September 28, 2005

Barcelona: That's My Bag

We're in a hotel room in downtown Barcelona, near the old Gottic quarter, and since this hotel has free wifi we've spent the past fifteen minutes carrying the laptop around the room trying to find the spot that has a usable signal. We finally found it: the entrance vestibule of the room, about four feet in front of the door.

The big news today is that I've been reunited with my luggage, which had been waiting for me at the J. Llarens Artigas Foundation, on a mountain outside the city, since I left it there ten or more days ago. We drove back up the mountain this affternoon, greeted our erstwhile guests, and when I saw my bag sitting on the floor waiting for me, I picked it up in my arms and kissed it like a longlost child.

I've carried this khaki L. L. Bean bag, about two feet long by one foot wide (it always goes onboard as a carryon), for at least fifteen years. It's been with me in Athens and Delphi and Crete and Santorini and Naxos -- in Rabat and Marrakech and Fez and Essaouira -- in Mexico and London and Marseilles -- in San Francisco and New York and Vancouver and Chicago and Minneapolis -- in Memphis and Nashville and Asheville -- in Moose Jaw and Billings and Medicine Hat and Missoula and Winnipeg and in Brandon, Manitoba. It's the old-fashioned kind with straps and no wheels; I have to carry it by hand all through the airports while everyone else is taking it easy wheeling their bags. Maybe I'll retire it someday.

New, clean clothes at last! A second pair of pants! And all those socks and underwear and shirts I'd brought! Not to mention the 800-page paperback novel I'd brought thinking it would while away the free hours. And now my reaction is, who needs all this stuff? The big lesson of this trip has been how little I can get by on. Four pairs each of underwear and socks, three tee shirts, two regular shirts, and two handkerchiefs would have been ample for a journey of almost any duration. Plus one light jacket.

I've been without my usual prescription and over-the-counter maintenances, too, and that would have seemed more problematic at the outset. But travel is so exciting that the lack of, for instance, an allergy spray, hasn't presented itself as a problem. Such crutches are only needed in normal life.

Yet isn't normal life also a journey? I would like to travel lighter through all of it.