Is it possible to loose sleep over the size of your bag?
I was so sure I’d made the right decision. I had researched it for months, spending many lunch breaks visiting stores and hours trawling websites when I should have been working. The first major decision to be made was, ‘what kind of bag do I take’? I’d had my trusty backpack for over 20 years. We’d been all over Europe, Asia and parts of Central America together, so you could say we’d been in a pretty serious relationship for some time. It was going to be really hard to cut the ties. To me a backpack is the epitome of efficient travelling. Apart from its obvious function as a container for your belongings it has many other uses. While running along the platform to catch your train it leaves you with both hands totally free to grab hold of the hand rail and hoist yourself onto the moving train, or, if you completely miss your opportunity to get on the train, you can sit on it while you wait for another. In the event that you have completely misread the timetable and realise you have to spend the night at the station, you can use it as a pillow.
While pondering this decision, memories of my last trip to India came flooding back. I remembered one day in particular, when after about two weeks of being spoilt and relieved of any decision-making by friends who’d been in India for some time, I was left to fend for myself and find my own accommodation. The walk from the taxi to the beach seemed an eternity, and although I’m sure it only took fifteen minutes, fifteen minutes carrying a full pack IS an eternity. Recalling how, on that hot day, the straps of my pack dug into my shoulders, and how sweat streamed down my back and thighs, the decision was pretty easy. I was going to Italy after all, and I needed to look classy!
With this thought in mind I started looking at suitcases but soon realised I wasn’t the suitcase type of girl. Suitcases to me are synonymous with men on business trips. Or middle-aged Italian women in too-tight white jeans and Gucci sunglasses. What then? Anything that was fashioned with the words ‘classy’ and ‘cool’ came with a hefty price tag. My brother suggested searching for a hybrid – ‘looks like a backpack but has wheels’. He also said that it should be strong and durable because you never really know what happens to it once it disappears from sight at the airport check-in counter. In my mind durable doesn’t equate to classy, but neither does being on bended knees at the airport shoveling my clothes into a broken bag. After much deliberation I settled on one that wasn’t as cool as I’d liked but not overly ugly either, and came with a lifetime warranty, which means it would probably survive any natural disaster.
What seemed like a lifetime of lay-by payments (who does lay-by these days anyway?) I finally got it home. Up until now I was happy with my decision to go with something bigger as this time I was planning on staying indefinitely so I needed to take more than a bikini and my portable clothes line. But when I wheeled it into my bedroom, away from the camouflage of packs and travel accessories in the store, it looked ENORMOUS. How could I have gotten it so wrong! It came up past my waist, and I realised too, that if I curled myself into the fetal position, I could actually fit inside. My friend Michelle was staying for the weekend and tried to make me feel better by saying nice things like, ‘you don’t have to fill it’ and ‘it’ll be great when you start buying things’. While I nodded and pretended it would be okay, internally I wasn’t convinced at all.
As much as I tried, I couldn’t get the bag out of my head. Each time I walked into the bedroom I tried not to look at it, which was pretty difficult considering it was right near the door. When I did acknowledge its existence I tried to imagine I was in one of those cool, cobble-stoned streets in Europe and practiced wheeling it along greeting the locals. This proved to be quite difficult as there was only about a metre of floor space between the bed, the wardrobe and some packing boxes. I only got as far as ‘ciao’ before I had to turn around and start again. I then wondered what it would be like carrying it up five flights of stairs in an apartment building with no lift, so I half filled it with some travel books, a few pairs of shoes, my computer cables and clothes, and realised with dismay, that I was never going to be able to carry it when it was full.
The nights that followed were a combination of bad dreams and sleeplessness. I dreamed of loosing my grip on the handle and watching it roll down a hill, hitting a sea wall and tumble into the ocean. One night I saw myself red-faced and sweaty, dragging the bag behind me like a stubborn mule, and passing a handsome man who pretended he didn’t see me when he caught sight of the monstrosity behind me. When I awoke from these nightmares the bag was there on the other side of the bed, slightly visible in the darkness, like a giant monster lurking in the shadows. The situation was getting ridiculous. The bag had to go.
A few days later I sheepishly returned to the store with bag in tow. The sales assistant, whom I’d gotten to know quite well between lay-by payments, looked at me with a slight smirk. ‘Too big?’ she asked.
Today my new bag is packed full with clothes ready for my move to my brother’s house and this morning I zipped it up and managed to lift it over my head. Why I would ever need to do this I’m not sure but it made me smile. I think I will sleep well tonight. In the month leading up to my trip I might have to re-think how many shoes I can take but I guess I can always reexamine the size of my hand luggage. Oh God, not again!