Every suitcase has a story

Every suitcase has a story

by Janice Nigro

It’s tough to leave your things behind. And yet packing a suitcase is a great exercise for figuring out what’s essential for your life. I have stared at my now travel trunk and thought how can three months fit into that?

I fortunately have only a couple of things I really like to wear-much to my mother’s disappointment-and traveling really let’s me do this. No one actually cares that you are wearing your same favorite t-shirt several days in a row. I take full advantage of this fact. I am not quite sure whether my ability to live on so few clothes is derived from my travel experience or just a general dislike for shopping for clothes. Somehow these two issues complement each other.

I have been tempted to try to leave everything but my credit card at home. I thought a lot about traveling like this when I would leave Norway for a holiday. From Norway, there wasn’t much I needed to take with me. I was glad to leave my raingear, boots, and multilayered clothing at home. I suppose it was purposely planned that way. A diving trip or somewhere else in Europe where I would live in my bathing suit for a couple of weeks or buy beautiful clothes and food.

I never tried it on purpose, but a friend did as a teenager on a family trip to Bali. He brought only a small backpack as a carry-on. He had read about everything you could buy in Bali and how inexpensive it was so he thought he didn’t need anything from home. He had a blast negotiating, buying, and wearing sarongs and other Indonesian items for the length of his stay. It was a clever packing strategy (in my opinion) that led to a unique cultural experience.

Traveling with only a credit card really isn’t something to joke about. People lose their bags and really are left with only a credit card. But the way I see it, if a bag gets lost on the way to Italia, it’s your opportunity for some guilt free shopping for extraordinary new clothes, shoes, underwear, and whatever else is necessary. It would not be that funny or convenient on a dive trip though.

What helps me most in packing is to remember that clothes can be washed-anywhere. And most things that you need can bought anywhere also. I still pack things I will never use. I once packed a little black dress in a backpack that I carried around with me in New Zealand and Australia-hiking. I never used the black dress, but it was my one Survivor item from home. It made me feel like a girl. I honestly have no idea who I thought I would be meeting. But if I had met someone, I would have been ready-like Ginger on Gilligan’s Island.

Now my packing is mostly about equipment. Not always, but if I am going on a diving trip I have to fit the clothes in around the equipment. It is a challenge, and really the only thing I ever need more of on these trips is bathing suits. There is always enough clean underwear, but bathing suits are always wet.

When you travel with so much equipment (alone), you get really good at packing. Everything has a place, like in a Bento box. For diving, I even have a set of “dive travel” clothes although admittedly some of these need to be replaced. I had a suitcase that I packed like this and took everywhere for years. That suitcase moved me to another country. It brought me home again. It island-hopped with me to French Polynesia, Palau and Yap, Indonesia and more, and it’s been all over Europe.

Eventually it has to happen. That suitcase or backpack that you have shared your travels with has to go. I had a hard time letting go of it. It had wheels, and two compartments so that wet stuff could be separated from dry stuff and the clean clothes had a corner away from the dive gear. It was also a soft bag and could be easily carried over dirt or gravel roads as you might find in dive destinations. Most importantly, I knew how to pack it to reach 20 kgs or under which is critical for travel to island nations where you as well as your suitcase are weighed.

I moaned about giving it up in the luggage shop. Customer distress over a suitcase was not new to the man helping me. He told me, “Every suitcase has a story.” Fortunately, mine was with me long enough that I had to give it up. I now of course love my new suitcase which is really a trunk. The only problem with it is that it can move by itself on even the slightest of inclines. Yes, I almost lost it once right off the end of a wharf in the Philippines.

I have long ago reconciled with the fact that most airlines charge a fee for checked baggage. It’s just easier to pay and to be able to move swiftly into my seat at the back of the plane. I am happy to pay the fee in order to avoid the hassle of finding a spot for a bag that is too large to be over my head anyway.

I offer no particular advice about what to pack for a trip. Well, take what is most important with you on board-toiletries, glasses, and cameras for me. Other than that, my only advice is to travel somewhere warm where you only need flip-flops and bathing suits. Oh yes, and the credit card.

PS The title reminds me of a Rod Stewart song, “every suitcase has a story, don’t it?”

©2016 Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com

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