In the bag

Jackson Biko unpacks the relationship between you and your luggage

FamilyThere was a time when I got stuck in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam for two and a half days. Technical issues. Luckily, I was flying Business Class so I could leave the hotel and spend time in the airport’s Business Lounges, which considerably reduced my blood pressure even though I hated the way I smelled of hotel soap because my vanity bag was somewhere far away, imprisoned in my suitcase.

Because I have ADHD I couldn’t sit still, so I wandered around the airport aimlessly, observing my fellow travellers.

Confession: I have an embarrassingly huge fascination with travellers’ luggage. I sat and watched thousands and thousands of people wade through Schiphol bearing all sorts of baggage. Suitcases of all colours and sizes: battered suitcases, suitcases with stickers, old suitcases that look like they were passed down through the generations, new suitcases that looked polished, dodgy suitcases that looked like they were carrying wild dog paws.

There were travellers who sat on their suitcases, and some who treated their suitcases like an extension of the family, and some who resembled their suitcases. There were cute little kids who proudly dragged little pink bags behind them, and I wondered what they could possibly be carrying in those bags? A book about Dora? Ballet shoes? A memento from Bali?

I remember trailing one chap past six boarding gates. He had a weathered leather bag slung over his shoulder, and I wondered how many continents that bag had gone through and whether it smelled of winter or adventure.

There were bags that looked like they were loved and bags that looked like mere afterthoughts. There were suitcases that had large padlocks on them that perhaps showed the level of mistrust of their owners.

I often enjoy standing at the carousel, playing this game where I match passengers with their suitcases. Often I’m wrong, as you would expect, but when I’m right I’m convinced that if you travel with your luggage for a long enough time you start to resemble it. I once saw a ragged fellow, who looked like those guys who ride on the backs of Nile crocodiles in African rivers, pick up a clean blue suitcase: that really turned my theory on its head.

I have a red hard-back suitcase that I often do long haul trips with. It doesn’t look anything like me, though. I suspect it’s for this reason (or lack thereof) that I keep losing this suitcase. It regularly finds its way to some country or other that I’m not going to. It often misses flights. It’s always trying to escape from me, to find it’s rightful owner, someone who loves green olives. My destined suitcase, I suspect, smells of an anthill of the savannah. If you are out there, I’m looking for you.

When you pick up your suitcase after this flight, ask yourself: what does my suitcase say about me? And be honest.