Life on Tour: A lesson in over packing
For the past four years, I've been working with a band as their merchandise manager. Ok. Ok. I'm the merch girl. It might not sound glamorous, and in reality it's really not that much, but I get to travel with a band — my favorite band — all over the country. And this is just a small snippet of what it's like to be with the band...
I'm procrastinating. Tomorrow morning I'm going to do what I've done over a hundred times before. Get up, grab my things, and load up the tour bus. We're heading out for our third big tour of the summer. And I'm sitting on my couch, staring at my travel bag, not wanting to repack the overflowing pile of clothes.
I'll only be gone for five days, two of which will be spent traveling. We've got a residency at a major art museum. And we've got a great producer to come out to film us. But neither of those things are what is halting me from checking things off my to-do list and getting everything packed. I'm not packing because I can't seem to think of what I need to bring.
It's as if somehow I've forgotten what certain temperatures feel like, and so I need to be prepared for every climate situation. Within reason, of course. My snow boots and parka can stay here in Chicago. Massachusetts isn't that far away, and we experience 70-80 degree weather here, so I should know how to dress for it. But there are mountains. And somehow in my brain that changes everything. Even though I know it doesn't.
My tour book tells me most of what I'll be doing and when. But those slight opportunities for down time... Those are the what if's that make it hard to pack. What if we go out to a nice restaurant, but all I have a jeans and funny tees or unflattering but comfortable jersey dresses? What if it rains the entire time and I've only brought tank tops and flip flops? What if the hotel website is wrong and there is a pool? I love the unknown of tour life, but it makes it hard to pack smartly.
In our band, we wear uniforms, so that at least takes out the need to pack a hot outfit for each performance. (Yes, even the merch girl wears a uniform.) So I've got my uniform bag, my regular clothing bag, and then my front-of-bus bag — which is for everything I could possibly need while on the road without having to unpack all the gear: laptop, iPad, sketchbooks, notebooks, toothbrush, travel pillow... And for the trips were we have homestays rather than hotels, I'm going to need to pack my bedroll and pillow. Traveling for more than one day? I'm going to need at least one food bag. (No drive thru for this band.)
Oh, have I mentioned that this is a band of nearly 30 performers? I can't be the one who brings two different outfits for each day and seven pairs of shoes for all the what if's that may happen. If I can contort myself to fit inside my suitcase, it's too big.
I will say, in four years of touring, I've gotten a lot better at packing now. Even if I still have troubles now and then. I know I'll ultimately where the same outfit while traveling. And since I'll be in uniform for a lot of the trip, I can get away with repeating outfits during down time. I know that I don't need every single one of my electronics. And really, one pair of sandals and one pair of sneakers will do just fine. Also, skip the crazy large suitcases and go for something easy to carry and preferably machine washable. Always bring an umbrella. It's ok to bring too many chargers, but someone else will always have a spare just in case. And triple check that you did indeed remember to pack your medication — and that you have enough for the entire trip.