Kandy Botanical Gardens - Sri Lanka 2016

The Packing Matrix

In my last post I hinted at adding two fancy new stamps to my passport: Sri Lanka and the Republic of Maldives. Cue celebratory “Woo Girl” giddiness.

Today, I’m writing to you from Gulhi, a Maldivian island (population: 800) about an hour south of the national capital of Malé. The rain chased me out of my beachfront lounge chair and into my room, so I figured it’s high time for a bit of travel blogging.

To ward off reader fatigue, I’ve decided to break up my travels into a series of blog posts. As is storytelling etiquette, let’s start at the beginning. To kick things off, I’m tackling the necessary evil of any jet-setting adventure: packing.

The Packing Matrix

Warning: this is about to get geeky.

Maybe it’s my psychology background, but I love searching for patterns in human behaviour. Eating habits, sleeping habits, and–believe it or not–packing habits. That’s how I came up with The Packing Matrix: a 2×2 grid of How People Pack.

The grid comprises two axes: Timeliness and Quantity.

Under Timeliness, you have:

A. Proactive Packers (a la “sooner rather than later”) and
B. Reactive Packers (a la “leave it to the last possible second”).

Under Quantity, you have:

A. Under-Packers (those who pack only the bare essentials, if that) and
B. Over-Packers (those who convince themselves that everything–even the ratty t-shirt that should have hit the bin years ago–is an essential travel item).

From my experience, there is no such thing as a Perfect Packer (someone capable of placing the exact right items into a suitcase at the exact right time). Instead, people fall into one of four camps:

  • Proactive Under-Packers (PUP);

  • Proactive Over-Packers (POP);

  • Reactive Under-Packers (RUP); and

  • Reactive Over-Packers (ROP).

So what kind of packer is the Little Writer?

The Little Writer is a… Reactive Over-Packer (ROP) 

Wamp, wamp.

Put simply, I suck at packing. No matter how hard I try or which controls I enforce, I am always, always scrambling to pack my suitcase mere moments before I’m due at the airport. What’s worse is that I’ve adopted a bad habit masked as a good intention where, in the days leading up to my departure, I fill my bag with items I’m pretty sure I’ll need. I tell myself I’ll have oodles of time to sit down and critically review my selections, but do you think I actually sit down and do that? Nope. Instead, I—in a mad panic—stuff everything (and then some) into my pack, never sure of what did or didn’t make the cut.

Case in point: it wasn’t until I was sitting in the Melbourne airport, about to board for three-and-a-half weeks of balmy 30+ degree weather, that I realized I didn’t bring sandals. I paid for this mistake in Kuala Lumpur when an airport sales associate gouged my wallet for a pair of Havianas, the only flip-flops that fit my narrow, child-sized feet. Facepalm.

The Silver Lining…

Believe it or not, there is a silver lining! Over the years of trying in vain to squeeze my life into a suitcase, I’ve refined a list of essentials you’ll find nested amongst my many non-essentials. These include:

  • A blanket scarf. I run cold, so this is one item I’ll always make room for in my pack.
  • Plastic bags. These are great for wet/dirty clothes, keeping snacks bug-free, and storing toiletries like shampoo and body wash.
  • Bandages. I’ve learned the hard way that these aren’t always as easy to find as you might think. That, and I’m a total klutz.
  • A dry sack. Especially if I’m traveling to the water, this is a must to keep valuables like a phone, camera, or (in my case) notebook dry.
  • Headphones. Music and audiobooks get me through long, tiresome travel days. At the moment I’m relying on my Apple headphones, but I’ve got my eye on these pretties from Beats by Dre…
  • Granola bars. …because hanger is real, you guys.
  • Leggings. Why wear jeans when you can wear leggings? This pair from lululemon is a wardrobe staple, whether or not I’m on the move.

Tell me: what are YOU—a PUP, a POP, a RUP, or a ROP? What travel essentials can’t you leave the house without?

Up next: an overview of my Sri Lankan and Maldivian travel itinerary.

Until then,


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