes. If you are me, and you get stuck on stupid shit like what you’re supposed to wear to a temple in Thailand, this clothing issue becomes a catastrophe. And the catastrophe mounts into a full-on chair covers incident. And then you find yourself staying up late revising your “List of Things to Pack” and telling Matt that if you only take one pair of yoga pants instead of two, you can take two pairs of shorts, even though you really don’t like shorts all that much anyway.

And then, if you’re lucky, help finds you. And it finds you in the form of one lovely world-traveler named Holly. Holly can be found at where she wittily writes about life and travel and love and The Bachelor. She’s a seriously gifted writer, and I don’t mind at all if you go over there and read her blog more than you read mine. I would if I was sitting on the other side of the computer.

So a little over a year ago, Holly and her partner went on a trip that was really similar to ours. You can read all about it in her archives, brilliantly titled “Travel—Or How I Lived on $10 A Day For Three Months.” I did. I read every single post she wrote about that trip. I read them so closely that I felt like I was EATING her posts. Because there she was, traveling about, enjoying it, and seemingly not at all worried about what she was wearing. And I knew right then and there that I HAD to email her. So I did. I emailed a perfect stranger and told her about my chair covers and asked her to please help me. Holly delivers, people. She delivers. She wrote me back within a few days and gave me a list of things I’d want to take with me, assured me that it was okay to take more than one pair of flip-flops, and generally just wrote my packing list for me.

These are my favorite excerpts from her email, which I printed out and ate, just in case that would help me:

Okay, as to what sort of clothes I brought with me, I'll tell you this: NOTHING WHITE. Seriously, you can't imagine it right now, but ANYTHING white that you bring will get dirty within three seconds of you putting it on.

You will bring WAY more than you need. You just will. And I would encourage you to really, really, really try not to -- you'll end up wearing the same things over and over and over again anyway, so you really don't need that much variety.

I also brought a pashmina, which I found invaluable, since it doubled as a wrap when it was cold, a cover-up in temples, and a blanket on buses. (So I guess it tripled. But whatever.)

I mean, she’s a genius, right? I have never met this woman, and she lives all the way across the country in sunny California. But I’m so not even kidding when I tell you that she’s partly responsible for my sanity right now. Because I’m glancing over at my pack, filled with all of the things that she told me to take, all of which worked beautifully on their test-trip to Africa, and I’m feeling calm, and as though all of my chairs are covered. Now it’s just a matter of donning those new wedding bands, putting all of those clothes on my back, and reminding myself that the point behind all of the madness is actually way more exciting than the madness.

No comments: