Dispatch from Abroad: Sorrows of packing

As my time in Spain draws to an end, so begins the time to start packing. Packing, for me, has always been an illogically anxious trial in which I often have to try on all the clothes, shoes and headbands I plan on fitting into my suitcase. Then, I arrange all the clothes by color on my bed before transferring them. If the colors are off, I edit accordingly. If something doesn’t match, I leave it out.

My poor mother has watched me do this for years. Before I left for Spain, she watched me stress and stress and stress over what I needed to bring for the change in seasons, the excursions — everything. She never really helps me pack anymore. She just watches as I organize everything obsessively before anything actually touches the suitcase. It normally happens the night prior to or the morning of a big trip because I’ve procrastinated as long as possible. She’s mentioned that watching me pack only stresses her out more.

That being said, with nine days before I’m set to return to the States, my suitcase is staring at me. Packing for the weekend trip to Rome was simple. That evening, I threw a bunch of clothes in my backpack, grabbed a bottle of shampoo and slung it over my shoulder the next morning, set. Nothing to it. Packing for Ibiza was similar, the only difference being attire. Spring break was cake. Same deal. Backpack filled with clothes and a purse.

Suitcases are different. Suitcases have come to represent the act of leaving something behind rather than the act of discovering something new. You can’t take everything with you at the end of a wonderful experience. I can’t take Barcelona home with me. I can’t take these people and these landscapes back to the States, except in pictures and memories. Sometimes you just have to realize that life goes on even when you leave a place. Barcelona will continue to bustle after my plane takes off. Tourists will invade in the summer months and the Catalans will retreat to their cottages in the countryside along Costa Brava. Then, winter will come and things will ease back into monochrome normality.

I’ll be at Knox then, probably wishing for the mild Mediterranean winters of Barcelona — for the ease of knowing that strikes rule your class schedule, for the difference in pedagogical practice. University really is different across the pond. The work happens at exam time. The rest is just showing up. You have time to pack your weekends up in a carry-on and jaunt off to explore another city for a few days.

You have time to get used to the act of packing and the excitement that follows with unpacking.
Bigger trips are no different, in theory. Packing to return to the United States doesn’t mean that the adventure is over. Leaving behind Barcelona doesn’t mean that things are ending. Instead, it means that things are continuing on a different continent. Barcelona will always be there should I decide to plan a trip, pack up and return for a visit.

Elizabeth Guth

Tags:  barcelona Catalans Costa Brava Elizabeth Guth Ibiza Liz Guth Mediterranean packing Rome Spain suitcases

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