An Introduction To The “Traveler’s What If Syndrome”

Most of you don’t know my mother…  As I’m getting older, I get to know her so well… mostly because I start to (re)act like her so often!  She’s a relatively “practical” packer and packing the car for a weekend away at the chalet or to move my stuff to Montreal for university was for her like a Tetris game… yet she also suffers from what I call the “Traveler’s What If Syndrome” and I think she passed it on to me!

We don’t choose what we inherit from our parents…!

Traveler’s What If Syndrome – Semi-rational fear of not bringing something that could be useful, but that is definitely not essential.  This fear is generally expressed by saying or thinking “What if I want to… or What if I need to…”.  This generally causes luggage/backpack of excessive, useless weight and/or dimension.

Example: bringing 2 pairs of the same running shoes for a 3-month trip, triggered by the thought “What if I ruin one pair, my feet are so problematic, I’m so afraid I won’t find something good enough to keep on going” when it is illogical to think one will go through a pair of new sneakers in 3 months.

One of the method I developed to compensate is to check if the “What if” item I want to bring has a single purpose: if yes, then the item has decreased chances of making the final cut on my packing list.  For example, I never bring both thread and dental floss; I only carry unflavored, unwaxed floss that will do the trick for both use. (I don’t plan on doing any fancy clothing repair and I don’t want to waste that precious time; basic sewing should do the trick.)

“What are the chances that I will need that, without being able to find some locally”.  

Finding drinking water in a remote village in the desert in India is harder than in the heart of any city.  In the first case, I would definitely bring a water container and water purification tablets, but I probably wouldn’t if I was going for the city option.

As a Plus Size Traveler, clothing is always a major concern… but it is still not an excuse to let the Syndrome overcome you!  The idea is to bring comfortable, versatile, quick dry, small to pack, and wrinkle-free clothing… and everything must match!  Finding Plus Size clothing in many countries is not an easy task; that’s why I carry a decent (yet minimal!) number of clothing items that are quick to wash and air-dry, so I don’t have to think of clothes to wear while the rest is drying… which means way less stuff to pack!

Avoid solid/sturdy containers to carry your toiletries and other small items that we normally pack together.  A zipped/Velcro/buttoned fabric pouch or, for the even more minimalist, a thick ziptop bag, will do the trick; it takes less room and because its more flexible, you can fit it more easily in your luggage and, should that pouch/bag not be full, you will lose less space by squeezing it to reduce its volume.  (Eagle Creek makes great pouches, packing cubes, toiletry bags and other types of luggage organizer that are lightweight and durable.)

Do you “suffer” from the “Traveler’s What If Syndrome”?
Do you succumb to it or did you find ways to get around it?
Please share your tips with us!

1 Comment

  1. I’ve totally got this syndrome! First time I went to Europe I checked a HUGE suitcase and took a maximum-sized carry-on AND a purse….ps I came in like 20 lbs over the weight limit, surprise, surprise! Next time though, I just took a carry-on and a laptop case. This time I’m going for just a purse and a carry-on, which’ll be quite the feat because I’ve developed a soy allergy and I have to bring all sorts of food, so we’ll see how that goes!

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