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     Volume 6 Issue 47 | December 7, 2007 |

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Excess Baggage

Nader Rahman

I stand in my room and survey the damage; this will take longer than I thought. The thrill of travelling is never lost on me; in fact I revel in it. New places to see, people to meet, cultures to observe and food to eat, everything about travelling excites me. Everything that is, except packing and actually preparing for the trip.

For a semi-experienced traveller I should be used to it, but seemingly before every trip I can never put everything together. One of the main reasons is that procrastinator is my middle name, which when coupled with my first and last names of messy (not the footballer, but somewhat like his dishevelled hair) and forgetful, it leaves one with a horrible combination for traveller. For a person who wishes to travel the world, a name like Messy Procrastinator Forgetful could only mean trouble.

Invariably I leave my packing to the night or morning before the flight and I come across numerous problems, problems which I have faced many times before and which I always make a mental note of. The only problem is that my mental post-its lack sufficient glue and I end up going through the same troubles time after time. The first problem is which suitcase to pack. I come from a family of travellers so suitcases of all shapes, sizes and colours are at my disposal, yet I never know which suitcase will be best for a trip. This problem is commingled with another chronic disease I suffer from, not knowing how much to pack. Without ever knowing how many clothes to pack, how can I ever choose a suitcase, but then again without a suitcase how do I ever get started. It usually boils down to superficiality, I'll choose the jet black suitcase just because it looks good.

The first step is over and vanity got the better of me, little did I know she would show up again, this time only when I choose my wardrobe for the trip. Usually the wardrobe for a trip is down to a number of factors, where it is, for how long and for what purpose. One would assume for the arctic Canadian winters there is no reason to pack anything other than layers of thick woollen clothes, but that's where my vanity shows up again. I will try my level best to plan out what clothes I'll wear on which day and then even if I am to layer my clothes I'd want to colour coordinate, that simply means more clothes to pack. When I can pack 20 items of clothes, I'll probably end up taking 35, who knows I may need it. But vanity aside, estimating how many clothes to take for a trip is risky business and all I can say is that I never underestimate, thus the words 'packing light' mean nothing to me.

With a sleek black suitcase accompanied by a wardrobe of Liz Tyleresque proprtiona only half my problems are over. Because the picking and packing of suitcases all come rather late in the day I never double check the essentials. There is a strange sense that once the clothes are in, nothing else is as important, but then tell that to the traveller who leaves his money and passport behind. The art of packing includes a carry on and everything that will be needed for a trip, yet for me as long as the main suitcase is done I am left with a sense of satisfaction and most importantly completion. But literally hundreds of other things must be packed as well, belts, colognes, toothbrush and paste, shampoo, conditioner, gel (if applicable), watches and so on. When faced with an eminent deadline, all of them seem a blur and if one or two are forgotten then so be it. But quite often those 'so be its' turn out to be quite costly. I have a friend whom I shall not mention came to Dhaka for a wedding and found himself without a formal leather belt, he ended up wearing what could at best be called a desert storm belt. It was and still remains one sight I shall never forget and it all came down to a simple belt, a belt I'm sure he wishes he packed because even now years since it happened many people (my self included) have never let him live it down.

We are slowly moving towards the toughest choice and items to pack. With airlines in the state they are these days and with oil prices near $100 a barrel it seems more likely they will 'lose' or 'misplace' ones luggage, which I'm sure is code for “we'll sell it off to the highest bidder because we need the money that badly”. This leaves me in one of biggest conundrums of packing, should I take along anything valuable in my luggage, which if lost could not be replaced. The normal answer is no, but at times it just can not be avoided and those are the times to really worry. At the end of the day no one packs anything extraordinarily expensive in a suitcase, but things like good suits and personally significant items are packed quite often. Losing that is at times tougher than losing something genuinely expensive, and this is a reccurring problem for me, should I or shouldn't I.

After the tough choices come the tough items to pack, anything liquid such as shampoos and toothpaste. No matter how trustworthy a wet lock it, it is always susceptible to failing and if that were to happen it could be disastrous for the rest of the contents. While the rules governing what one could and could not take in a carry on were less strict, I would always suggest to take such liquid items in it. But post 9/11 it seems even gel could be a hazardous material in the wrong hands. Finally one comes to the most difficult items to pack and those are shoes, they ever fit anywhere and packing more than one pair is very difficult, especially for me, since I chose the style of small black suitcase over the substance of an orange one.

The suitcase can finally be jammed shut and random items shoved into the carry on, at this point, time is usually not on my side. I make the tail end of the check in line and when I finally reach the counter I am left with a horrible seat and fine to pay for excess baggage.


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