Peter and I are packing for our annual trip again.
My husband, Peter, is retired and I write, so we can travel. Getting married late in life, this might have posed some problems because Peter is exactly the opposite sort of traveler I used to be.
“I’m packing two separate bags; one for Spain and one for on the way there,” Peter informs me. “This will mean some duplication, but it will simplify things when it’s time to fly.” Peter is obviously pleased with himself.
I used to take pride in traveling light. I fit all my clothes and everything I needed in a small backpack or a carry-on suitcase and hit the road with little idea of where I was going. This was a lot of fun and I had some fine adventures. Then I met Peter.
“Should we bring the paella pan?” Peter asks. We bought the pan in Spain. We are going to Spain.
“I think they’ll probably have one,” I say, knowing that (if they do not) Peter will insist on adding a paella pan to the list of things we bring overseas every year.
In addition to sharp knives (which, I concede, every traveler needs) Peter packs spices and utensils. He brings clothes for every contingency. He brings coffee and something to make it in. Peter has first aid supplies for every illness, repair kits for every emergency, maps and receipts for every misunderstanding. Traveling with Peter means having everything you could possibly need tucked away in some bag or another and extra bags, just in case.
“Don’t forget Ziplocs” Peter cautions me. In the list of things that are hard to find outside the U.S., resealable bags are near the top of the list. Don’t travel without them that’s our motto.
It is surprising, actually, how little push-back I’ve given Peter on his packing style. Rather than fight it, I’ve embraced it wholeheartedly. I wistfully remember the days I traveled with two pair of shoes (one on my feet) as I tuck another pair into my bag. “So much room,” I think. “Why not bring my black suede boots?” There really is no going back.
But, now that I’ve adjusted my packing style, Peter and I are surprisingly compatible travelers. We are both slow travelers.
Like me, Peter does not like to dash around from place to place when we are somewhere new. We like to hunker down, usually in an inexpensive Airbnb (with all our sharp knives and spices and emergency equipment) and take our time. Avoiding the cost of tickets and transport and tips, getting to know where the inexpensive markets and restaurants are, finding a great discount on lodging for a longer stay; all these things make traveling less expensive. But, for us, it is also more fun.
We loiter in the market long enough to acquire a favorite kind of olive or cheese and try some vegetables we have trouble identifying.
“That is the ugliest, tastiest tomato ever,” I tell Peter.
“Let’s buy more tomorrow,” Peter says.
We find local parks and hiking trails. We learn the best time to buy bread and pastries. We watch the same woman walk her dog, the same man talking to himself, the same young couple as they fall in and out of love. Traveling slowly allows us to feel a part of a place, to imagine it is our home for a while, to wonder what it would be like to live a different life entirely.
Except that we have Ziplocs and really sharp knives.