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We had spent an entire winter fake-packing. It hadn’t cost us a dime, it sharpened our creativity, and it was endlessly entertaining. For a full season of cold dark nights, my partner and I played with perfecting our carry-on luggage routine. Spare time had been filled with moments of tweaking, adjusting, shifting and stuffing. We spent ridiculous amounts of time rolling pants and dresses into tiny travel-sized sausages, as though we were artisan cigar makers.

It started quite innocently, with the allure of a cheap flight for seasoned travellers who were willing to check no baggage at the airport. The deal we’d spotted was for two glorious weeks of hiking and sightseeing in the Scottish Highlands. Surely, we could grab this great deal and figure out the packing details later. Besides, we were intelligent problem solvers who preferred our puzzles to come in the form of real-life situations. This seemed right up our alley.

It wasn’t long before the travel company began sending us the trip details we had previously skimmed in our rush to snag the deal. Apparently, the savvy traveller needed to arrive expecting to experience all four seasons on any given day. The warning seemed inflammatory, but we decided it could be best to start researching what we had gotten ourselves into.

Video after video told us the same thing. We would need to bring mountains of outdoor clothing and gear on this adventure, plus city-worthy clothing, all packed away tightly in our tiny bags. We froze in place, paralyzed by the logistics of this new problem.

Then one cold November night it happened. My partner pulled out his carry-on suitcase, threw it down on the bed and started rustling around in the closets and drawers. What on earth was happening? It was six months until our departure. I watched in fascination. Vigorous discussions ensued about the usefulness of each item as it landed in front of me. Questions circulated regarding the travel-worthy versatility of each piece. How could I resist? I grabbed my suitcase and joined the fun.

We would shout out scenarios, “Cold and rainy until noon and then the sun comes out and it’s mild, but windy and your socks are wet. Go!” It was like a game show. The other would scramble about to find the perfect items for each imaginary situation. There was even a certain amount of strutting involved as we would proudly lay our ideal lightweight and weatherproof outfit across the bed, waiting for the praise to flow.

Then he brought out the microscales. I was shocked and intrigued. We found ourselves patiently weighing each piece of clothing and tracking their heft on ever-expanding spreadsheets. We were on a mission and were quite impressed with ourselves. We streamlined the process, coming up with a list of travel-worthy adjectives. Packability. Flexibility. Durability. Compatibility. Any item not hitting each of these random markers was strewn into the pile of clothing never to be travelled with.

On our first official weigh-in, his trip to the scale was far better than my own. His case was lighter by seven pounds. Surly he’d forgotten something, like a parka. Pouting and restless nights followed for one of us. Surprisingly strong emotions were now bubbling under the surface. Jealously. Envy. Frustration. The ego had arrived. The baggage, it seemed, had unexpectedly created baggage of its own. Back and forth this game went on. A trophy-less race to the finish line.

From those restless nights came inspired a-ha moments. Losing a weigh-in session gave a powerful boost to creativity. Soon it became the norm for “the loser” to bound out of bed long before sunrise, dying to try a new idea that was destined for bag-packing greatness. We were a team again. The non-packer bringing coffee and support, while happily encouraging the development of this new plan. Praise ensued, whether the pursuit had been a success or not.

As the cold months dragged on, I frequently found myself lost in thought wondering about all sorts of non-traditional luggage. Tiny bags that had previously been consigned to carrying lunches and lipsticks re-emerged as objects filled with potential.

In one particularly inspired moment, I reimagined my office commuter bag, which was little more than a large purse, as capable of holding kit for a week of cold and rainy outings. Much to my surprise it worked perfectly! I proudly unpacked this tiny sack all over the kitchen floor and we stared in amazement at the number of pieces I’d managed to tuck away.

These tiny bags became the clown cars of our new luggage world. The luxury of daily wardrobe variety had largely disappeared, but that seemed a small price to pay for bragging rights.

Whether the trip ended up happening, turns out not to be the focal point of this story. That winter we went on a journey preparing to go nowhere and everywhere at the same time. It bonded us. It entertained us. It gave meaning to an otherwise mundane task.

This story was truly about the journey, not the destination.

Megan Skelton lives in Waterloo

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