Sometimes, I like to play:  What kind of random crap do I have in my bag today?

This came up a lot last weekend when I was in Portugal, because my friends discovered that I am a walking Swiss army knife.  In other words, I am a worst-case-scenario traveller.  A good bit of that comes from my lunatic ex-husband, who was the consummate worst-case-scenario guy; who had taken out more insurance than any human being could ever need.  His motto was, like the Coast Guard, Semper Preparis:  always prepared.

When we divorced, I discovered he had gazillions of dollars of insurance out on me.  On us.  Umbrella policies.  Life insurance.  Whatever you could insure, he’d done it.  Eleventy billion in renter’s insurance, in case we had a party and someone fell down.  By then, we’d stopped having parties.  Have you ever been to a party where the hosts are in marital distress? 

Those days were straight out of a Woody Allen movie.  If Woody could write WASPs.

I digress.  We were talking about a different kind of baggage.

Today, in my bag, I have my work Moleskine, my personal Moleskine, a handful of work papers, an umbrella, two kinds of snacks, two kinds of analgesics, a pocket mirror, three lipsticks, eight pens, a packet of personal stationery, a sleeve of Nuun, four hotel keys (the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong; the Dorchester; Claridges; and some weird hotel in Frankfurt whose key doesn’t have any markings and I keep mistaking for my building pass).  I have a small wallet with my business cards and “emergency” euro and sterling.  And a Nalgene looped around the handle.

Oh, and my current bag has a map of Lisbon sitting at the bottom.

This sounds like Quite a Lot.  This isn’t even the half of it.  I switch totes frequently, and each one contains a plastic baggie with lipsticks, sunscreen, etc.; easily removed at airport security.

The hotel keys…I have no excuses.  They just sink to the bottom; I come across them every now and again; I consider tossing them; they take up so little space that I forget about them until they again resurface.

So we were in Portugal over the weekend, and I was carrying one of my familiar totes.  There’s a part of me that’s not happy without a bit of baggage.  I used to like the feeling of complete freedom, but when I got stuck out in California in 2009, I started longing for weird things like the sight of my cutlery.  It was then that I began engaging in odd actions like carrying around certain of my belongings like a security blanket.  (Not the cutlery, mind you.)

This, I think, is how people become hoarders.  For me, what’s in my tote is less hoarding and more of a fact of constant motion.  Travel means headaches; muscle pain from uncomfortable seats; eating schedules out of whack.  Dehydration.  I still marvel that anyone is surprised that I’ve got a bag of tricks on me to combat most of the ordinary travel complaints.  How else do you think I remain in constant motion?  Magic?

No, silly.  Foresight.  Planning.  Semper preparis.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Lisbon was beautiful. 

Hot, dry, filled with sunshine and seafood.  I’d gone on the trip because I liked most of the bands we were going to see (the actual object of the trip was a music festival — I don’t think I ever mentioned that); I adored the friends going; I relished the prospect of an adventure in a city to which I’d never travelled.  But I travel a lot — so much that it sometimes makes my head spin.  I feel guilty for leaving my dog; I feel unmoored because I don’t know how to balance a life in New York, or abroad.

How does a woman make people understand she cares without smothering; without giving the wrong impression?  What is the right impression?  Is there a way to do this right; am I doing this wrong?

As it turns out, there is no insurance policy I can buy to save me from myself.  And while I have stocked and balanced the perfect bag of tricks to handle jetlag; hangovers; blisters; injuries; travel-weariness; sunburn — I have not quite figured out what I can put in my tote to take the edge off of being human, short of a giant bottle of whisky.  And that, gentle readers, cannot easily be taken through airport security — which would obviously crimp my style.

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