How small IS that suitcase?

Let’s face it. I’m a little holier-than-thou when it comes to packing for travel. Blame 12 years of bicycle touring, having to stuff three weeks’ worth of clothes and everything else into one set of panniers. Sure, I could wash things, drying them on a clothesline strung next to the tent. And, sure, I sometimes had to tell myself, “These people will never see me again” as I went to a nice restaurant in my biking shoes, Lands’ End polo and matching pull-on knit skirt.

But I was good at packing, and I like to think I still am.

This trip to Prague seemed like a good reason (excuse?) to buy a new suitcase. Criteria: small, lightweight, hard-sided, not black (tired of carefully scrutinizing every bag that comes off the carousel (yes, I have bright tags, but they are often the same color as United’s OVERWEIGHT or SPECIAL HANDLING tags). With a backpack and one Vera quilted bag, could I find a small suitcase that could take it all the rest?

Everyone knew I was looking for one. I stated my needs on my Facebook timeline, and my friends came through with suggestions. Google also knew I had been surfing the luggage sites and still, four weeks after I purchased the perfect bag, Google still tries to entice me by posting ads from Samsonite, Tumi, Travelpro.

"I didn't know you were a magician," says Dr. Cat Goodall as she watches Candace pull out all the clothes. (photo by Kaitlynn LeBeau)

“I didn’t know you were a magician,” says Dr. Cat Goodall as she watches Candace pull out all the clothes. (photo by Kaitlynn LeBeau)

With the new dark green Tumi (last year’s color so $100 off) in hand, I used my skills and packed the suitcase – clothes for everything from at least one formal dinner to the military boot camp and temps from 50s to almost 90. I took the suitcase, carefully and neatly packed, to class and demonstrated:

  • the art of choosing one basic color (black) so you can get by with shoes that match everything;
  • the skill of choosing only knits and non-wrinkle-able clothes that can go in the washer and not need and iron;
  • the technique of laying pants in alternate directions so the legs drape over each side of the suitcase, laying the rolled up shirts and other clothes on them and flopping the legs over the top. No wrinkles in anything;
  • and ever so many more instinctive skills that allow you to fit in more than you could image.

In fact, my fellow prof, Cat Goodall, looked in awe at all I pulled out. We referred to it as the Clown Car Suitcase. Will it work that well Friday night when I pack for good and wonder if I really need shorts or a second sweater or – horrors – a fourth pair of shoes.

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