I travel quite a bit for both work and pleasure. I am a frequent flier, complete with award miles to spend, TSA Pre-Check benefits, priority boarding with three different airlines, and free checked bags. I have travelled for work for almost seven years, now, and have evolved in my preferences over that time. Originally, I did all “carry-on”. For a few years, I compromised style and comfort for the total inconvenience and sheer hell of dragging my miniscule suitcase everywhere with me. On more than one occasion, I ran from airport gate to gate at a clip so desperate, my roller board didn’t roll so well, and because I was in such a hurry and already burdened with my overstuffed computer bag (backpack), I simply drug it along, on its side behind me. Once, my carry on suitcase teetered off the escalator step, and, failing to simply let go of it, to avoid taking out the folks on the steps below me, I clenched the handle and, ever so slowly, lost my balance until it pulled me down several steps into a heap on the floor. I landed atop my suitcase, at the foot of the escalator, in some airport, somewhere. Seattle, I think. But, because I was all “carry-on”, I never lost my bags. My bags and I always arrived at the same airport at the same time. But, I had to deal with jockeying my way on to the airplane at the earliest point in time in order to secure adequate space in the overhead bins for my “as large as permissible and wholly over packed” roller board bag. Talk about stress! And I made no friends in the boarding area when it came time for my boarding zone to be called.
I was at a company meeting in Chicago a few years back, arriving late, exhausted, bags in tow. I met a couple of late arriving co-workers in the elevator and one such co-worker had with him, the largest, orangest, suitcase I have ever seen in my life, accompanied by another orange suitcase, nearly as large, one I would have considered “the largest ever”, before this encounter. Our company meeting was to be only three days. I couldn’t help but comment. My co-worker, a larger than life gay man with a particular way of doing everything, who is oft quoted as saying “sounds like a you problem”, filled me in on his big baggage policy. In his behemoth, orange suitcases, he has room to bring his favorite, down, pillow, from home and all the other creature comforts he cherishes (I didn’t ask for any more details). Life on the road should not equate to compromise, he stated. I nodded. True. How true! Another co-worker, also an adorable gay man, always checks his bag, though more reasonable in size, because he likes to bring “full-size” bottles of shampoo and contact lens solution. “I hate refilling little plastic bottles all the time.” I nodded. Right. How right! Yet another co-worker always checks her bags because she distrusts hotel linens, and, so, packs her own Egyptian cotton linens of an absurd thread count, whenever/wherever she goes. And finally, the shoe diva, a co-worker with an insatiable appetite for very expensive shoes, had an impressively sized, auxiliary, suitcase, checked, of course, for “just shoes”. Suddenly, my life seemed so inadequate, so dismal, so sparse, so compromised; jostling tiny little plastic refillable bottles in their entirely too small quart sized 3-1-1 bag, one pair of “practical shoes” (a synonym for “ugly” in the language of footwear), no work-out clothes, only one bra, no satin pillow case, no favorite bottle of wine, all TSA compliant and a pain in the ass to drag around from gate to gate, terminal to terminal, airplane to airplane, overhead storage bin to overhead storage bin. It was then and there that I began my baggage evolution.
I am now the proud owner of my second set of matchy-matchy, wine colored, Samsonites, one slightly smaller than the other, but both, in combination, in volume, close to the largest suitcase I’ve ever seen! Yes, I have already worn one set of suitcases out, we can actually thank a TSA agent in BFE, Montana, for finally busting the zipper on my road-worn suitcase. Why he felt he “had” to search it, I don’t know. What, the next massive terror attack is going to originate at a Tuff Shed size airport in BFE, Montana? I digress.
In my suitcases, I carry with me, now, every creature comfort I desire; a bottle of wine for every two days I will be away from my wine cellar (which, truthfully, consists of a single, cardboard, box in my garage), corkscrew, and squishable, plastic, stemless, wine glasses, a champagne/large format beer bottle closure, a bar of exquisite dark chocolate, a bag of my favorite cereal, dried apricots, almonds, a cutting board and paring knife, a couple of really cute, plastic bowls, for my cereal yogurt, a coffee-press-coffee-mug, satin pillow cases, fuzzy wuzzy slippers, every pair of shoes/boots I feel I may be in the mood for, multiple sweaters and jackets, work out clothes, athletic shoes and a yoga mat. Once, I even brought dumb bells, when I knew I was going to be in a hotel sans a fitness center and away from home for three consecutive weeks. And I am now, feverishly, on a quest for a small, battery operated, coffee bean grinder.
For years, like two, I never suffered from the plague called “lost bags”. Every time I got off the plane and headed for the baggage carousel, there were my two wine colored Samsonites with their “Priority” tags affixed, spinning slowly, around the conveyer. In the past year, though, I have arrived a day or so before my luggage on more occasions than I can count. Knock wood, I have not, yet, had my treasured wine-colored bags and cherished contents permanently lost. Does that actually happen?
