I Think We're Alone Now
Don't Get Left Behind.

Don't Get Left Behind.

Make a list, check it twice.


I’ve commenced prep for our tour. It’s a mental journey I embark on first before the physical one begins.  Somewhere in the middle of this mental and physical journey, the item gathering begins.  Then the suitcase retrieval.  Then laundry and laying things out.  Then the deep clean. There’s a whole process to leaving.

I imagine after twenty-three years of packing for dozens and dozens of different tours you too have a list of to-dos and not-to-do’s, of must-brings and don’t-need-its? A process for leaving. 

Here’s mine.


1 – The pharmacy run.  To battle impulsive pharmacy purchases and redundancy at home, I have promised Sofia – and made her promise – we won’t just buy things at the pharmacy anymore.  We need to diligently check the twelve bins we have in the bathroom first.  With a podcast on in the background, I meticulously examine and reorganize all the bathroom bins a week before I leave for the tour, the official starting gun of prep.  Once the bins are all organized, I do a trial pack of my bathroom bags.  I have one with all the items I need daily for getting ready at a hotel.  This goes into my suitcase. The second bathroom bag is for the tour bus.  It’s just face cream, face wash, a toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, some Advil, and maybe some hand cream.  The third bag exclusively houses make-up and makeup remover and is a permanent fixture in my backpack that accompanies me into every hotel and venue.  It is only after I complete this trial pack that I make a list of the items not in the bins and go to the pharmacy. 

Read more about my SKIN routine here:


2 – Clothes and the search for the right number of outfits. Prior to every tour, I make a frantic attempt to pull together outfits from my existing closet of clothes.  Sometimes I convince myself there are things in my storage unit in the “winter” and “overflow” bins of old clothes that could satisfy my need to have new things but I’m always wrong about this.  Consequently, a few days before the tour I panic-purchase a few new items.  Typically, it’s something black – something about faded black clothes makes me sad – and a new pair of jeans.  I’ll hit a vintage store or two, to assuage the fast fashion guilt I feel and trek home with new items I didn’t need. Back at home, every single item from the closet is piled on the bed.  Shoes are gathered, socks are counted, underwear is folded, and many hats are piled together.  Then I cull; a preliminary round of removing anything I’ve worn on stage before, anything too old, or faded, or too worn in. 

Two days before the tour, I take all the items that survived suitcase survivor and pile them on the bed. I try everything on, and another round of culling occurs. Only then do I get my suitcase out, and pack.  It almost never all fits, but that doesn’t matter.  There’s a third cull coming. 

The day before I leave, I move the very full suitcase to the front door but leave it open to accommodate last-minute additions and subtractions. Finally, I zip up the suitcase and weigh the bag leaving myself at least 5-7 pounds of extra space.   I will not open the bag again.  What is chosen is chosen.   

In terms of clothing, I aim for eight pairs of pants, including two black, two blue, two loose and comfortable pairs, and two coloured pairs (brown, and green). I typically carry a minimum of twelve tops, including a black hoodie and a pullover sweater also in black. Recently, I've adopted the practice of assembling outfits in advance and photographing them to alleviate the burden of making outfits while on the road. I ensure I have a ten-day supply of undergarments, although I rarely go a week without a laundry day. Two complete sets of pyjamas are a must.  My Achilles heel is footwear. I must have two pairs of boots, two pairs of stylish sneakers, and a pair of running shoes with me on tour.   It often warrants a separate suitcase.   Don’t judge me.

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3 – My Backpack, Carry On, Best friend Bag. Striking the right balance is key—too large and it becomes unwieldy weight-wise, and items become too hard to find; too small and I find myself juggling multiple tote bags between hotels and venues to accommodate new items I pick up along the tour. After many purchases over the years, I believe I have finally discovered the ideal backpack—a harmonious blend of size and compartmentalization, providing order without overwhelming the mind or the hand. I always carry a book, an iPad, two pairs of AirPods, a compact bag with all my charging cords, a laptop, a small pouch containing items such as hand sanitizer, Advil, sleeping pills, a sleeping mask, earplugs, lip balm, hair ties, pens, tissues, mints, gum, and other day to day items I might crave on a plane or on a long drive. Additionally, I carry a small bag with my jewelry, along with my passport and wallet. I always leave space to accommodate snacks and water, whether at the airport or when moving from the bus to a hotel in the morning. I also always have a toque (beanie) in my backpack for bad hair moments.

4– The Clean.  When my suitcase is packed and weighed, my backpack is organized and set by the door, and my technology is all charging, I clean. This is a must. When I lived alone I did it because it was nice to come home to a clean, organized house. But I also found that making my final day at home centered around a schedule, structure, and organization, provided a calming effect. I’ve kept it up all these years, even with a dog and wife at home.

When the cleaning is complete, I look over the schedule for the following day, double check I’m checked in, and have been sent my boarding pass, set my alarm for the following morning, add my fully charged electronics to my backpack, and order Indian food (chicken curry, medium spice, rice, raita, naan).  I watch TV and go to bed early.   No social plans, no late nights, no last-minute errands, or repacking. 

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5 – Things I Left Behind. Over the years, I have trimmed down the items I carry on a tour. For instance, I used to carry a pillow, which proved useful during the van days of our career. Having something familiar and clean that smelled like home was essential during long drives or in less-than-desirable motel rooms we often crammed ourselves into. Nowadays, on bus tours, I bring my own bedding. Climbing into my bunk after a show provides a little of the comfort of home. I used to carry photos to pin up in my bunk or gaze at in the back of the van when I felt homesick. However, with so many digital photos on my phone, physical photos no longer feel necessary. The personal item I never bring on tour anymore is perfume. It always seems to leak, break, or go missing. I have rules for hotel rooms to keep items from getting lost. Plug your devices in and place them on a bag so you never leave the device or charger behind.  Don’t ever hang anything on the back of a bathroom door.  Keep items together.  A hair straightener should always be next to the bathroom bag.  Visible piles of items don’t blend in or get left by accident. Also, the need for a second carry-on bag has faded. There was a time when I carried recording equipment and extra books. Now I ship equipment ahead to be stored on the bus and extra books tend to accumulate as a tour wears on. CDs – a significant part of touring in our 20s – were long ago left behind. We used to lug around a massive book of CDs during tours, which now seems comical to me. When we upgraded to a tour van equipped with a TV and DVD player, we would purchase box sets of shows to watch – and re-watch — on long drives. It's hard to imagine how we managed to fit these items in our suitcases on the way home.  Clearly, we packed fewer clothes back then. These days, I obsess over process, order, WIFI and good coffee — things that don’t need to be packed and never get left behind.

See you on the road.


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I Think We're Alone Now
Tegan and Sara correspond about art, music, life and process
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