British Airways lets you take 23 kilos in your hand luggage. Scandinavian Airlines allow only eight. While I can’t fit anywhere near 23 kilos in my rolly suitcase, this is making me rethink my entire way of life.
Let me back up. I’ve been living abroad for most of two years. I’ve lived with friends, done a bit of housesitting, booked a few rooms with airbnb, hired a cottage, and stayed overnight in a few airport hotels. Because I’m mostly staying put for months at a time, and because I have nice friends, my expenses end up being similar to renting an apartment in Oakland, California.
But in that time and all of those flights, my philosophy of packing has always been to jam as much as I possibly can into the alloted number of bags. My friends in Japan probably thought I was mad for showing up with two huge suitcases, plus my carryon luggage, and I look back and wonder what the hell I was lugging around. Some of it was gifts. But I had a baggage allowance of two checked suitcases, which meant that was how much stuff I needed.
My 8 kilo carryon limit is making me reconsider this philosophy. Packing is a tricky thing when you’re basically moving house. It’s more than deciding how many pairs of socks and underwear and which T-shirts you bring (and I regularly seem to end a trip with a pile of unworn and yet still somehow mismatched socks). Because I don’t know exactly what I’ll need, I bring a range of clothes, casual and dressy, warm and cold. A towel. Boots, dress shoes, and several pairs of sneakers. A light jacket and a heavy jacket. A sun hat and a winter hat. Makeup. Business cards, external backup hard drive, several aging laptops, power cords and international power converters.
Then there are the indulgences that feel like necessities: my blanket from Natureweave Wales, which was made by my friend Anna Morgan and has magic in it. My collection of small bills and change in five or six different currencies, all from places I’ve at least changed planes in, if not lived in for weeks or months. My guitar and homemade songbook. Things you can’t get in the next country, like Australian chocolate, Japanese cakes, and Welsh tea.
Twenty three kilos, about 50 pounds, is the average allowance for checked luggage, and my hand luggage is a respectfully trim rolling suitcase, plus a backpack. Some international flights give you two checked pieces, some one.
And as I’m getting ready for Iceland I think it’s the books that aren’t going to make it. I have half a dozen books with me thanks to BA’s hefty cabin allowance. I bought a few more while here in Ireland. I’m keeping my hand-corrected reading copy of The Loving Dead (which is now available for a mere penny on Amazon!), books one and two of the Way of the Wizards series, silly and fun books by my friend J.E. Honey, and the advance reader copy of Hard Times Blues by Elwin Cotman. I am thinking about how quickly I can read the books I will otherwise have to ship or give away. I may have to get used to reading e-books just to save the agony of letting physical books go.
See, I have romantic ideas about culling down to the point where I only have carryon luggage. How smooth and cool I would be then. Possibly the worst part of travel are those times when you’re sweaty from wearing several layers, your back and forearms ache from lugging oodles of stuff through airports, and and you’re thinking about how to get all of your bags off of the train before it starts moving again. I like my stuff, but I want to carry less of it.
So thank you, Scandinavian Airlines. And sorry, little books.