Flying with Baggage
Had there not been a counter between us, I would have assaulted an airlines worker. 160 dollars for three extra kilograms of carry-on luggage? Considering the plane ticket had only set me back $98, my backpack ought to have its very own seat in first class for $160. The airlines worker sighed impatiently as I desperately tried to lose the three extra pounds, a reoccurring struggle in my travels as well as my exercise habits.
Within seconds, the entire content of my backpack was spewed across the airport floor (in less than one week, the entire contents of my stomach would suffer a similar fate). I slipped on several pairs of pants and ditched the extraneous items: deodorant, shampoo, water bottle, and my one pair of nice heels that I always carry with me but never actually wear, but even still, there was no weaseling my way out of the overweight baggage fee. I took a deep breath and handed her the credit card. Is that the cost of all my baggage? 160 dollars? Is that how much it costs to carry your life with you? I had boiled down twenty years of acquired material to fit into a 45 fluid ounce Kelty backpack, and still, it was too much.
We travel to escape, to explore, to start fresh, to eat fresh, or even just to experience a change, and there is nothing “easy” or “light” about that.
Traveling light has to be the biggest irony there is. We travel to escape, to explore, to start fresh, to eat fresh, or even just to experience a change, and there is nothing “easy” or “light” about that. A traveler with the smallest and lightest of bags may still find themselves burdened with baggage. I flew from Australia to Bali with a broken heart, a guilty conscious, a heavy load of responsibility, a new sense of adventure, and the terror of being utterly alone, which when added up, placed a much heavier weight on my shoulders than did my Kelty backpack.
In the wake of a cluttered and excessively milked breakup, my growing discontent led me to believe that the only logical cure for my heartache was to purchase a one-way ticket to Bali. It seemed like a step forward at the time, or at least a step in a new direction, and I was ready to leave my belongings and problems behind and simply travel light.
My month-long backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, as incredible and eye-opening as it was, did little to unburden my mind of distant thoughts.
There’s an old saying: “Out of sight, out of mind.” I assume that the bastard who coined this must have also conceived the idea of overcharging travelers for vaguely overweight luggage. A troubled mind cannot be jettisoned the way a shampoo bottle can, nor can an entire life be left behind the way a pair of heels can. There is a steep price for all the baggage we carry. My month-long backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, as incredible and eye-opening as it was, did little to unburden my mind of distant thoughts.
After a sweat-inducing spicy red curry, I would think to myself : “I bet Lewy would have loved that,” or even in the midst of basking on a postcard-worthy beach, I would catch myself stressing about the multiplying piles of work that awaited for me back home in the States.
The paradox of “traveling light” reveals the impossibility of “traveling to escape.” Our baggage, much like our curiosity, cannot be tethered to one location for pickup at a later date. We have no choice but to carry it all with us, and no matter how we distribute the weight, flying with baggage doesn’t come cheap.
Flying with Baggage: Is it Really Possible to Travel Light? /Lauren wrote this during Pink Pangea’s Travel Writing Retreat in Connecticut. Interested in joining one of our retreats? Find out more here.