Dec 11, 2016

Airport disease

Luggage, by Rob Faulkner
You have seen them! People in airports lugging huge travel bags and suitcases. As I travel quite a bit, both for work and leisure, they are literally in my way quite often.
At first they let me feel annoyed, because they were so heavy, so slow. But now annoyance rather gives way to puzzlement: what can they carry inside those huge bags?
Sometimes they are obviously on their way to or from a beach vacation, meaning they will be wearing only swimsuits during days, yet they feel the need to pack a houseful.

Someone else will write about the philosophy of luggage. They will probably explain that bringing a lot of stuff makes people feel safer. Why is it that, on the contrary, carrying things makes me feel awkward and insecure?

Now, the travel-savvy have usually been exposed to the perils of lost luggage. And they avoid checking bags. Of course, you should. Always. But this is not enough.

Carry little, carry less, carry too little. That is my travel motto.

I want the smallest possible bag. (Notice that this specific point already makes me a deviant: airline travel regulations limit the size of your carry-on bag. Therefore people will strive to buy the largest possible suitcase allowed.) And I want that small bag as little filled as possible.

This blog is not to speculate about the Why? but to explore the How this can be done. This blog is partial, personal, arrogant. Enjoy it, criticize it. Improve it.

Dec 10, 2016

Back from Germany

Practical case
Here is everything my backpack contains upon returning home after 9 days of travel, namely one week on business as well as the preceding and following weekends.

The basics
A few items live in the backpack permanently, so as to always be at hand, even when not traveling. I have just been told this is called an Every Day Carry... When the moment comes to pack for a trip, an added benefit is to reduce the number of decisions to take (and to avoid forgetting).
The basics therefore consist of:
- a small silk neckscarf  (see the magic objects section);
- an A5-size transparent pocket containing various documents: a printed address and phone list, a photocopy of my passport and driving license, the numbers to call in case of credit card loss, a 50 euro note, a personal check, 2 ID-size photographs. The plastic pocket is from Japan, with pictures of the dreadful gods of wind and thunder;
- ibuprofen (see the magic objects section),
- emergency food, currently 3 packets of nuts, stolen from an airport lounge,
- chewing gum,
- a pencil and a pen,
- earphones,
- phone charger.

The topic of clothes requires thinking. When packing, this is actually the chapter where I find the most difficult decisions need to be made. For now let us just count: this time, I will be wearing a business suit and an overcoat when traveling. In the bag we have:
- a pair of slacks,
- a business shirt,
- a necktie,
- 2 white t-shirts (see the magic objects section),
- a pair of underpants,
- a pair of socks, woolen because this is December, in Germany.

Winter stuff
This occasion was special because I also had to be ready for an outdoors mystery "snow" activity. So we find:
- a pair of ski socks (which were also perfect to wear while walking my legs off throughout freezing Berlin),
- a pair of woolen gloves and a pair of undergloves,
- a ski hat.

At home, the toiletry bag is always ready. The bag itself is one of those regulation transparent plastic bags suited for the x-ray scan. This removes the need for a dedicated toiletry case and saves space. The contents:
- a toothbrush and a mini toothpaste tube,
- a razor and a bottle of shaving oil (see the magic objects section),
- a small roll-on deodorant,
- ear plugs for air travel,
- a European social security card,
- a mini EU to US plug adapter,
- a 12V to USB in-car power adapter,
- medicines: ibuprofen, melatonin, anti-diarrhea, cortisone spray,
- a small tube of body lotion.

Work stuff
- a laptop and charger. Although it is a lightweight model, this is still the heaviest item in the whole kit;
- a folder with notes, documents and a printout of my calendar.

What loot? In such a tiny bag, can you fit anything more than the very basic necessities? Well, yes. Returning home we have:
- 4 bags of German candy, plus a marzipan loaf, a bag of chocolate-covered gingerbread hearts, a little box of chocolates,
- 2 packs of German string sausages,
- a football magazine in German for my son,
- a keepsake German witch doll,
- 2 miniature liquor bottles: Jaegermeister and Braunschweig-made "Mumme" liquor,
- a tube of Aronal toothgum care toothpaste (only found in Germany).

To be complete, here is the contents of my coat pockets:
- smartphone,
- wallet,
- leather gloves,
- hat,
- reading glasses (non-breakable pair).