On Not Travelling Light…

17 Jul On Not Travelling Light…

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – Cover Date 10.7.23


You will have felt it at an airport luggage carousel or train station or anywhere people depart and arrive. A discernible moral judgement being made about the size and weight of a traveller’s baggage.

Somewhere along the way, “travelling light” has become aspirational. Being able to move around the world carrying the fewest possible possessions makes you – if not as saintly as a nun or monk revered for eschewing worldly goods – then at least someone efficient, streamlined, self-contained.

In movies, a character arriving with a mountain of matching luggage is shorthand for wealthy, pampered and out of touch. Those bags are there to tell us this person is not like us.

Though you don’t have to bring the whole mountain to get a bit of side-eye. Turn up for an overnighter with something bigger than what is officially deemed “an overnight bag” and you’ll get, “How long are you planning to stay?” delivered with more or less humour, depending.

I know these things, and I also know I am capable of travelling light with the regulation under-seven-kilos, carryon-only, bare essentials. But here’s the thing: I choose not to. I’ve tried it both ways and have landed on the side of Big Baggage.

My feeling right now is that, while I spend this much time away from home, I want to take some of the good bits of home with me. Not the cat, obviously. But I’m learning the things that make me comfortable at home also bring me comfort in a hotel room, so they’re coming in my suitcase.

Exhibit A: scissors. You would be amazed how often, when you don’t have scissors handy, you need them. Errant threads, sturdy labels, or individually wrapped teabags which are supposed to have a starter-tear to get them open but you’ve landed a full batch that just don’t.

Travelling light – and reluctant to carry scissors through airport security in my hand luggage – I recall finding myself scissorless in New Plymouth. I bought a pair at a local bookstore only to discover back in my room that I couldn’t get them out of the packaging without … erm … scissors. Chicken, egg. Except you don’t need scissors to crack open an egg.

So now little scissors are in my checked luggage, along with a lightweight Bluetooth speaker so I can make a hotel room sound like home, good soap, my favourite room spray, a travel coffee plunger and ground coffee (not beans and a grinder, that would be crazy), a potato peeler because I like to buy carrots for snacks, hat-scarf-gloves because even when you check the forecast you can’t remember what 8 degrees cooler feels like but suspect it requires woolly things; the book you’re finishing plus the one you’re about to start.

This plus fresh undies and so forth is about nine kilos, a smidge more than the permitted weight for carryon. And I am nothing if not a stickler for the rules about how much you can stuff into an overhead locker. I watch people jam something the size and weight of a side of beef up there and I think it is fair to say the side-eye I get for my checked-in suitcase is nothing compared to the side-eye I give to that sort of nonsense.

Though the irritation passes quickly enough when I remember that pretty soon I’ll be brewing fresh coffee and listening to jazz in a room that belongs to a hotel, but feels very much like home.