With only a few days to go before we begin our three-month adventure in Portugal and Spain, we’re packing — no, make that Mary is packing. She is the main packer in our household primarily because she’s seen me pack — and it’s not very organized and always at the last minute. Plus, I dream of traveling super light with a small roll-on and a backpack. Mary doesn’t believe that’s realistic, especially on this journey.

I shouldn’t complain. I know very well there’s a fine line between packing too much or too little. That’s a real challenge on a long trip like this. During the three months, we’ll experience seasonal changes and a mix of land explorations with an ocean cruise. We also have the added weight of pandemic-era travel – masks, rapid antigen tests, hand sanitizer, etc.

Cruising’s dress requirements, especially when formal nights were in vogue, used to pose the biggest threat to traveling light. Thankfully, now you can leave long gowns, high heels, a tux, and even sport coats at home. But there’s still the need for smart casual for cocktails and dinner. To lighten our luggage load, Mary has become an expert in mix and match, giving the illusion that we have a couple of steamer trunks in our tiny cabin. Wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt is as dressy as I get these days.

My Quixotic obsession for traveling light springs from years of lugging heavy bags up and down steep stairways and cobblestone streets. Not to mention awkwardly lifting bags on planes and trains, doing my best not to hurt myself or innocent bystanders. And, as all of my travel friends know, 50-pound suitcases are a lot heavier today than they were 10 or 20 years ago.

I still have nightmares about a short train ride from Sintra to Lisbon one sunny morning. We had four bags and the commuter train lacked a luggage storage area. That forced each of us to put a small suitcase in our lap and the two larger ones on the seats next to us. This was fine until the train began to fill. I prayed that we would get to our stop before it overflowed with passengers.

My frivolous prayer ignored; commuters surged into the car at each of the never-ending stops. As it became standing room only, two formidable Portuguese grandmotherly types took positions directly in front of us. We tried our best to stare straight ahead, avoiding their glares and hoping the nightmare would soon be over.

But it wasn’t. The obviously miffed ladies began loudly addressing the entire sardine-packed car. We couldn’t understand the words, but we knew they were talking about us – and probably in unflattering terms. I glanced up into the evil eyes directed at me as they muttered some kind of Portuguese curse. I get the willies just thinking about it.

Recently, I have pretty much abandoned my traveling light crusade. I’ve learned the hard way that “Happy wife, happy life.” And I agree you can’t travel for weeks with just two pairs of slacks and a couple of t-shirts. Especially since things are always slipping off my fork and into my lap.

That’s it for now. Mary’s just about finished packing, so I better get my stuff together. I don’t want to forget my drone, tripods, extra cameras, laptops, tablets, video and audio gear, smartphone gimbal, extra cell phone, and an Echo Dot, so we’ll have Alexa to chat with. I rarely use most of this stuff, but who knows if I might need it. There’s always room for toys.