A few days ago, I said farewell to my favorite travel buddy: my carry-on suitcase. For the last 10 years, my peacock blue SwissGear carry-on has been by my side for many of my travels around the world. Of the 30+ countries I've visited over the years, I would estimate that my carry-on has been to at least 20 of those countries across five continents, so it's a pretty well-traveled piece of luggage. Together, we've had a number of adventures — from Morocco to Hong Kong to Australia to Sweden and back. And now, it's been donated to the Salvation Army where it will find a new home with someone who I hope has just as much wanderlust.
Before embracing the next chapter — and my next piece of luggage — I decided to list my most memorable travel moments with my trusty sidekick, my carry-on:
That Time My Carry-On Lived With Me For Five Months in West Africa
My carry-on first came to me as a gift from my parents, along with a much larger matching suitcase and a computer bag for my laptop. They were the perfect items to give to someone about to embark on her first study abroad trip to Ghana, West Africa. I mean, if I am going to pack up my life to live in another country and continent for several months, it's nice to know I have matching, bright blue luggage that could probably be spotted in the air by passengers on a plane. My carry-on didn't go on too many of my travels around West Africa but I was grateful to have it on hand when I needed it.
That Time My Carry-On Was Dragged Through the Mud in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
My poor carry-on. During a trip to Ko Phi Phi, Thailand, I decided after spending one night at my accommodations that I didn't want to stay there anymore, and I wanted to return to Phuket to find a new place. Part of that decision was because I found myself underwhelmed by Ko Phi Phi as a whole, but part of it was also because the weather was atrocious despite it not being the rainy season. I ended up dragging my suitcase through the mud in some areas where it was difficult to carry, and I distinctly remember looking down at my carry-on and thinking there's no way I'll be able to get this thing clean. Luckily we both made it to the ferry and Phuket safely, albeit a tad wet and muddy, and I was able to make my carry-on look presentable again.
In addition to being dragged through the mud and soaked in Jamaican rum, my poor suitcase was also stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey on many an occasion.
That Time My Carry-On Got Soaked With Jamaican Rum on New Year's Eve
A few years ago, I, along with my carry-on, flew at night on December 31st from Kingston, Jamaica to New York City with a layover in Charlotte. This was on the long-gone US Airways and, at the time, I forgot that you cannot take duty-free alcohol with you straight through to the final destination; you have to check your alcohol into your luggage at the first U.S. port. Long story short: I landed in Charlotte with my carry-on and three bottles of Jamaican rum (have to stock up for winter) only to be told I had to somehow fit all three bottles into my carry-on and then check the bag through to New York. Oh, and they had no "Fragile" stickers I could use. Hmm. Needless to say, when I landed at LaGuardia airport, retrieved my bag in baggage claim and opened it up, I was hit in the face with a very strong rum smell. Two bottles made it. One did not.
That Time My Carry-On Was Stuffed to the Brim Not Once But Twice in Hong Kong
I admit, I haven't always treated my carry-on the way it should be treated. In addition to being dragged through the mud and soaked in Jamaican rum, my poor suitcase was also stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey on many an occasion. Two instances that stand out to me are my two visits to Hong Kong. As one of my favorite cities in the world, I have a weakness for this place and its shiny, shiny stores. When I leave Hong Kong, it's not with an extra sweater or dress, it's with an extra wardrobe, and I try my hardest to fit the entire wardrobe in my expandable carry-on. Tactics have included sitting, squishing, rolling, stuffing and the use of encouraging words.
That Time My Carry-On Spent the Night With Me at Heathrow Airport
Maybe one day I'll share the full story of this incident, but alas, today is not the day. The highlights: I missed my flight from London to New York — the last flight of the day — because of a small bottle of hot pink nail polish and an even smaller seven-year-old pepper spray keychain tucked away into one of the pockets of my carry-on. At the time, I was a jobless grad school student with a mile-wide stubborn streak and a pissed off mood, so when I learned I would be flying out the next morning and was asked if I wanted to be taken to a hotel room (at my own expense), I spit out, "No, thanks, I'm fine!" I then grabbed my carry-on and backpack, found a row of seats and parked myself there overnight — alternating between shooting angry looks and muttering under my breath, updating my family on my flight situation and fighting the urge to fall into a deep sleep and leave my things unattended. By the time I got on my morning flight with my carry-on, I was more than ready to return to the good ole U.S. of A.
My carry-on has treated me well these last 10 years. I'm grateful for the adventures we've had and can only hope my next carry-on is just as reliable and sturdy!