Suitcase Wars

Michael and I spent our last week in Seattle winding down from four months at "home". There were thing we needed to return to the storage unit, including Christmas decorations that I hadn't hadn't seen for three years, winter clothes, some paper files we managed to thumb through, but mostly set aside, a few actual books and an entire crate marked "kitchen stuff". I resisted dragging my beloved Cuisinart and Kitchenaid to our temporary home(s), but I was spoiled for choice in the gadgets and cookware departments, and I must have made a dozen loaves of banana bread! We returned scores of books and DVD's to the library, and then made a run with donations to Goodwill with with an amazing amount of new "stuff" that somehow came into our possession!

I was able to make several loafs of my nearly famous "Nasty Banana Bread"

I was able to make several loafs of my nearly famous "Nasty Banana Bread"

Back to packing - Neither of us were looking forward to this, especially since I had insisted we completely unpack our big suitcases and stuffing them into the back of any closet where we stayed in Seattle so I couldn't see them. No "living out of Rick Steve's packing cubes" while we were in America. Instead we cobbled together new, albeit temporary wardrobes out of what we'd unpacked what was in our storage unit and a stop at Value Village. I was surprised how excited we got about reuniting with clothes we'd hadn't seen for almost a year. I was hugging my denim jacket, and oohing-and-aahing over the sweaters and dresses I'd left behind. Michael was happy to see some old shirts and sweaters too.  Maybe the best addition to our new look was a Number 12 Seahawk's jersey given to Michael by our friend John Pleas.

Readers note: If you are looking to me for packing advice. Move on! I can assure you, I still don't have this down!

Our departure from Seattle,  February 15th, was nearing and we could no longer ignore the inevitable. It was time to decide what to take on this next adventure - and what to leave behind. If you keep in mind we were packing for up to 8 months of travel, in a wide variety of climate and cultures, I hope you can feel a bit of our pain.

Of course we talked ourselves, once again, into believing we can buy things on the road as needed. But, it's hard to set aside a perfectly good jacket or pair of jeans thinking we can always replace them, especially if our travel history is any indication, we rarely do that. And what about a nice dress? Or shiny shoes? You never know when a special occasion might arise and require more than the same fleece and black leggings you've been wearing for a week. Arghh.

It might not sound like it from my rant so far, but we really have come to a place where we don't need any where near the amount of clothing we packed when we started out three and a half years ago. Of course that means we are so tired of our clothes after almost a year, that, speaking for myself, I just want to torch my whole suitcase.

A Senior Nomad tip: No matter if either of you are in the same outfit for the second (or, good Lord, even a third day) it helps your relationship to cheerfully say to your travel partner, "My, you look nice today!"

We packed for a third time with our bed pillows squashed on top - they were going for sure, and we vowed to lose those last 3 pounds in Los Angeles before we headed to Paris.

With all that done, we left Seattle and flew to Los Angeles and spent a wonderful week in Hermosa Beach, California with our oldest son Alistair, his wife Jenny and our two adorable grandchildren, Spencer and Lucy. Then it was time to leave the good old USA.

Michael found great fares to from Los Angeles to Paris on Norwegian Air (about $350 each one way!) but they came with a checked bag weight restriction of 20 kilos each (44 pounds) down from most international flights that allow 23 kilos (50 pounds). So we set 20k as our goal - besides that is the maximum weight allowance on most of the airlines we use when traveling within Europe and from country to country anyway, so we might as well try and get there from the start.

As with any weight loss program the last few pounds are the hardest to lose! And as Michael says way too often, "everything weighs something." But he has a point - at full capacity each bag is like lugging a Costco size bag of dog food behind you.

I love the internet - you can ask it anything you'd like and always get an answer. Like this one!

I love the internet - you can ask it anything you'd like and always get an answer. Like this one!

So we did a practice pack. Then we weighed each bag with our trusty "fish scale". We were both a few kilos over the goal on our first try, so we removed a few things, and then, after some game-show worthy negotiations, we swapped a few things between our bags. We agonized over a favorite sweatshirt or a book, or for me, an extra kitchen item, or my art supplies or gifts for grandchildren. More negotiation. Would I give up my hefty tube of Bumble & Bumble curl cream to keep my mop of hair under control? Or, would I chop of my curls so I could tuck in my favorite Glassy Baby candle instead? What about playing cards, and and lemon pepper? and my paring knives! And a years worth of prescription medication, anti-malaira pills and vitamins for both of us. Some of which I know we can get overseas, but I still sort of panic about stuff like that. 

Michael with his handy "Fish Scale" doing a final weigh in last summer in Wales.

Michael with his handy "Fish Scale" doing a final weigh in last summer in Wales.

The carry-on bags fared no better. We had high hopes of paring those down, too, but both day-packs were also filled with real and imagined "can't live with-outs". Michael's trusty backpack holds all of our electronic devices and various chargers along with important paperwork. Mine is crammed with games, reading material, more gifts for grandchildren, and snacks (I am in charge of keeping us fed and watered and I take my job seriously). Maybe I need to work on my fear that there will be no snacks where we are going!

Maybe I pack too many snacks!

Maybe I pack too many snacks!

In the end, we managed to get our bags down to a fighting weight of 20 kilos and the carry-ons were less burdensome. How did we do it, you ask? Please note the cardboard box at Michael's side in this next picture. That's how we did it. We checked an additional "bag" to reduce our stress levels. It is sort of kicking the can down the road, but surely, we can get it right in Paris. Besides, our flight from there to South Africa allows 23 kilos. And so the suitcase wars continue! 

On the road again! This will what we take with us (minus the box) for the next 8 months.

On the road again! This will what we take with us (minus the box) for the next 8 months.

Finally, we sadly said goodbye to family and friends, but gladly left this crazy political scene where we'd like to lose a few a things that "weigh heavy on our minds". We will do our best to be good ambassadors for America and to share our experiences good and bad with all of you.

Thanks for following along,

Debbie and Michael Campbell
The Senior Nomads