Embrace the Over Think

To all you over thinkers out there, can I get a hey-0! I see you! I feel you! I am you! I have taken over thinking to the next level when it comes to trip prep, planning and packing. And I am here to tell you sometimes, believe it or not, over thinking can actually be an adventurer’s super power!

Give me a beat to explain …

Overthink Your Toiletries

We all wonder if we will have enough shampoo, soap, deodorant, bug spray, all the things when we head out on an trip. You don’t want to bring too much and add extra weight (these are some of our heaviest items) or take up more room than necessary BUT you also don’t want to take too little and be in a lurch having to scramble to find what you need in another country. Where you might be lucky if you can find the brand you prefer or even what you need. If helpful, insert a mental image of me spending way too long looking for Tylenol in a Pharmacy in Wales passing shelves of Paracetamol over and over and over as I searched. BTW Paracetamol in the UK is what we call Tylenol in Canada. Thank you Google!

To avoid spending more mental energy than necessary worrying if I am packing too much or too little for toiletries, I do a little scientific overthinking! Ok more of a simple experiment or trial but saying it’s science sounds so much cooler. Basically, I pack to stay home!

Ahead of your trip (aka WEEKS before you leave) fill those Goo bottles or travel containers or whatever you bought for travelling as if you are packing to leave right away. But, instead of just putting them in your backpack or suitcase, use them as if you are on your trip. As you use them, count how many days each thing lasts and compare it to the number of days you will be away on your trip. Then asses how that went! Did you have enough? Too much? Was the travel container you used totally annoying or did the lid break on first use? Then adjust accordingly for you actual trip!

I take this too far of course and literally have a little page in my journal to jot down for how long a razor lasts, how many shampoo washes, how many lathers my soap got me, how many brushes my toothpaste made happen, etc. So I can go total ‘science’ on my assessment and even have a little legend of my learning over a lot of past trips so I pack smarter each time.

If a trip is only a few weeks, I will pack all I need usually. Longer than that and I worry less about packing exactly the right amount of things I think I can find abroad and am not too picky about – this will save some room and weight. I.e if you are picky about your shampoo, but less so about your body soap – bring enough shampoo but a half bar of soap. I am very picky about my mascara less so about my chapstick – so bring the right size of mascara and only a few chapsticks.

A couple of tricks if you are running low on the basic toiletries while abroad:

  • Outside of the US and Canada, pharmacies tend to have the best selection of basic toiletries like Tylenol, face cream, body cream while grocery stores have shampoo, etc.
  • Keep your smaller travel containers after they are empty until you replace that item. It’s not easy to find travel size toiletries in some places, you may need to decant that shampoo you found at your destination into your travel container so it fits in your pack.
  • Check your accommodation for an honesty box or trail magic box for items people may have left behind. Often a hotel bathroom or pool area for shampoo, conditioner, body cream .. fill up your travel container!
  • If you are travelling with someone who has a preference for the same product as you – go in together on a full bottle. One carrying the shampoo and the other the conditioner to spread the love.
  • Figure out what 2-in-1 products work for you and only worry about one product and container instead of 2! I have a sunscreen moisturizer for my face that saves me carrying both. 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner is another good one.

Overthink Your Wardrobe

You might be surprised to hear me say I recommend you take the same approach to the clothes you intend to pack. Yup, more science!

Once again, literally pack your clothes for your trip – from undies to shirts, pants to socks – pack like you are leaving tomorrow. Then over the course of the next few weeks and months at home wear what you packed and evaluate. If you are going on a tourist holiday, wear your outfits around town, running errands, meeting friends, long car rides, etc. If you are going on a hiking adventure, wear your outfits on your training hikes.

Evaluate each individual piece of clothing AND each complete outfit against the below trust-me-you-will-not-regret-this criteria. Oh and please kick this experiment up a notch by making sure you get some photos of you in each outfit – cause on your travels guess what you will be taking a lot of?! Photos!

