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"One never brings the refrigerator along on a camping trip."

I'm thinking that I probably won't get away with packing light for our two week swat around Europe. The intentions start predictably pure. I targeted the smallest bag in the place and declared that one as mine this trip. You see, I'm a proud veteran of several campaigns, each of which was punctuated with logistical challenges. Schlepping oversized and overstuffed roller bags up three sweaty flights of unforgiving concrete out to street level in Rome, where the roller bags first encountered cobblestone, then dragging them toward our lodgings like they were cranky children overdue for their naps. Wrestling workshop leftovers through three bus and two train transfers following a session in a rural corner of The Low Countries to save a hundred euro cab fare. Failing to successfully stuff too much baggage into a car barely larger than the typical box store shopping cart. I've had my bruises and strained back muscles brought on by the idea that I somehow needed to take a tad too much of home along when traveling. I thought I might choose differently this time. Fat chance!

Cheap flights mean excessive bag fees, which means everyone tries to carry their doghouse onboard.
We'll probably check baggage, though a small bag might make a nine hour forced incarceration tolerable underfoot after finding the overheads already overflowing by the time we board. What might prove to be the absolute minimum sustainable load? I figure that I can thrive on four days' change of clothes, given that the apartment in Budapest features laundry facilities, and even if it didn't, European laundromats prove to be the best places to watch something other than tourist culture in action. Four days' clothes with night clothes thrown in along with a spare pair of shoes, slippers, and a powerstrip will produce about a cubic foot of baggage. Whoops, that dopp kit needs to be in there, too, and don't forget the guide books. If I sit on the top and The Muse works the zipper, it might all come together.

But is it really worth the price to check such a small bag? Sure, I can carry my Swiss Army Knife if I check the bag, and forego finding the impossible-to-find travel sizes of every accompanying toiletry, but I could replace the bag for about the price of the baggage fee. Maybe I should take that brother-in-law-on-wheels after all, if only to more fully justify the onerous fee. I figure that Leif Erikson faced similar challenges when he undertook a voyage. He probably imagined a modest skiff but finally departed with a small armada complete with an onboard forge. The imaginings fueled by strained prior experience enliven early planning. Less fluid considerations overtake prudence when finally packing the bags.

I might end up packing that smallest bag inside my rolling steamer trunk to serve as a booty carrier for the return trip. I expect that I will once again punctuate our European adventure with sweat stains crawling down my back. I have grown accustomed to the subtle humiliation of being the only guy on the tram who cannot avoid blocking the aisle with his baggage. Some will doubtless perceive me as just another ugly American, requiring more than my fair share of space, willing to suffer greatly to avoid having to leave his creature comforts behind. George Smiley would leave for two weeks undercover in Eastern Europe with little more than his Trilby and a small valise. I own a small foldable hand truck which I might prudently consider taking along this time.

When my to-be first wife and I relocated from the West Coast to Pennsylvania, we somehow managed to fit everything we owned into a small VW Squareback station wagon, including a huge antique carved chest and an enormous rock maple mangle that her Norwegian ancestors had brought from the old country, the only furniture we owned. I'm fortunate that in these more modern times, we don't usually take furniture with us when we go on vacation. A real getaway involves getting away from most everyday possessions to see how well one might survive without their usual accouterments of daily living. One never brings the refrigerator along on a camping trip. I'll probably drag along the brother-in-law bag, anyway. Bon Voyage!

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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