Tag Archives: suitcase

Life ending for a suitcase

I had never thought that disposing of an old suitcase could turn into an interesting half hour…
I guess you would normally throw it in your weekly house garbage. Or into a skip.
But that would have been too easy! And I don’t do “easy”.

It all started in the morning. On my way to work I realised that carrying a suitcase that has only one functional wheel (having lost the other one last month) was not ideal. It doesn’t matter if it’s only cabin size, I packed it heavy! SweatingDragging it wouldn’t work. Carrying it on full lifting was good to build muscles but not easy on long distances. I arrived to the office in a full sweat. My usual greeting “Good morning team!” could not take the attention away from my dripping forehead.

So as I left work at 5pm, after diligently setting my Out of Office Reply On to cover for the next few days’ absence, I decided that action was required. And I headed to the nearest bag shop and bought a replacement. A nice black sports bag on wheels.

That left me with a new problem: how do I now dispose of the old suitcase? I am on my way to the airport and in a bit of a hurry, and now I have an empty suitcase with a missing wheel to get rid of. I certainly cannot leave it by a bin or in the street. Can you imagine the panic about unattended baggage?!

So as I got to the train station I asked one of the ticket officers for advice. “Please speak to the police community officers over there” was his answer. Well, mate, they seem a bit busy! It looked like a case of drunkenness-related accident: a middle-aged woman with slurred speech was repeatedly touching her head in pain. Her friend was talking while one of the officers was taking notes. I stood nearby in silence, watching until the two women were safely left in the care of the paramedics.police

“Apologies for such a trivial question but could you please advise on how I can dispose of this bag?” was my approach.  The two officers appeared puzzled. Suggested a couple of options only to realise immediately that they were unfeasible. And eventually they kindly offered to take my suitcase away and find a way to dispose of it without causing mass panic.

As I watched them walk away with what had been my faitfhul companion of so many short trips around Europe, I couldn’t help feeling  a bit sad…

Backpackers vs Flashpackers

My red suitcase is standing in a corner amongst a sea of large backpacks.

Red suitcase
The “culprit” in isolation

As I left it in the care of the receptionist after checking out from my hostel in Luang Prabang, Lao, I became suddenly aware of my oddity: I was the only one with a suitcase. Some fellow travellers were giving me slightly strange looks. I felt I was some sort of outcast.

And that took me back to the conversation I had with a new friend over dinner a few nights before. “Do you travel with a backpack or a suitcase?” she had asked me. “A suitcase”. “Then you are a Flashpacker”.

A Flashpacker. As opposed to a Backpacker.
It sounded like a death sentence. I now belong to a different tribe. I am different. A subtle feeling of panic started seeping in.

Am I a Flashpacker? How did that happen? When did that happen? And what does it actually mean?

Yes of course, there is the suitcase business. These days I often travel with a suitcase – instead of a backpack. It’s just more practical. Easier to carry, sturdier built, padlocks. All plus points.
But swapping a backpack for a suitcase seems to have more of a sociological meaning than I would have thought. It’s not seen as a choice for practicality but as a symbol of a different lifestyle.

But is the choice of travel luggage enough to justify the existence of a new travelling tribe? Or is there more to it?

Is it the choice of accommodation?
The words ‘backpacker’ and ‘hostel’ evoke images of grubby bunk-bed dorms and drunken parties till the wee hours. partiesPersonally I have done enough bunk-bed dorms in my younger (and not so younger) years, and even lived in a backpacker hostel for a whole of three years. Now it’s time for slightly more comfort. At budget prices surely, but hey when you can have your own double room with ensuite, a/c and TV for US$16-20 per night, the idea of sharing with another 6-8 people appears of little to no appeal. And you can still stay in a hostel for that!

Hostel room in Luang Prabang
My room in Khammany Inn Hostel in Luang Prabang, Lao. All mine!!!

How about the tech gadgets?
Not enought to discriminate, in my opinion. I have seen so many  backpackers carrying expensive tech gear in the form of iPads, netbooks, DSLR cameras, and so on. And panicking at the idea of not having Wi-Fi connection for a few days. The ‘toys’ no longer define your tribe.

Is the age factor involved?
Backpackers are usually younger travellers with a very tight budget and plenty of time in their hands. My take on a Flashpacker is that they are older individuals with more cash, more experience, and less time. They’ve done it all before and they now want a more chilled, comfortable and meaningful way of travelling and experiencing places and people.

I personally hate luxury and anything slightly posh makes me cringe, but looking at all the above it sounds like I may have unwillingly upgraded myself to Flashpacker status.

Backpackers vs. Flashpackers: now, which tribe do you belong to?

Packing nightmare

For someone like me, who prides herself with being the “world’s greatest world traveler” (actually these are the words of my friend Bex), light packing is surprisingly a skill still missing from the list.
I have packed backpacks and suitcases hundreds of times before, but I just never seem to learn!

So today after struggling with carrying luggage from my place to Stella’s, whose place  I am staying at tonight,  I realised that something needed to be done. No chance I could carry this amount going up and down planes/buses/trains/taxis/whatever means of transport that I would be using over the next few weeks :-(

Action is required. Now!

What’s the first thing that can go? Mmm do I really need that heavy travel photography handbook? Yes. But…isn’t there an e-version available? Yes! £10 for the Kindle version, which also means I have to download a Kindle-for-PC converter and sort out some version incompatibility. But now it’s done, and I am a bit lighter (even in my wallet, but better than a broken back). Yay!

What’s next? I need help! Stella!!!! And here’s the two of us sitting on the living room floor with all my suitcase content spread everywhere, lifting one item at a time. “Are you really really gonna need this?” she asks. Yes. Ok, maybe. Not. You win.
Repeat that for half an hour in the same sequence, and here I am 2.5Kg lighter. Mission accomplished!!!

Will I do it better next time? Sadly, probably not.