(Carry-on) Bag Lady

I was 22-years-old and headed to LA with four of my best friends for spring break. We hit a weather-related snag in the Minneapolis airport and ended up on a flight bound for Orange County while our checked bags went to LAX. Nothing ruins a trip faster than wearing the same pair of underpants for 72 consecutive hours.

Ever since that trip, I’ve been strictly a carry-on kind of girl. My Dad gave me a three-piece luggage set as a college graduation gift. I used the carry-on bag until I wore holes through the fabric and smashed its internal structure to bits. My next bag was a convertible backpack that was large enough to hold two weeks worth of clothing, yet presentable enough to carry into the lobby of a mid-range hotel without shame. In fact, I liked this bag so much I bought it for both my husband and Dad. One of the best memories I have from my destination wedding is my Dad arriving at the hotel looking cool-as-hell in his blue shirt, dark khakis and this backpack slung over one shoulder. Neither Indiana Jones nor Rick Steves has anything on my Dad.

My Mom keeps a stash of Real Simple magazines at her home for me to read when I come to visit. I was lying in her guest bed one night reading the “New Year, New You” issue in June, when I came across a page featuring stylish carry-on bags. Right away I was drawn to a beautiful, soft-sided roller bag. One of the fashion editors took this bag to Paris and packed five complete outfits into it, including two pairs of boots. Best of all, it was attainable. It was made by London Fog and sold at major department stores for $150.

The very next morning, Mom and I hightailed it over to the closest Boston Store in hot pursuit of this bag. While we don’t typically need much of an excuse to go shopping together, there was actual need driving this purchase. My Dad and I were planning a 10-day trip to Ireland with an ambitious itinerary. I needed a bag that would allow me to travel lightly and stylishly. And this bag looked like it wouldn’t mind being squished into a sub-compact rental car.

After wandering the counter-intuitive corridors of Boston Store, we finally found the luggage department tucked in-between men’s socks and KitchenAid stand mixers. On a bottom shelf, hiding behind the uprights, remained one London Fog houndstooth roller duffel bag. The exterior was beautiful. It had a roomy main compartment with side pockets for shoes and jewelry, a retractable handle that tucked into a zippered pocket, and smooth, responsive wheels for breezing through airports at record-shattering speed. It even had latches on the side to cinch down the bag, ensuring it would fit into any overhead bin space. The bag was on sale for less than $100, so Mom offered to buy me the matching personal-item sized bag.

There are a few defining moments in life when you feel like you’ve arrived. Strutting up to the checkout counter with my perfectly coordinated luggage set was one of these moments.

This bag has since carried me everywhere. It traveled beautifully through Ireland, to the mountains of Colorado for ski trips, to multiple tropical destination weddings, and to Wisconsin countless times. Only recently has it shown any sign of wear. I was over-aggressive about shoving it into a tiny overhead bin on my way to Mexico and one of the side latches popped off. I felt this loss deeply because I love this bag and want to treat it right.

Yes, I know – you should love people, not things. But if my apartment were burning and I had five seconds to grab what I could, I would throw my cat into this bag and run. I’m certain my husband is self-sufficient enough to make it out alive. The houseplants would have died regardless of the situation.

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Life, Travel

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