This is an ode to my raincoat. My favourite article of clothing to bring out before a trip. It is the most un-glamorous, least Instagrammable raincoat out there- no bright colours, no quirky trim, no cute, patterned lining. It is grey. It is plain. It is function over fashion. And it is my most reliable, comforting travel buddy. I love it. It was one of the first things I bought for my maiden solo trip abroad, and it’s been on every holiday since.
Recently I conducted a very scientific* poll via my Instagram story about travellers’ packing habits. Whenever I talk to people, it seems there are two camps at opposite ends of the spectrum: those who pack everything under the sun (and then some, because who knows?) and those who pack a few, trusty favourites that can be worn and re-purposed in multiple ways. I am definitely the latter, although I used to be a “just in case” packer. Over the course of several trips, I have learned to whittle down my essentials; it is freeing to see just how little you need, how your life can be confined to one small suitcase and you still don’t feel as if you’re missing anything.
Like I said, I am a reformed packer. I used to lay out everything I might-possibly-maybe (or more likely, maybe never) need before putting them in a suitcase without a second thought. What if we went out for a nice meal? I might need heels, even though heels, for me, are the most impractical thing to bring on holiday. (Can you say twisted ankle on cobblestones?) What if I spilled something on my shirt every day? Maybe I should pack twice as many shirts as days? The opportunities for wardrobe dysfunction whilst on holiday were myriad, and I didn’t want to be caught unprepared. I suppose I also fell victim to the idea of “holiday dressing”, the admittedly self-involved thought that I’ll probably have my picture taken more often than I do in my day-to-day life, so I’ll want a different outfit for every day, right?
Ultimately my carefully planned out “looks” never came to fruition. I was too deliriously jetlagged, too excited and eager to get out and see and do things. I didn’t have the patience or self-discipline to “dress up”. (I don’t have it in me to do this on a regular basis, so I don’t know why I ever thought I would do it on vacation.) I found myself reaching again and again for simple, well-made pieces that I could mix and match, dress up or down. It was also imperative they could hide any stains or dirt I might encounter.
Now I accept my travel habits. To me, it’s not worth packing anything I will only wear once on a trip (unless I know ahead of time I have an event/activity that will warrant a specific piece). I wish sometimes I were better organised in planning and packing, but I also know how I am when I travel. I want to be comfortable and present in the moment and feel like what I’m wearing could handle anything I might want to do that day (walk 9 miles sightseeing, stand in line in the rain for an art gallery, hike up a mountain for a great photo op). I don’t want to miss out because I’m not dressed for it. What I actively experience around me is much more interesting to me than anything I’m wearing.
My raincoat makes me feel like this, that no matter what happens, I will be prepared. If it’s tipping down with rain, I can carry on with my day. If it’s sunny and warm and I have no need for it, it’s light enough for me to ball up and stuff into a backpack or even my handbag. And because I’ve always brought it with me, the raincoat itself has fond memories. I love finding old ticket stubs in the pockets and being transported back to a particular moment.
And now I love the ritual that comes with bringing out my trusty raincoat, as if it’s an old friend turning up for another adventure. It hasn’t let me down yet.
[*not very scientific at all]