I’m getting ready to spend about 2 and a half weeks in Japan, traveling around in a van with Philly (Fawnlog’s sports writer) and his band, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. I’m very excited! I got to go to Japan with them last summer, and while I had a great time, I think there are some things I can do better, specifically when it comes to packing for the trip.
My biggest fear is that an airline will lose my bag and I’ll have to wear the clothes I wore on the plane the entire time I’m in Japan. So I’m going to fit everything in one carry on bag. To help figure out how to do this, I turned to the most wonderful resources on the internet– Lifestyle blogs! Unfortunately, the blogs I found were either totally unhelpful (pack everything in Mason jars with a little sprig of mint from your garden!) or almost helpful, but clearly geared toward a different type of lady (pack 6 maxi-dresses and 20 statement necklaces, pack day wedges for sight-seeing and evening wedges for clubbing).
I don’t have any maxi dresses or statement necklaces. If you have those things I admire you, but I’m almost 28 and I’m learning to face the fact that I will never be a glamorous traveler lady with cool dresses. So here’s what I came up with:
How to pack two-ish weeks worth of stuff in a carry on bag for people who are not very glamorous but are still interested in looking OK and feeling fairly cool around really cool Japanese people.
(Note: I tried to take all the picture in the style of popular lifestyle blogs)
Get a rolling carry-on-approved size suitcase. Last time I went to Japan I packed everything in a duffel bag my dad got for free at a labor union convention. It was the perfect size, but dragging that thing around the streets of Matsuyama jacked up my back for several weeks. Sorry, dad! Rolling suitcases are the way to go. I got this one at Target:
It’s exactly the maximum allowed carry on size and it fits in the overhead bin.
Later I went to TJ Maxx and saw better suitcases for cheaper, so you should probably go there.
Think carefully about your pants. Pants take up lots of space and are also totally vital. I think I can do the whole trip with just two pairs of pants, but only if I know I can count on them. Don’t head over with untested pants! Last time I brought a really cool pair of dark blue skinny chinos (that description sounds hideous, but they look cool) only to discover that after 12 hours on a plane they had totally stretched out and looked terrible. They were useless! Sorry, cool pants, but you don’t make the cut.
To avoid that kind of horrible surprise, I’m only bringing pants whose qualities I have tested.
The key with both of these pairs of pants is that they either look kind of cool stretched out (top pair) or maintain their shape pretty well (bottom pair). The top pair I wore the whole time I was in Japan after my other pants ended up being a joke (see photo), so I know they work. The bottom pair I tested by wearing every day for two weeks at home.
Only bring shirts you already wear.
Sometimes I buy clothes because I want to be the type of person who wears those clothes: silk shirts and pencil skirts, hand-wash-only items, etc. These are things I imagine truly successful people own and wear. They are aspirational items, and I buy them in the hopes that if I own these things I will become successful. Then I end up wearing the same salad dressing stained pants and wrinkled shirts every day anyway, but with a feeling of shame and failure.
DON’T BRING THOSE ASPIRATIONAL THINGS WITH YOU. Just bring the shirts you actually wear, not things that make you think, “You know, the reason I haven’t worn this shirt is because I haven’t had a really good excuse to. I bet this shirt will totally make sense in Shibuya. I’ll pack it and then I’ll have to wear it!”
You will not wear it. You can’t escape who you really are. Look yourself in the eye (use a mirror) and come to terms with the shirts you wear the most often, and then bring those. Like 8 t-shirts, three button-ups, and a sweatshirt.
Shoes. Oh jeez, this is hard.
My brother Charlie studied in Japan and when he came home he was obsessed with foot odor. He said this was because his fellow American students had the worst smelling feet, which he was constantly in contact with due to the Japanese etiquette of taking off your shoes inside. In my experience, Japanese people have zero foot odor, but also in my experience my feet sometimes smell awful, especially when I’m wearing a particular pair of flats from Payless. Oh GOD, I really don’t want to be the smelly-footed American!
Taking Charlie’s advice, I bought odor-absorbing insoles and put them in the shoes I’m bringing. I also got some brand new socks (you never know when a pair of socks that’s technically clean will suddenly, with the right combination of moisture and shoe confinement, unleash a long-contained stench) and a new pair of cheapy cotton flats (not from Payless).
Other lifestyle blogs say you should never bring new shoes on a trip because what if you get blisters? I don’t even care. Fine, I’ll get blisters. Bandaids are available in Japan, I’ll cover my blisties and keep going. I would so much rather have blisters than smelly feet.
I’m also considering road-testing an idea I heard on NPR’s “Doctor Zorba On Your Health,” (Do you guys like Doctor Zorba? He’s the best!) about wearing deodorant on your feet.
I’m really worried about the foot thing, guys.
That’s actually pretty much it. I’ll let you know how it goes!