Well I must say, international travel really makes you take a very hard look at your own life. I don’t necessarily mean that only in a philosophical way, but literally too! When the 30 kg baggage limit is the only thing that stares at you from the ticket, cold panic sets in. How on earth do you fit in everything you foresee-ably need for the next six months into just 30 kgs? If you’re laughing right now because you think 30 kgs is a lot, then you have clearly never been faced with this dilemma. Please remember me when you are. So anyway, having convinced myself that this could hardly be a greater challenge than a lot of other things in my life, I felt quite confident that I would conquer it too. That was mistake number 1.
I’m a planner and organizer as anyone who knows me even remotely can testify. So I did what I do best, I made lists, lots of them. I even got it down to how many air bubbles would be allowed into the suitcase after everything else was packed in. OK I didn’t go that far but you get the picture. After I was done making the lists, I looked over them and smirked at the 30 kg baggage limit still staring at me from the ticket. That was mistake number 2.
I decided I would first buy the things I needed that I didn’t already own (case in point being new suitcases). This part was so easy that all it took was one entire day canvassing two malls and I had purchased them all. They newly procured stuff were all very judiciously placed in the suitcases because that would save half the trouble of packing. Win for me, I thought. Since the rest was all stuff I needed to pick out from whatever I already owned, I decided I could afford to pack them closer to my travel date. That was mistake number 3.
Suddenly, everything I owned seemed to be pleading with me with puppy dog eyes: take me! take me! They all seemed to say. My lists sat on one shoulder playing the devil, while my “angelic” consciousness reminded me of every virtue of a particular object at hand so that deciding what to take and what not became a nerve wracking nightmare. Needless to say the devil was over-ruled quite often when the angel said something like: “that top is so cute! I’m sure you’ll lose weight and fit into it soon enough” or “how can you think about not carrying those heels? they are your only really formal shoes!” or “it wouldn’t hurt to pack in a couple of extra T-Shirts would it? I mean they’re cotton, hardly any weight at all”. Needless to say, listening to the angel was mistake number 4.
By the time I had to leave home yesterday, I was miraculously done with packing, repacking, double and triple checking my lists and obsessing over every lock and key. One good thing that came out of being so emotionally exhausted from this process was that I hardly had time to be overwhelmed by the real emotions; you know leaving my family and friends, moving to a country I’d never been before, heck leaving my home country for the first time and all the associated anxieties. For that I must be grateful to the 30 kgs baggage limit. But fear not, just when you think that this post has a happy ending, mistake number 5 awaits around the corner. My obsessive compulsive list did not have an item called: weigh the suitcases. It was almost an afterthought to somehow wrestle the humongous monster onto the weighing scale and see the dial reading somewhere around 30 kgs and being satisfied that it was good enough. A perfectionist should really know better. Tsk. Tsk.
Since the list did have an item called: reach airport 3 hours in advance of flight, that is what I did (in fact even earlier); which prompted someone to very kindly inquire if I was taking a flight to another place on earth or planning a Mars mission. But I digress. Airport reached. Check. Obligatory selfies clicked. Check. Hugged all people who came to see me off (twice). Check. Promised mom to update her every step of the way (lost count of how many times I assured her). Check. Walked into the airport EXACTLY 3 hours before flight time (to the minute!). Check. Did a mental happy dance. Check. Pitied myself for such cheap thrills. Check.
That’s where my lists pretty much ended. I was in unknown territory now, I could almost feel the rush of adrenaline that mountain climbers must feel. OK maybe that’s exaggerating but you know how it feels doing something for the first time. I sailed across to the airline counter, mentally congratulating myself for having web checked in and picked my seat. I very coolly watched them lift the aforementioned humongous monster onto the belt and saw the weight count say 35 kgs. Still nonplussed, I looked at the agent, half expecting her to say that it would be no problem at all or at most that I would have to pay for the excess baggage. But her response left me floored: a single piece of luggage couldn’t be more than 30 kgs, at best 32 kgs, the belt wouldn’t move with anything heavier. In a dream sequence I would casually laugh and say, “come on! surely we can work something out” but in reality, nothing in my careful list of possible scenarios (yes this was a backup list in a hidden drive on the brain) had prepared me for this and once again panic set in while I listened to her say: “Ma’am you need to reduce weight”. Again, in a dream sequence I would say, ” I know doll, but what about my suitcase”. But reality being what it is, I slowly rolled away my trolley while my brain rebooted and got into action. One call to my mom brought her back to the departure terminal. Then the ruthless devil part of the mind got to work and booted out 3 kgs worth of stuff which I then I handed back to my mom to take home.
Only once I had successfully seen my suitcase roll away into the dark abyss at the end of the conveyor belt (while praying really hard that it wouldn’t get lost or delayed) and had received my boarding card, did I breathe a sigh of relief. The emotional angel part of the brain then realized two things: one, that shoes had been the first target of the devil (sob! sob!) and two, that while I had made sure to sign up for the airline’s frequent flyer program; in my panicked state, I had forgotten to give them the membership number and so I wouldn’t earn any miles for this very iconic trip (sob! sob!).
And since I can see that you are also emotionally overwhelmed from reading this post, I will leave off here for now and continue telling you my further adventures in the next one.
Till then, adios from the Philippines. Cheers!