Taking the world less travelled

My Travel Bag Philosophy – An Evolutionary Journey

Posted by on May 24, 2008 in Travel | 5 comments

First off, I’m impressed I spelt “philosophy” correct the first time writing it, but I am sure that for the remainder of this post I’ll probably type it wrong…

Now there is less than 6 months until I go to Japan for the first time! I’m very excited as you can well imagine. Over the next six months I am planning to make a few posts on my preparation for my trip – how I go about booking my hotels, planning my journey, etc etc etc. I am also obsessed with luggage and what I am taking, so I may talk about that a lot. For now, I would like to talk about my Travel Bag Philosophy – which is a very new thing let me tell you!

Me And Travelling Light – HUH!

Me and travelling light usually don’t go in the same sentence. But this time I am determined!!

Usually I have three bags to take with me to someone’s house for an overnight visit. Not so much clothes in these bags, but various activities that perhaps quite possibly I may want to do. My lap top, some books (a variety, cause you never know what I may want to read), some magazines, some writing materials… etc etc.

But I’m determined that I don’t want to be a slave to my luggage while in Japan. Read on further to discover my journey in baggage handling, and what I am looking for in a travel bag.

In The Beginning – Sore Shoulders

I remember my second trip to America. I had a duffle bag filled to the brim with enough clothes for a month and enough books for two.

bullet I wanted to carry on my bag.

There was no philosophy behind this at the time, unlike I have now. It was for a simple reason: I had a very short time between connecting flights, and I didn’t want to miss it.

The first time I went to America I got through customs fairly quickly, as there were no other flights lined up when I got there. However, it took forever for my bags to come – at least it felt like that after a very long sleepless flight when all I wanted to do was sit/collapse.

I was very luck in my second trip to the US in that they actually let me carry on my bag. I actually think it was more to do with me being young, beautiful (of course) and my sob story about the connecting flights – all I had to do was remove some books and they let me carry on my enormous bag. Yay me!

Getting through customs took a bit longer second time around, but once I was through I could skip the baggage carousel and be on my merry way.

(Insert here rant about how I got out of customs in L.A.X without anyone looking through my bag – this is post Sept 11, mind you, and I found the security really lacking. I should have smuggled in some drugs, dammit. Anyway, just more proof that those Americans are crazy :P)

bullet OMG was my bag heavy!

If you have ever been to L.A.X., you know it’s a pretty big airport. I’m sure it’s not as big as some. But when you are really tired after a long flight, and have to quickly get to your connecting flight, and you have a huge bag that is really heavy and supported on only one shoulder, it’s big. And I couldn’t find the correct terminal – I wasn’t sure because it could have been one of two. I ended up walking the length of L.A.X., hoping on the bus to get back to the place I thought it was after seeing the whole thing, ended up choosing the wrong one, and having to walk a while more to get to the right one.

My duffle bag strap broke in the process – it was connected to the bag via plastic clips, one bit broke off so I couldn’t “close” the clasp properly. Yay.

Suffice to say, from the hour or so I was carrying this heavy bag around (and around) the airport, I received a very very sore shoulder for days.

bullet I didn’t need to carry my bag much.

I was lucky, in that I would be travelling with my duffle only at the start and end of my journey, all other times I would be using my handbag. So I didn’t have to carry my duffle much. Sure, it still gave me one hell of a shoulder ache, but comfort to carry things wasn’t my main priority when I bought it.

My Newfangled Philosophy – Comfort, Carry On, and LIGHT

OK, OK, you are reading that heading there and thinking DUH. But I guess it’s something that I have never had to think about before. My travel forays have always had the comfort of having someone’s house to keep goods, someone’s car to drive me around in.

In every day life, however, I am a public transport user and carry lots of things on my back, so I know that if I am going to be in a situation where I will have to carry a lot of things for long distances, I want a back pack, and ideally one bag.

In Japan, of course, I’ll be doing lots of walking. Walking to and from train stations, hotel rooms, travelling on public transport. I even plan on doing some bike riding and I’m not sure if I will have my main bags with me then or not. So, something comfortable, light, etc, is necessary.

I also want to get into Japan and out of customs as quick as possible. Hence, I want something carry on size.

While searching for travel bag ideas, I came across OneBag.com. This site is now my bible.

I have more of a predicament, however – my travel partner is bringing a bag of camera gear. In order for us to skip the bag carousel, all his clothes have to go in my bag. Yes, so it’s not one bag for one person, it’s one bag for two.

Basically when looking at travel luggage I wanted:

bullet A backpack, maybe one where I can tuck away the straps for when on public transport.

bullet Cheapish yet quality – I want to save my money for the trip yet I want a bag that could potentially last me for many many over seas adventures.

bullet A big main compartment rather than many smaller compartments. Maybe one that opens right up like a suitcase.

bullet A spot for my water bottle – I guzzle water like a fish.

bullet Something not to flash looking. Just something nice, simple, black.

bullet A smaller bag that I could easily fit into the other bag to use as my day bag when out and about.

bullet I also wanted a larger bag that I could use to put in lots and lots of omiyage – I didn’t mind so much about having to check in a bag for the way home, there’s no rush there. And I want to buy lots of things. Problem will be, of course, carrying around an extra bag near the end of my trip. But you never know, I may never need it, it’d just be good for emergencies.

So while this is not strictly one-bag, at the start of my journey, at least, it will be.

Keep an eye out for future posts where I talk about the things I have bought in preparation for my trip.


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Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Skye

    I know how you feel – I constantly fight a (losing) battle between being able to lift my bags and packing everything I need.

    I know if won’t help you until you’re through customs, but if you know the address of where you’re going in Japan, you can send any luggage on by delivery service. I use this all the time in Japan (they’ll even come to your house to pick things up!) and it is amazing.

    Good luck planning.

  2. GoddessCarlie

    Thanks for the advice Skye!

  3. Chris

    I just returned from a 2 week tour of Japan so if you have any questions feel free to ask me. I’m currently putting together a blog article about packing which might be of use to you.

    It was the best thing I’ve ever done and my Japanese study has now gone into overdrive :D Already planning a way back, be it another holiday or a complete move… :O

  4. Chris

    Hi Carlie, I managed to get my article on packing finished. It may or may not be of use to you. The rucksack I used sounds like what you’re looking for.


  5. Cyril

    I made the mistake of going with too much stuff for one month travel in japan.
    it was too much, there is almost no place in hotel, in train, … to have a big bag.
    I had to buy another bag in Tokyo to take every I bought im Japan home (mostly book, heavy !)

    For my next trip, go light, think like a japanese, reserve the space for the omyage (present) you are going to take home in your bag !

    There is so much stuff over there, so much goodies, present, stuff you can only find there, and book, lots of books (learning japanese book).


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