Boating Adventures | "When is a Collection an Obsession?" by Vicki Totten

What do the things we collect reveal about what we value? I have never thought of myself as a collector. I buy most of my furniture from estate or garage sales and my clothes from thrift stores. This really helps me not get too attached to things. If they outlive their usefulness, I don't agonize about loading them up and taking them to Goodwill. I suspect that shopping this way is a remnant of growing up without money. While there is some truth to that, I also just find it more interesting to shop anywhere but in a department store. I would much prefer to have fewer choices than to have to decide between racks and racks of similar but different items inside a department store. We could ponder what that says about me, but let's move on.

My Secret Obsession
As we begin to pack for our upcoming charter cruise in the British Virgin Islands, I am confronted with the reality that I may, after all, be a collector. Each time I find a new piece to add to my collection, I promise my husband that I will get rid of at least two that I already own. Since it rarely happens, apparently in addition to being a collector, I lie about it. Is that a sign that something is an obsession instead of a collection? And, what is this obsession - I mean collection? Well, I will share it with you. This is something I have never shown to anyone. I usually keep the collection tucked away in closets, storage sheds, and under beds. OK, get ready for it. Here it is.

My Never Before Revealed Collection/Obsession
"Most" of my Collection"
Since I have never put all of my luggage together before, seeing them all together like this is eye opening.   In my defense, however, it is not easy to find the perfect piece of luggage that fits all of my very specific criteria - which is that it be a carry-on, lightweight, and squishy.  

Carry-on Luggage
My first criteria is that it has to be a carry-on. I prefer to keep my luggage with me for several reasons.  The first is that I hate paying the airlines a bag fee.  Shocking, I know.  If you have ever had the airlines lose your luggage, you already know the second reason.  And the final reason I prefer to carry my luggage with me is that if the plane gets delayed or I have a tight connection, I am assured that my luggage will arrive with me.  So, it's worth it to me to drag my suitcase around the airport with me - which leads me to my next criteria for the perfect bag. 

Lightweight with wheels
It needs to be lightweight enough for me to lift it into the overhead without having to ask for help. There is nothing worse than standing in the aisle with half the plane standing behind you and discovering that you can't lift your bag up over your head.  I don't want to be "that" person.   The wheels part goes without saying.

Another criteria is that it needs to be squishable.  This is especially important for the BVI trip, since we need to be able to store the bags away after we unpack.

None of these criteria describe my first suitcase - the one I drug all over Mexico and that held practically every piece of clothing I owned - and that was definitely not on wheels.  Maybe that was when my obsession with finding the perfect suitcase began - memories of schlepping that suitcase all over Mexico.  It's hard to say.  Clearly, however, I have amassed quite a collection of suitcases over the years.  I will let you decide whether obsession is the more appropriate term as we study the evidence more closely. 

Bags that Also Double as Backpacks
I have two Eagle Creek bags with attachable backpacks.  The gray one was my first really good suitcase. The attachable backpack could also be strapped to use as a briefcase - which I did for many years.  Then there was the Eddie Bauer bag that was so cute, but, sigh, apparently I have a wandering eye when it comes to suitcases, since there have been more than one that has caught my attention since these.

Attachable backpacks are pretty handy.
This one served me well for a month in Europe.

I was pretty sure this was the one (ok, ok I know you've heard this said before). Usually I get my bags secondhand.  So it was a big deal that I actually splurged and spent top dollar for this one.  But I really hate it.  It is TOO squishy if that is possible.  Plus it doesn't have enough compartments.  But mainly it is just ugly.  What was I thinking?  I think I allowed the name to temporarily blind me to its ugliness. But since I paid so much for it, how can I get rid of it?

Nice brand, ugly bag.

Equipment Bags
For our BVI trip, apparently our crew is opposed to paying the airlines money just to store our bags under the plane.  One of our crew donated the one free bag she got with her frequent flyer ticket to the group to use as our equipment bag.  We decided the items such as snorkeling gear, floats, favorite foods, etc.. would go into the group equipment bag, and would be the only bag we would check.  Of course, that then gave me an excuse to see if we couldn't find the perfect bag for the job.  We already had two or three in the running, but when we went to a garage sale and found this one on wheels and were able to snag it for $5 bucks -well, it's perfect.

Great equipment bag.

This Year's Favorite
This Ikea bag is the best yet.  Now, we've only been together a few years, so my admiration could still fade.  Plus, it actually is already starting to show some wear, which alarms me.  It includes a detachable backpack, and is very lightweight.  It has already accompanied me on a cruise to Mexico, a flight to Germany, and on a house boating adventure.  But here's the best part. Seriously.  Wait for it.  It cost me $1.00 at a neighbor's garage sale. 

The new favorite with detachable backpack, backpack straps, water holder.

I could go on, but what has become clear is that many of my bags also carry with them sentimental value.  For some it is a memory of a trip, or in the case of one that had belonged to my Mom, a person. Obviously some went out of favor because they no longer fit my criteria. But, why do I keep them?  Well, you never know when someone might need one of them.  When our youngest son takes a trip, he knows just where to go for the perfect suitcase.  Or when our daughter comes to visit from where ever she happens to be living in Europe (which is Frankfurt at the moment) and realizes that she needs an extra suitcase to put all of the extra items she accumulated during her visit to the states - well, we are here to help. 

But what exactly does being a luggage collector say about me and what I value?   I value being able to pack up a bag and head off for some new adventure.  I value spontaneity and seeing and experiencing new places.  And, well, it sure helps to have the perfect bag for the job.

Ready for the Next Adventure!
Vicki and husband, ceramic artist Stan Irvin, are both retired professors who have discovered the joys of Rockport and living part-time on their 33' sailboat, while exploring new sailing destinations and adventures.

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