Kori Russell

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Upon reading about this challenge, my eyes went wide, my heart started racing, and a huge grin covered my face. Some call me neurotic; some mock me. I've been told I have too much time on my hands. I've even been told by my dear, loving sister that she was going to commit me to the loony bin. But I knew this day of validation would come. The day when I would be privileged to be numbered amongst those who have made the perfectly packed bag their ultimate goal in life.

I spend weeks, sometimes months, in advance of a trip putting together and refining my packing list. I will often have a "dry run" packing a week before my trip to ensure everything fits the way I have it planned. My packing lists are divided according to which pocket of the bag that item will be placed in. Often there is color-coding involved to match outfits. Nothing goes into my bag if it isn't going to be worn twice. And if an item is going to be worn twice, it's going to need to mix and match with another item so that I don't wear the same outfit twice. So in order to plan accordingly, I might as well determine what day each piece will be worn. Once you've gone that far, you might as well plan out which days which items will be laundered in order to guarantee that the item has been washed and had time to hang dry (to minimize ironing) before being worn a second time. If you're going to plan out the laundry schedule, that means making sure you wear clothes in the same color group on consecutive days, such as dark shirts and pants the first few days so that there is enough clothing to make a decent size load. These are logical leaps in organization. Most normal people simply don't spend enough time thinking about it to make those leaps.

I don't just pack light and smart, I pack stylishly. Some light packers sacrifice fashion over function—not I. When I scrapbook my vacation, I want to look good in my pictures. I search out the right type and style of clothing for the destination and climate, ensuring that it is a fabric that either won't wrinkle or is designed to be wrinkly. I buy the gadgets and gizmos that are created to make the lives of travelers easier. The iPhone is the best thing to ever happen to my packing list. I have sought after the perfect carry-on bag (as I rarely check luggage) that marries capacity, organization, versatility, and style.

Now I can write all sorts of prose about my packing methods, but you are intelligent people. You need specific examples to be convinced that I am the clear winner of this challenge. I've packed for a week in Budapest using only a 21-inch rolling bag. I spent a weeklong road trip in Germany (during the winter, mind you) bringing only a carry-on bag. I managed a 10-day Mediterranean cruise taking a large backpack, each day wearing cute skirts, blouses, and espadrilles in perfect European style. The crème de la crème of my examples is my recent humanitarian trip to Ghana, Africa. I packed for the 10-day trip using only a small messenger-style purse and a school-size backpack. I was even prepared for deplorable sleeping conditions and washing my clothes in a plastic bag. However, we stayed in a very delightful location with clean sheets and a washing machine, so I had actually overpacked. My traveling companions had their doubts, but my thorough but smart packing list proved its weight in gold when items only I had brought along were necessary to assist in an emergency surgery.

When friends make me the butt of their travel jokes because of my packing passion, I take it like a champ while they laugh. When I pack only what I need, nothing more, nothing less, I am the one who's laughing. The very same people who call my quirky obsession neurotic in advance of a trip together often come groveling, begging to borrow something. As they struggle with large rolling suitcases up and over countless bridges and cobblestoned paths in Venice, I sprint past them with my small backpack. When they realize they forgot Tylenol, I'm the one who is there with two pills and a collapsible canteen of water. And when a nurse needs a headlamp in the jungles of Ghana to save a woman's life, I'm ready to hand her the one in my purse. I pack light, smart, and stylish, and I'm proud of it.

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