  • Did it feel uncomfortable, ride up, fall down, bunch up, slide down, itch or scratch? If yes, ditch it!
  • Did you adjust the clothing item often? Pull on it when you stood up every time? Stretched it out before you put it on? Kept pulling up the straps, folding the sleeve, twisting the ties? If yes, ditch it!
  • Did it make me feel ugly, feel bla, all ick, too big, too small, too one colour, too many colours, too bright, too dull? If yes, ditch it!
  • Did you choose not to trial that one article of clothing or that outfit because it’s just so special and you only want to wear it on the actual trip? If yes, ditch it! For real! Ditch it! Ditch it! Unless it’s a bloody wedding dress, if you will not wear it at home trust me you will not wear it abroad. Ditch it!
  • Did you look at the selfies and photos of you in that shirt, pants, shorts, hat, jacket and delete or sneer or gasp or some other form of not-so-kind-to-myself response? If yes, ditch it! (you have my encouragement to ditch the article item forever to second hand AND delete the photos too)

Ok so you have thought about each article of clothing individually, now I need you to think about outfits. I am about to suggest something that may be cringe worthy to the fashionistas out where, but trust me … trust me!

If you cannot wear every top with every bottom you bring .. wait for it … IT DOES NOT GET TO COME ON THE TRIP! If that shirt you love only matches one pair of the 3 bottoms you are bringing, bye bye shirt! That skirt and tank only look good together and with nothing else you are packing, bye bye skirt and tank!

This is when you need to channel your brutal side folks. Over thinking to the extreme! Embrace it! You literally wear every, single combo of every single top and bottom you are packing and if even one shirt does not behave with all bottoms OR or you answer yes to any of the criteria above – that is a HARD NO! Ditch that article of clothing, no trip for it!

The process of elimination can take a few weeks but trust me – you and your pack will feel lighter for it! You will thank yourself!

This idea of overthinking is also totally applicable to trip planning check out My Planning Process. All you do before you leave on your trip will make the trip all the better and all the more real!


Excitement or Anxiety or Bit of Both

In the build to a big trip, or even a small one, sometimes excitement can start to feel a little bit like worry, or nerves or even anxiety. Don’t let this dampen the joy of your pre-departure prep. Instead focus on the things you can control about your adventure to ground any anxious thoughts – what you pack, what you plan, how you prep, etc.

My good friend Niki, trail name Spicy Hobbit (and her rockstar mom) are part of the crew I will be hiking the West Highland Way (WHW) in Scotland with this summer. Their first time in Alba and first time shifting their day hikes into a long distance, 8 day hike. Niki joins us today as our guest blogger sharing her excitement about our adventure …

Scotland! I can’t wait for this trip. Scotland has been at the top of my list of places to go in the world, since I was young. I never in a million years thought I’d be going in this way, to hike the WHW with friends and my 71 yr old mom.

What a way to see a country, I can’t wait to smell the air, see the countryside, look at the trees and sites, take in the history, taste the food, listen to the accent, talk with the people, enjoy the music and drink the whiskey. Not only am I hiking the WHW, my mom and I are going on a wee road trip after the hike. We can’t come all this way to not see where my mom’s family is from.

As soon as the deposit for the hike was put down, the planning was in full gear. First thing that was recommended for me to do was book the places to stay. The hike is being organized and booked by Contours, I have to plan and organize everything mother and I do after the hike. Being summer when we go, most places will be booked. So I researched, wrote, lists, compared prices, checked out locations and details for a month. Next, the car rental. After researching the roads I will be driving, prices, days needed for, pick up and drop off, I settled on a manual, which I haven’t driven in 20 yrs, yes I will be practicing before.

Getting the important things booked for the side trip, I then focused on my backpack. The pack I will take across the pond, carry on the hike and around Scotland. I had to get the right fit because everyone knows size does matter. Once my backpack was purchased I started to make lists of clothing to take and toiletries and extras. I have stuff sacks to keep my clothing organized and tidy. I have been pre packing and continuing to make revised lists. I dont want to take too much or not enough. Plus the excitement of the trip makes me play in my pre packing. Apparently this is stuff you do just weeks before not months, clearly I can’t wait for this trip and want to make sure I have all I need.

I have a book about the WHW and have gone through highlighted things to see along the way, or take note of, where we are walking to or by also taking notes of things to look out for or see along the way, I don’t want to miss anything. I have also done the same for after the hike, of the places my mom and I will be going to. I may be stuffing too much into so few days but I’d rather have a taste of it than not at all!

As we approach the 3 months to go marker, my anxiety and excitement are colliding, am I organized enough, have I prepared all of my essentials, is there much more I can get or do to prepare, are we there yet????

The anticipation is driving me mad, and then I think I hope it doesn’t go too fast? Remember to stop smell, breathe, look and take in the moments.