luggage portrait 1.0

Home: what you take with you when you go

My best packing is completed in a series of drafts. Draft one, a sketch on notepaper: cartoon diagrams of the items to be packed and the cases intended for carrying them, with dotted lines connecting the two. This helps prevent that panic on the way into the terminal when I realize I have four carry-ons plus a purse (but only a small purse, so it doesn’t count). Draft two happens a week or so prior to departure, when my anxiety levels reach their peak and the list of details not yet sorted have forged an unhealthy bond between myself and the internet. This time I pack willy-nilly. Favourite clothes are pulled from the laundry basket – from my body, even – and I end up half-naked with an overstuffed suitcase containing three seasons of irreplaceable items, with four pairs of shoes lined up out front, pouting. When the day finally comes – the big day – the day before leaving, I commence draft three, the final draft, the draft I will be submitting to the airport authorities in the morning. Two piles of fresh laundry, one black and the other pale, sit on the floor next to my suitcase and I look from case to pile to the stack of 14 books I also intend to bring, and wonder how I am going to possibly limit the number of things that I feel are necessary to make me feel at home on the road.

This time around, I had something else to factor into the allotted 1 check + 1 carry-on + purse equation. That is, the fort. The fort is a sizeable accessory. How does one maneuver a fort through airports, train stations, coach aisles and the oft precarious paths to my chosen building sites? The case I used last year was an antique hard-body suitcase with leather binding over the seams – nice to look at, but it was effectively mangled in the arteries of Keflavík, Toronto and Winnipeg airports on my way to and from Iceland, and simply wouldn’t do this time around. So, prior to leaving, I stopped at one of my favourite little shops in Winnipeg, U.N. Luggage. Not only do they have a great selection of all things “travel,” they also have a penchant for aesthetically pleasing pieces that are as good-looking as they are practical. They’re where I bought my giant, blue, base model suitcase hours before leaving for a month-long writing retreat for which I had decided to pack my cumbersome ergonomic keyboard. They are also the place where I bought my Briggs & Riley carry-on-on-wheels, which I have grown so fond of, I couldn’t imagine ever being happy with another case its size. That is, until I met its counterpart, the Briggs to its Riley, the case which now houses the fort in a convenient, versatile duffle-turn-shoulder-turn-backpack bag with lumbar support.

Glasgow: Queen Street Station

The left luggage service is out of use. I have 2.5 hours to kill until my train departs for Elgin, where I’ll be picking up a car to drive the final 26km to the cottage near Rathven. It’s between drizzles outside, about 5 degrees, and the nearest left luggage service is at Buchanan Bus Station a handful of blocks away, uphill. I contemplate my options. Gauge the pain in my back and feet. Try to rub the exhaustion out of my eyebrows from the 33 hours I’ve been mostly awake in transit. I lug ol’ Briggs and Riley across the road instead, where a bench looks onto the morning foot traffic crossing George Square. I wipe a patch of bench dry with my sleeve and sit next to my luggage to watch the people go by.


After a few minutes, I realize I’m too tired to sit absentmindedly, so I take out the camera and start snapping photos of the workers mid-stride as they cross the red tarmac of the square. I turn to Briggs and Riley. Snap a portrait of the two of them, locked in their lumpy, squat embrace. We’re making do, but in truth, they aren’t intended to be stacked like this. Riley’s smooth, rolling agility is definitely luggage portrait 1.2hampered by Briggs’ length and weight. Lugging these two around, I feel a bit like the kid who got stuck holding hands with the least mobile of the grandparents. But it couldn’t be avoided. They are perfectly fitted for their carrying tasks. Briggs may seem to lumber as a duffle-stack buddy, but he has hidden talents. He is a transformer with lumbar support, while Riley holds everything else: those 14 books, 3 pairs of shoes (the fourth I’m wearing), clothing for a month abroad, and still underweight at the check-in counter.

I fear I’m turning into a bit of a luggaphile. I can see myself snapping photos of my suitcases at all the key tourist spots along the way. This is us in Grassmarket, this is us in the Marais, this our walk down the Mönchsberg where Riley tried to race me to the bottom…

“Are you traveling alone?”

“No, I’ve got my luggage.”