A Travellerspoint blog

October 2012

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Working to Airline Baggage Restriction Guidelines

semi-overcast 10 °C

Somehow I had accumulated stuff, although I don’t go shopping a lot and was practically a pauper, when the time came to pack up my life, suddenly I had stuff.

I was entitled to 20kg on my first flight home-bound and I figured this was ample as everything fit in without any major zipper strain and I was able to lift and carry it to the bus stop.
Oh how wrong I was, apparently it weighed 23.7kg.

I watched the top of the girls head as she processed my passport, hoping she wouldn't look up and notice my bag.
"Be cool," I thought, "it's early, what's a few kilos between friends?"

She finished, looked up and...
“Now you are currently at 23kg”, the girl said cheerfully, “it’s ₤14 per kilo you are over…” She looked at me as if she expected me to hand over my credit card.

"I respectively disagree," I wanted to say, "I'm not that strong and this has been on my back for the past hour on two buses and walking down the road".

“…ah, right,” I say in a real-bummed tone, pretending I hadn't noticed the extra almost 4kg the second I put it on the scale.
“Would you like to do that?” she asks hopefully,

“Um, no… thank you, I’ll just…sort it”, I mumble as I drag the heavy and getting heavier by the minute bag off the scales and motioned that I was going ‘over there’, selecting a piece of white reflective floor by the ropes.

So I sat on the floor of Bristol International Airport at 6:30am surrounded by all my worldly possessions. I was heading home after 14 months. The majority of the flight was made up of middle-aged holiday makers, families and excited girls weekends away, all of which have been pre-prepared, booked into resorts and were super psyched to get drunk and sunburnt, they had all already checked-in when the airport opened.

There I was, a bit tired from my early start, hungry from skipping breakfast, sad to be leaving my new home and just sitting on the floor in the middle of the airport looking at my luggage, thinking a) how amazing I am at packing given everything was neatly stacked inside and it closed with ease, but also b) what the hell am I supposed to put on, there really isn't that much in there, and I didn't fancy messing up my killer packing.

So out comes my woollen jumper from my zip lock back which had all but re-inflated. On it goes.
Keep in mind; despite it being a chilly Bristolian morning, my destination forecast was edging towards 32 degrees c.

It was still not going to do the trick I needed to get rid of 4kg, and couldn't put it in my carry-on because there was a good chance that would soon be weighed and was most certainly over the limit.

I took out a few items and spread them around me taking up a 2m radius by the check-in ropes, creating a mini-transit 'shit haven'.
I took it up again and I had lost a kilo. The girl had saved herself the anguish and disappeared so her male colleague asked again if I was happy to check that then and pay the excess.
“How much is it again? ₤14?” I ask, hoping there had been a last minute 100% fee reduction.
“Haha, no”

Back to my junk pile on the floor. I decided the summer dress I was wearing, with trousers underneath was far too light and comfortable, so off it comes in the airport and I throw on my wool dress that was the only thing that jumped out to me as being potentially weighty.
I put it on, then the wool jumper, then my jacket, then my coat and scarf.

In the mean time I had taken a few random items out that I could sacrifice if need be. Not included in this pile was the 1 litre bottle of Polish vodka I bought last year that was clearly weighing me down significantly, but by this point we’d come so far together there really was no turning back.
I had also put two notepads, two adapters, a camera charger, earphones, an old phone and a phone charger in my jacket pocket that was already housing my phone and keys. My travel wallet and journal were already out as ‘housing important items’ so can’t be part of my weight limit.
I dragged it back up and it was 22kg. How does this still weigh so much? And how can all the stuff I’ve taken out only collectively weigh a kilo and a half?
I tinkered about in my open bag pathetically like a unskilled surgeon looking for his lost wristwatch in a organ pool. Careful not to dislodge anything. My bag was still sitting on the scales next to the check–in agent. He no doubt wanted to go get a cup of tea as mine was the last bag to be checked on. I heard him loudly say this over his phone.

Unable to find anything to put on and unwilling to dig deeper and risk messing up my packing I looked up at him with sad eyes,

“So, how strict are we with this 20kg thing?” I ask hopefully

On more than one occasion I've found that being a sweet and charming individual can do you wonders at airports. When approaching the airport desk this has a much better chance of flying with peers and men, don’t attempt it with a middle-aged lady; just assume she is having a shit day. SHE will make you throw out 4kg and then assign you the seat next to the toilet, and divert your bags via South Korea. She will also shoot daggers right into your soul with her eyes.

