Tripping the light fantastic
MYnewspaperman father travelled the world with a battered brown suitcase. I loved the fact it was called a Globite. When I was in primary school, I imagined him spinning around the globe chewing off chunks almost as fast as I could flick the pages of my atlas. I could zip from Oceania to Scandinavia and back again, reeling off capital cities faster than anyone (particularly headmistress Miss Buck) could have imagined.
Dad’s Globite was plastered with oval labels that tracked his passage. There were images of the great hotels (Raffles in Singapore; Baron in Aleppo) and one that just said Monte Carlo, which was all that was needed. He had covered the wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier and within that sticker, with its parallel palm trees, lay a world of infinite possibility. I vowed I would get a label of my own just like that one day.
Dad taught me to travel light, to reduce life on the road to a couple of changes of underwear (‘‘Rinse your smalls each night! Hang them out the window to dry!’’) and a few good shirts. ‘‘If you run out of clean shirts, button up your pyjama jacket under your suit and no one will notice, particularly if you have a quality necktie!’’ he told me, blithely overlooking my gender and the composition of a nine-year-old’s wardrobe.
But I have long believed you can get away with a minimal kit. Who remembers what you were wearing yesterday? Travel is rarely about standing still. Drip-dry clobber is the answer, and emergency pashminas for warmth and one good frock to be dressed up or down. My two sons used to turn their socks inside out when backpacking — they reckoned the latest side up always seemed acceptably fresh.
Luggage has become more complicated, with pockets and pouches, and backpacks the size of caravans. And the ease of wheel-along cases means many travellers pack heavier loads. Then there is the matter of budget airlines charging extra for checked luggage, which has meant the swelling of cabin bags and the overloading of storage lockers. Many passengers board flights with bags that are bigger and heavier than my checked-in port. Locker rage ensues. It is very untidy. No one is wearing their pyjama jacket buttoned up nicely and worrying about their Windsor knots.
When I travel with friends or colleagues, they are quietly amazed by my tiny suitcase. But it is neatly packed, all in tight layers, socks and undies stuffed into shoes, the heaviest jacket either worn or carried over my arm. In all this, I am forever my father’s daughter, and when I did get to Monte Carlo in 1996, I toasted him with a flute of fizz and brought him back a coaster, which he popped on his bookshelf next to a photo he’d taken of Grace Kelly on her big day. Bless you, Dad.