Friday 3 April 2015

My suitcase was perfect for a weekend in Melbourne. It has wheels and a handle for airports and hotels, and is roomy enough to fit a swag of shopping.

But when we went to the South Island recently, it kind of sucked. Scratch that - it really sucked. It was heavy. It didn't fit inside the tent and had to live in the car (you took a suitcase CAMPING, you say. Well, yeah, we parked all of 20 metres away from the campsite). It took up a lot of room in the compact car we rented.

Even once we'd shoved a tent and a camp stove and a saucepan in the suitcase, it still wasn't full, so I both over AND under packed, taking more than I needed of some things, and forgetting some others because I couldn't see what I had.

While the suitcase's wheels were great in the airport, and the extra space did mean we could pack down our food instead of spending valuable holiday time having an argument in the supermarket about the relative merits of dried pasta vs rice, it was overall not the best experience.

After lugging it up a flight of stairs to our Christchurch motel room, I started thinking about the Air B&Bs we'd already booked. That romantic attic room? Probably involves at least three flights of stairs. If the camping hadn't convinced me, that staircase did.

I asked around for recommendations, and everyone said MacPac. They're a New Zealand-based company, which really sealed the deal - it's not often you really get the chance to buy kiwi made. Better yet, people reported they'd had MacPac packs for ten, twenty, thirty years without any issues.

I bought my backpack on sale, but it was still absurdly expensive. You could get a couch for the same price, but of course that wouldn't be any good to take away. The shop assistant showed me how to use it, and fitted the pack to my body, an oddly intimate experience.

With a suitcase, you can cram a lot in, squirrelling socks away in crannies and cradling rolled t shirts between unworn pairs of shoes. In a backpack, there's a lot less room - maybe half as much. All your worldly goods are humped on your back, like the shell of a snail. It forces you to make tough packing decisions. It forces you to confront you are leaving a lot behind.

This post is one in a series. Check out everything I have to say about moving internationally here.


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