Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Excess Baggage = Excess Baggage?

This morning's paper had a travel-related story that caught my eye. I made mention of how *what clothes* people take on pleasure trips (not business) is highly individual, and that the list of those items they choose to take is almost set in stone.

This struck a chord, for I am a born-again light packer (see Snapshot Journeys What to Pack), and if *I* can change, and for the better, so can most anyone. Now, I can't imagine carting all those heavy suitcases, and look on with pity and awe when I see other travelers struggling to manhandle 3 or more bags through airports, hotels and cabs. Are they immigrating? No, just on holiday for a week or two. (I usually ask. If they are immigrating, I am interested to find out why, and where.)

And it made me realize that the compulsion to bring along excess baggage with enough clothing to cover ever possible contingency for wardrobe changes is a 'security blanket', something familiar and comforting to those travelers who are outside their comfort zone. And like a toddler's security blanket, when they finally give it up, its a sign of growth, and that they are secure within themselves. At least, that's what I think.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Wearing Country Badges On The Road (and MFAs)

The World Cup set off a frenzy of flag-waving -- especially the kind that stick out of car windows. At least here in Toronto. Now a friend who lives in Sydney, Australia, said that the phenomenon is Down Under, and for the first time, too. (Someone is making a large fortune on those things.)

I think it's nice to see for World Cup, but it made me think about other times we show our country colors. I am thinking now of the nice 'Canada' badge I had sewn on my back pack. If people knew I was a visitor from a (mostly) friendly country, I thought, they'd be nicer to me. But in Hong Kong a month or so ago, I carefully snipped the threads holding the badge to my back pack, and tucked the badge safely inside.

It's not that I am not proud of my country. I am. But, rather than stand out in a crowd, I wanted to blend in. Toting a day pack is not that unusual in many places, even in Hong Kong. But most people do *not* have their country emblazoned on their packs. I did. I stood out. Easily identified to one and all as someone new in town, and perhaps an easy target for those who did not wish me well. This would be the case most anywhere, except at home in Canada.

Even if I stand out because of my skin and hair color, I could be a resident, especially if I looked like I knew where I was going. But label yourself a tourist (reading city maps in public places will do this, too), and you may as well say 'Target Here!'

So take your cues from the local in the street. If they are all walking down the main streets wearing shorts and golf shirts, or mini skirts and halter tops, then go nuts. But if you want to blend in with the crowd, then tone it down.

And, as an aside, I see someone has been logged onto this (copyrighted) blog for several days now. Either they find me fascinating, or they are copying my material for use on an MFA site. Happens all the time. Write your own content, people!

Friday, June 16, 2006

No Time to Travel, No Time to Blog: It's World Cup !!

And that's where we all are -- glued to our televisions. There's even one set up in my bank. This may not be odd in say, Italy, where they have a huge interest and powerhouse team, but this is Canada, people! I cannot remember previous World Cups generating this much interest,

It's great, though, and it's addictive. So go get hooked on it yourself.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Nothing Wrong With Basic Black

About a year ago, when I was not even shopping for one, I happened upon a wheeled, deep orange suitcase in my local mall. It was love at first sight.

Best of all, it had all the features I look for in such luggage -- small enough to go into an overhead bin, its handle internal, not attached on the outside, and its extension and retraction controlled by a button and enclosed by a zippered flap -- and recessed front pockets, not saddlebag afterthoughts. Best of all, in a sea of black bags, it would stand out on a carousel. And it was on sale. What's not to love?

But on my first trip with this new bag, I regretted the non-black color: The dark orange was liberally streaked with black airline baggage handler grease after the first flight of my trip. It looked worn and tired. By the time I got home, luggage handling had added more marks. I was wishing I had stuck to basic black. Sure, it would still have marks, but I would still have illusion of smart new luggage.

The suitcase stood out on the carousel for that one trip only. On later trips, it was joined by a host of others, ranging from bright orange to shades of red. Its once-unique feature was now commonplace, and I still needed my stick-on labels to locate it in the circling pack.

I'm going back to black in the future. It might be dirty and marked with grease, but it looks cleaner.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Travel clothes :: What *Not* to Wear

The new high tech travel clothing is great -- fast drying, well-sewn, breathable -- a little goes a long way.

I am thinking of a comment made about tourists by a friend living in Honduras, something about "These guys that come down here in their Tilley hats [known for their fabric, secret pockets and lifetime guarantee] and think they are really roughing it." Since we were in Tegucigalpa, the busy capital, at the time, and the wildest, roughest thing around was the supermarket, I could see his point.

This came to mind again on the Borneo trip. Sitting in the plane, waiting for take off, the people around me began chatting. One (very handsome) fellow, in the seat in front of me, his seatmate told us, had won some Young Explorer award from National Geographic, and was headed for an island to watch the turtles. His clothing, from his shirt to his shoes, glistened and gleamed with newness. Having just been in all the outfitting stores looking for travel pants myself, I recognized the labels signature. Couldn't help myself -- said something to him about how shiny and new he was, all ready for his first Big Trip.

Another fellow piped up. "You should see his backpack. It's so shiny it hurts your eyes." I was really glad I had limited myself to just the travel pants so I didn't stand out too much.

I guess the lesson here is a little high tech wardrobe goes a long way. If you are going to look like you should be a window display in the hikers store, you may as well wear a sign that says I Have Secret Pockets Where I Hide My Valuables. May as well go for broke. Or for gosh sake, don't wear them all at once, or you look like the kid all set for his first day at camp.

(See more travel and packing tips at snapshotjourneys.com/traveltips.html and snapshotjourneys.com/what-to-pack.html)