Back at Bristol International Airport, time now 6:45am, the whole of the check-in area is now deserted except for me and my junk – now spread all over the general vicinity and the one guy now left to deal with me. The last passenger.

I tried to make it obvious that I haven’t over packed for a four-day holiday.
I mean come on I was carrying a map in a poster tube.
Show me a little love I thought.

“I can let it through at 20.9kg”, he says, hoping it will solve both our problems.

Also by this point the whole scenario seemed a bit pathetic, I wasn't going to pay excess and I think by this point we both knew this. For me it was the fact that I'd been only quasi-employed and was only citizenship away from being on benefits and he knew because he had a ridiculous person in front of him wearing 10 outfits inside a respectable public place.

I kept eye contact and I pulled out another scarf and wrapped it around me as well.

“I reckon that will do it”, he said, really it weighed nothing but I appreciated his desire to get this show on the road.

  • *Triumphant sound**

I think his generosity was partly out of convenience but also partly out of sympathy knowing that I now was going to have to board my plane to a Mediterranean, almost Middle Eastern destination wearing;

Wool dress
Wool jumper
Zip up jacket
Large blanket scarf

He labelled my bag and informed me I had to take it to the next counter over, to irregular baggage. I was ready to roll.

Anyone who knows me well knows I am a hoarder and don’t like to waste things/dispose of perfectly good items. I surveyed the pile of stuff I had pulled out in my haste to make my bag lighter; three sanitary pads and a tampon with a total combined weight 5g, a block of soap, a jar of cranberry sauce, my water proof rucksack cover, a pocket translator and a head lamp.
I pitched the head lamp and sanitary items.
Evidently that’s all I could spare. Obviously I wasn't giving up the jar of Cranberry Sauce from last Christmas.

Then right in front of the man that checked me in and the one about to take my irregular-shaped luggage, I unzipped the bottom of my rucksack and shoved the rest of my items back in.
In retrospect I ought have kept the headlamp as well but really felt I needed to actively dispose of something although I sincerely hope I don’t have to go down any mines any time soon.

With a “HEAVY’ luggage tag emblazoned on it, off it went, (side bar – when was 20kg heavy, OH&S BS, if I can lift 20kg I'm pretty sure the burly guy who’s full-time job is lifting heavy bags can)

With not an ounce of dignity lost from changing in the foyer or sitting on the floor of Bristol International Airport surrounded by feminine hygiene products and winter clothing, I took my boarding pass and said ‘adieu’ with my head held high. Off I trotted, with my combined carry-on, coat pocket weight and wearable clothing weight I was easily carrying an extra 15kg and I began sweating immediately as I stumbled towards security.

In two hours time I was to disembark in the Cypriot heat in my snow gear and carry my 20kg rucksack, though to be fair, 23kg rucksack, as that sacrificed tampon didn't really weigh a lot. Nothing but a sweaty ball of assorted fabrics with phone charges hanging out every pocket.

Welcome to Cyprus where the current temperature is 36 degrees c.


Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 09:56 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged packing airports luggage baggage Comments (1)

A European Expedition - Travel Journal

2009-2010 Travel Journal

In 2009 I began an epic travel journey that is still unrivalled for adventure, fun and sheer awesomeness. From the beginning this trip was shaping up to be the ultimate life adventure so I started keeping a journal, I was already keeping a written journal, but this one was going to be different.

Before long my 2009-2010 Travel Journal became a beast beyond anything I ever dreamed of.

I documented the places I went, the people I met, the things I saw and the fun I had all in one book. I carefully filled each, unremovable page with handwritten stories and illustrations. There was no room for error especially as its pages grew and the time and scale of the project intensified.

In 2010 when I ran out of money and I reluctantly boarded a flight home I had my tray table down and my mini Faber Castells out in order to document the final stage of my journey, it also happened to be the very last page of the entire book, a sign I couldn't have stayed longer despite how much I wanted to.

This journal is my ultimate travel souvenir. It is full of stories, familiar faces and documents my time in the best way possible, with pictures. I have just as many fond memories of drawing on trains and spreading out my pencils in random locations across the continent as I do of the content itself.

It holds pride of place in my book shelf. I have photographed it in order to preserve it so I thought I would share it with you all.
(NB: Some pages were impossible to photograph as it is bound, so some of the text is lost)


Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 07:37 Tagged journal travel_journal Comments (0)

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