Over the past five years, after traveling on several trips, I realized I had a problem.

“Hi. My name is Barea and I am an over packer.”

The first step to solving a problem is to acknowledge it, right? As much as I love to travel, I dread packing. After having dinner with a close friend who was soon traveling to South Africa, I asked, “How many suitcases are you taking?” to which she simply replied, “Just one carry-on.” My mouth literally dropped.

Even if I would do a weekend getaway, packing seven pairs of shoes and coordinating outfits was normal in my mind.

How was it possible for a woman to pack a carry-on for a 10-day vacation to Africa? I was baffled. Even I couldn’t make that  happen on a weekend getaway to a neighboring city! It occurred to me that it had gotten out of control when I traveled shortly thereafter to Dubai and had to buy another suitcase while exploring the Middle East just to get all my belongings back to the U.S.

I had become that girl in the airport with 2 suitcases, 2 carry-on’s and the tote bag! Almost every trip I have taken, I would pack 3 outfits per day because I am the “just in case” traveler; packing just in case it rains, just in case we go to 4 clubs instead of 2, just in case I don’t like this dress that night I’ll pack a skirt, just in case we do a dinner party I’ll pack the blazer and pumps too. Even if I would do a weekend getaway, packing 7 pairs of shoes and coordinating outfits was normal in my mind. I would never regret it until the trip was over and I was left lugging all the unused outfits home.

Then I asked myself, “What does this mean about me?” “Why is it necessary to over pack?” Packing for comfort has been my option for years. However, I am now challenging myself to pack necessities and pack smart. I am learning that outfits, shoes and jewelry don’t make the experience. Now I’m not against shopping, but making it a priority took over the excitement of the joy of traveling. Now that I am currently preparing to travel to Thailand, I am focusing my energy on learning about the culture, the history, rather then being cute for social media.

For my future weekend getaways and long excursions, my plan is to pack exactly what I need. I’ll be starting slow by packing only one “just in case” outfit and focusing more on what I want to gain when I arrive to my next destination. I have learned with international travel that shopping and buying beautiful garments makes your return home all the more beautiful. Nothing like wearing unique pieces that you purchased 7,000 miles away. The more mature I become, the more I realize what’s actually important. If I spend less money at the mall, I can spend more money booking my next flight.