Fail to prepare, prepare to fail; packing for a month away from home

I’ve always thought it ironic how a relaxing week away on holiday requires at least two weeks of chaos both post and prior. The stress endured requires several days of lying alone in a darkened room to recover. So imagine me, a person with levels of chill last seen on Kim Kardashian losing her diamond earring in the sea, preparing for a month in previously uncharted territory. It’s been a struggle for everyone around me.

The month leading up to our trip to Dubai, Vietnam and Hong Kong has included significant disruption at home owing to having a new kitchen installed. Now, I love an Indian takeaway and a Sainsbury’s sandwich meal deal as much as anyone (actually, Sainsbury’s meal deals are shockingly poor value these days but it’s the only supermarket I can be bothered to walk to), but not every day and not as your only option. Our kindly family have fed us on pretty much alternate days, but I feel a low point in my culinary life has been microwaving pasta ready meals on the sitting room floor and making endless cups of builders tea in the bathroom. They’ve eaten me out of Jaffa cakes.

Adding to my packing/organisational/life stress in February, I prepared my skin for our month in the sun by spending four fabulous days with two of my best girls in Gran Canaria. This required probably unnecessary and expensive levels of buffing, waxing, polishing, dyeing, cutting, and shopping, but I reasoned that this would see me through March too. I hastily purchased a whole new wardrobe from ASOS, and when that wasn’t sufficient clothing, from Accessorize at Newcastle airport. It turned out I don’t own any summer or beachwear whatsoever now that I live in the frozen North.

I’ve also established that if you haven’t spent £195 and an hour on Snapchat in front of the mirror, was it even an ASOS delivery?

Contrary to our usual way we were desperately uneducated about Vietnam before stepping off the plane. Guide books had been purchased and promptly lost under the sea of unbuilt kitchen cabinets filling the flat.

Dubai felt familiar to me having stayed in Kuwait and Bahrain twice respectively as a teenager. I knew it would be hot outside but icy cold in the air conditioning, I knew I would be looked at if I didn’t have my shoulders, chest and legs covered, I knew I would feel like the frumpiest Jelly Baby there ever was surrounded by the hordes of designer handbags and immaculate eyeliner. Ihadn’t  anticipated the force of the heat and humidity in Vietnam though. I spent the first day feeling like I may faint if I didn’t immediately sit in a cold bath. I’m yet to see what HK will bring!

I promise you, this is not a post about fashion. My style (if you can call it that) is a mix of Sensible by Marks and Spencer meets things I’ve seen teenagers wearing on Instagram so bought the chubby adult version from Next, all in varying shades of blue.

An urgent text to the group chat read: “Girls, quick, I’m in Claire’s Accessories. Are chokers still in?” The response: “Yes, but leave immediately. You are 26 years old.” Arguably too old for a diamanté One Direction pencil case and a rainbow tutu, I bought 3 chokers including a sensible waterproof one, just so I’d never be without the only accessory keeping me in 2017.

So here’s what Hopeless-at-clothes Sophie packed for the month away:

  • Three white t shirts, all different, all now too tight. Who knew beer and rice were so fattening?
  • One navy blue t-shirt with gypsy (?) sleeves, flamingo print. Slightly too short. Next.
  • One pair denim shorts, the only pair I could find that didn’t show my arse cheeks hanging out the bottom. Next.
  • One pair sensible navy linen trousers, elasticated to beautifully enhance muffin top. Marks and Spencer.
  • One pair sensible navy trousers that look like trousers but are actually elasticated jogging bottoms (winning), Uniqlo.
  • One pair thin black sports leggings with floral slashes, George.
  • One purple jersey sleeveless jumpsuit, H&M, unflattering.
  • One black jersey Bardot jumpsuit, ASOS, flattering.
  • One black floral sheer shirt, New Look. Comes with that signature whiff of cheap fabric.
  • One navy waffle cotton jumper, Fat Face, my favourite item of clothing and worn every day since last September.
  • One green jersey hoodie, Matalan, too tight. To be honest it was too tight before I left – see earlier comment re sandwiches and takeaways.
  • Three bikinis, ASOS, all in colours and patterns attention-drawingly outrageous for a girl who would be best suited to a burkini. All unflattering, because cake.
  • One white floaty sheer bridal/goddess beach cover up thingy. Makes me feel like fire emoji. 🔥
  • One red sarong with palm trees, borrowed from Mum who, responding to my late night panic, delivered it ironed and neatly folded. ❤Mums
  • One black Bardot floral dress, Primark, only had the courage to buy because recommended by the never-hopeless Hannah Gale. Probably the most flattering outfit I’ve ever owned.
  • One blue sleeveless dress with black waistband, TK Maxx.
  • One pair faithful purple Havaianas
  • One pair unfaithful gold Havaianas sandals
  • One pair yellow leather sandals with white soles, unbelievably, Clarks.
  • One pair favourite metallic silver Vans, make feet hotter than surface of Mars, but comfortable.
  • One waterproof waxed trucker hat, green, Fjällräven.
  • One pair brown tortoiseshell Sunglasses, Boots, one pair pink sunglasses, Ted Baker.
  • Various underwear in shades of white and beige, but you don’t need to hear about that. Also, obviously, 2 pairs of thick walking socks.
  • A small black leather evening bag and a black canvas day shoulder bag from Ikea (oh the fashion points) both with fluffy pom-poms.

The piece de resistance in my packing failure is a knee length black goose-down puffa jacket from Uniqlo. It stuffs into a tiny pouch so grandma is never without warmth or shelter from the rain.

For entertainment, my iPhone 6S plus which serves as my camera, e-reader, blog editor, cinema and sound system. A power bank gifted from a drug rep, The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) in actual paper form, and most excitingly, a workbook on how to do different styles of hand lettering, as yet deflowered. Calligraphy pens, Apple earbuds name labelled in pink Sharpie (the horror of a mix up), and of course, Chris.

All this (with the exception of Chris) is sensibly packed in 8 fabric packing cubes from Ikea. I have never reached such an organisational peak and the smug feeling I get each morning is unparalleled. That’s another shout out to Mum for the loan.

To try and look like legitimate travellers we’ve used large backpacking rucksacks instead of suitcases, totally unnecessary since I’ve yet to carry the pack more than 5 feet before being rushed at by a smiling bellboy. I am more than a little attached to my backpack, a snazzy pink and grey number bought for £30 in Mountain Warehouse in 2007. It’s 65litres of handy pockets and straps without being fussy or too heavy. It has seen me Inter-railing around Europe, to festivals and on camping trips and using it brings me joy and anticipation for happy memories and those yet to me made.

I did consider bringing a yoga mat for pretentious Insta worthy shots of a palm-covered downward dog, but it’s so thin it hurts my knees and a Hindi squat makes me fear for my pelvic floor.

As you can imagine in this 34 degree heat, the jumpers and socks remain resolutely unworn since landing in Dubai. Let’s not even mention the puffa jacket.

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