You may be thinking I have too much stuff, she who supposedly embraces minimalism, and while that may seem the case, I do have everything I need, and plenty of options, too. On too many occasions, when traveling more sparsely packed, I have had to purchase a pair of shoes, tights, slacks, a sweater, toiletries, wine, purses, scarves, and, yes, on more than one occasion, an extra suitcase to haul the new loot home. Now that I am habitually over packed, I am ready for anything. I love spontaneity, and one must be prepared for spontaneity! One must be adequately prepared for spontaneity! You can’t go out target practicing in the boonies in heels and a skirt, you can’t go on an impromptu airboat ride in a business suit, and you can’t go to a fine dining establishment in soiled, holy jeans and a wife-beater. I pack for all occasions. On all occasions.
In a further attempt to avoid arriving with full bags, but minus some, one, critical item, I have taken to buying triplicate of toiletries, hair styling appliances, corkscrews and bottle closures, and such; home use, suitcase, gym bag. I keep little bags of organic, whole, raw almonds EVERYWHERE! My computer bag, my running pack, my suitcases (both), my purse, my gym bag, my desk drawer, my cupboard, of course, in the glove box of my car, and, I believe I saw a bag in the center console of my car, too. I was a Boy Scout leader for over a decade; I embrace preparedness beyond reason. My bags, now, are never quite unpacked. I do immediately remove my clothes, no matter the time of day I return from my trip, and dutifully launder them. I’m not one to keep smelly, dirty clothes, festering in my suitcase. I may need them again, soon, and I’d like them clean and ready to go. Besides, who wants to open a suitcase full of stinky, dirty, clothes three weeks, three months, or three years after they arrived home? I never put my bags in storage, they are always rolling about in my room, always at the ready, always in the way, a constant reminder of the lifestyle I lead.
Yes, I check my bags, as many as I can, as full as I can possibly pack them. Yes, they have been temporarily lost, but, I still say, it’s all worth the risk. More often than not, I am all comfy at my destination in my fuzzy slippers, sipping a fine glass of wine, or walking about wearing a lovely pair of shoes and an adorable sweater, after a great workout and a hot shower with all my favorite potions and lotions, my industrial quality blow dryer, straightening iron, and curling iron infused with Moroccan argan oil. It’s totally worth the risk. It’s totally worth the effort. It’s totally worth the expense. I finally got tired of a compromised experience, travelling from, living from, a tiny suitcase, week after week, month after month, limiting my risk, limiting my quality of life, while on the road.
I almost always arrive to spend some quality time with someone special to me, only to be greeted with something like, “shit, girl”. Yes, this is my shit. Yes, I’m a girl.
I have baggage. In the literal sense and in the figurative sense. And don’t we all. For what it’s worth, I manage by baggage pretty well. I can pack my suitcases to precisely fifty pounds, and not an ounce more, I lift them in and out of the trunk of the car by myself, on and off the shuttle bus, and up and down stairs both at home and at some hotels where the elevator is of questionable mechanical integrity. I’d like to say the same about my figurative baggage. I manage. Though it may look as large, bold, and unwieldy as my large, purple suitcases, with the zippers barely holding shit in, but likewise, I’ve got it all handled. Like the Samsonite gorilla.
The “baggage” we are carry, often, is a result of taking risks in life, in love, in employment, in experiences. The “baggage” we carry almost always provides us with the catalyst to learn, to grow, to become greater that we once were. Hurt, perhaps, lost, a for a little bit, like a misplaced suitcase, but whole, again, with a little time and the right attitude. And, like a suitcase, the baggage we carry, can be unpacked, laundered, and put away when we’re ready. Living life without taking risks is much like trying to live for a week out of a puny piece of luggage; a fairly unenjoyable experience. Risk is to reward what caution is to compromise. And, usually, baggage.
Too often I hear people dismiss people, acquaintances, would be dates or lovers, job applicants or friends, because they “have too much baggage”. May I just say, if you think you don’t have baggage, you are a) incorrect b) tempting fate c) in for big trouble d) in denial. Baggage, in life, equates to “troubles”, of course, “trials”, “problems”. Please, really, tell me, who is completely free of troubles, trials, or problems, ever, in their whole life? Only fibbers, braggarts, and liars. And, perhaps, like beauty, those troubles, trials and problems are merely in the eye of the beholder. We all have scars, we all have baggage. To be so closed minded as to label someone as having too many troubles, trials, problems to be worthy of friendship, of acquaintance, of employment, of companionship, is really, quite cruel. And limiting. And foolish. For, in my experience, from my own experience, and in observation of many, people of admirable wisdom, people with the most self-worth, self-confidence, and, by far, the best stories, are those who’ve handled the most “baggage”. So, “shit, girl”, you bet!