AFTER decades of doing it on a fairly regular basis as part of my job, I should know the drill by now. Well, to a certain extent, I do. But it hasn’t made my packing any faster or easier than the first few times I started doing it way back in the early ’90s.
In short, packing, for me, is still a chore, especially during long trips in the dead of winter. If there’s a science to packing, then I have yet to memorize the entire formula by heart. Blame it on my fastidiousness as a dresser, and the fact that my clothes and shoes are fairly big.
Don’t laugh! In the days after 9-11, when airlines have become greedier for profits, every ounce counts. And every article of clothing, gadget, pasalubong and grooming product you bring with you on board adds up. That’s why I’m surprised when I’m traveling with fellow journalists, especially the ladies.
Surviving on basics
How come they’re able to pack that many looks in suitcases so much smaller than mine, while I could barely squeeze in all the stuff I wanted to wear in my bigger, more travel-battered Samsonite?
Some male colleagues I’ve been with can even survive three nights in a foreign land with barely a carry-on luggage of clothes and other necessities with them.
More often than not, I tend to overdo it by bringing stuff—from clothes to shoes, magazines to books—which I never get to use anyway. I take comfort in what my colleague Liza “Outfit of the Day” Ilarde once told me.
No light packer Liza is, she’s also incapable of surviving on a teeny-weeny suitcase even during short trips. If push comes to shove, “it’s better to overpack than to underpack,” she said. I hear you, Liza.
She’s not alone. I’ve come across a number of colleagues who bring half-filled suitcases with them even during overnight trips to Hong Kong and Singapore. They have a perfectly valid excuse. What if the shopping gets interesting?
Golden age of outlets
All this talk about shopping makes me pine for the days when travel by coach class to the US allowed you to bring home two balikbayan boxes of goodies weighing 70 pounds each. It was the golden age of outlet shopping and multiple “pilgrimages” to the usual shrines to commerce such as Wal-Mart and Target.
And when e-books were just figments of the imagination, such a generous weight allowance allowed me to bring home stacks of glossy magazines and a hardbound book or two from Barnes & Noble and the now defunct Borders. Indeed, those were the days.
Now, the weight allowance to and from the US for economy-class passengers is down to two checked-in luggage not exceeding 50 pounds each.
If I compare that to travel to Europe, especially within EU-member countries, I have no reason to complain. Airlines flying to the US like Delta and our very own Philippine Airlines are by far more generous compared to their European counterparts.
If I’m not mistaken, you’re stuck with one check-in bag not weighing more than 22 kilos if you’re traveling from the Philippines to any point in Europe. It’s worse when you fly within Europe. If you have the time, it’s better, more economical and much more romantic to do the Old World by train.
During a plane trip from Amsterdam to Rome, for instance, I even had the unpleasant experience of being charged extra for a carry-on suitcase. Imagine how shocked I was.
An item that’s routinely used by travelers without being charged extra (read: harassed) in airports in Asia and America is considered excessive in Europe. Tsk, tsk, tsk! No wonder the entire EU economy is in the doldrums. You make airport shopping and traveling in style a sin in your neck of the woods.
As if that wasn’t enough, after asking me to pay so many euros, the ground crew at KLM (it was a code-shared flight with Alitalia) demanded that I check the bag in. I wouldn’t have been so stressed out had it been my trusty Samsonite. Of all the days, I was carrying with me my one and only Louis Vuitton roller meant (at least in my mind) for the airplane’s cabin and not in its belly.
My checked-in LV miraculously survived the short plane ride to Rome without a scratch. God, who knew I was going to the Vatican that time, must have taken pity on me and my mundane concerns that he didn’t allow a sick and/or envious baggage handler to randomly take a stab—literally—at my little LV like what a number of high-flying Asian passengers experience.
Food for the soul
Indeed, traveling, like food, is one of life’s simple pleasures. Unlike being deprived of food, however, you would still manage to live should you get stuck in one place for the rest of your life. But imagine how boring and incomplete your life would be.
And even if you’re a wide reader or an avid fan of National Geographic and Discovery Channel, nothing compares to seeing and experiencing a place up close and personal.
You need not travel to a foreign country to experience the highs [and occasional lows] of traveling. Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan (don’t be foreigner in your own land).
For starters, you can do Bohol, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Palawan, the Ilocos Region and even nearby Laguna, Cavite and Batangas. Trust me. Having experienced these local attractions myself, you won’t regret it.
And despite the expenses and inconveniences associated with travel—from long lines at the airport to grumpy ground personnel, delayed flights to random body searches—a well-planned trip with friends and loved ones is worth all the trouble. Who knows? That trip could turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that could change the rest of your life.