Thursday, May 6, 2010

How I became a "box luggage" believer

Until about a year ago I staunchly refused to invest in or use bulky, boxy suitcases.  Aside from their obvious size and heft, it was more what they represented that turned me off.  I pictured businessmen and well off women walking down an airport hallway with their carry-on trailing behind them, and families fresh off the plane stacking boxy black suitcases identical to every other suitcase on the carousel, onto a luggage cart.  This jet-setting, family vacation aura went completely against the adventure-traveler, living out of a backpack persona I was trying to cultivate for myself. So what happened to change my mind?  After 4 straight years of traveling, and even more than that, moving around the world, I got smarter.  I learned the techniques of maximizing space and traveling comfortably, no matter what luggage I use, one of those now being a boxy, rolling, carry on. Now, I don't want to give the impression that I ran out to Macy's and bought some fantastic 5 piece, Navy Blue luggage set that I got an incredible deal on.  The change isn't as severe as that.  One step at a time right?  My motivation to buy a rolling carry on suitcase really came from the fact that I had a lot of heavy, and breakable items that I wanted to bring home from Thailand with me last summer.  I couldn't just throw them into my checked baggage.  So I went on the search for some luggage, Thailand being a luggage capital, or at least it seems like it.  I checked around at the Night Bazaar and Khao Saan Road, but the prices they were asking I felt were far to steep for something that would probably break in the airport as I ran to catch my connecting flight.  Before I knew it I was hours away from flying home and still without a suitcase, so I walked down to our neighborhood Big C (like Walmart) and picked one up for $15.  Chances were that it would break in the airport, but at least it was cheap and it would get me home like I needed.  And it did make it home as well as back and forth to Thailand over the next year. But the real victory wasn't in that it survived, it was in what I was able to fit into it.  When I returned to Bangkok for the new school year last June my carry on weighed 45 lbs!  I forced construction paper and other heavy school supplies into it, weight restrictions being my biggest nemeses in the travel industry.  Then, when I traveled home for Christmas I was able to pack the bag full of breakable gifts, and just this last month, as I prepared to move home I was able to load it with my heavy DVD case, which would have surly sent my checked luggage over the edge. 
    So, now that I've moved home and I no longer find myself having to haul large amounts of heavy items from one country to another does my faith in box luggage stand?  Absolutely, in fact I just decommissioned my trusty silver and black Thailand rolling carry on and invested in a slightly larger, and much cooler looking  rolling carry on from Target.  In these days of ridiculous checked bag fees, as I fly domestically I will rely more and more heavily on my carry on, and if I don't have to carry that said carry on on my back or shoulder I know my body will be thanking me in 30 years.
    So what happened to my rolling duffels, my backpacks, my shoulder bags?  They're still here.  Like I said babysteps right?  I have not yet dived in and purchased a "giant" box suitcase.  My rolling duffels weigh much lighter and since so much of my "checked bag" traveling relies on bags weighing less than 50lbs, I think I'll have my rolling duffels for awhile.
     My backpack collection is still going strong.  Although I had to abandon my wonderful, but not practical 100 liter Deutor bag in Thailand, my 45 liter REI backpack is just waiting for the next adventure.  Afterall,  can you really use rolling luggage on the Inca Trail right?

So that's my story.  I don't see myself as an less of an adventure seeking, backpacking traveler for finding great use in box luggage, just a smarter one.


Abby said...

I have come to love reading your website I think I was originally connected to you thru the travel website that was having the contest...anyway I wondered how do you fund all your travels?

Manda said...

Thanks so much Abby!
Funding is the hardest part of traveling isn't it? My original exploits were in college with Semester at Sea, for which I am still paying on a hefty loan for. Most recently though my travels were made possible by living/ teaching in Thailand. One reason I chose to teach in Thailand was because I knew it was a good and cheap launching point for traveling in Asia. The only trip I took in my two years living abroad in Thailand (I just moved home 3 weeks ago) that cost over $1000 was my trip to Nepal where I hiked the Everest Trail. My second most expensive trip was to Bali, coasting around $700. All others were around $300 or less. I should also mention that I didn't go shopping very often so I could save money for travels :)