In 1986 I took my first international trip to Japan. I was fresh out of high school with the smell of eraser still on my hands and was fortunate enough to have a job waiting for me in Tokyo as an international fashion model/commercial actress. I could hardly wait to go to another country for four whole months and get started with my first new career.
Unfortunately, I had never learned anything about how to pack a suit case. When I think back upon it all, I can still feel the pain in my back, shoulders and arms as I helplessly lugged 6 fully packed extra large suit cases crammed full of modeling outfits, cosmetics, and shoes to the other side of the world.
Getting to LAX was not too difficult as my family assisted me with all my baggage and reluctantly saw me off at the gate. Arrival was another story. After what seemed like an eternity of flight time over an endless sea, the plane finally descended onto another world, which seemed more like another planet to me. As I departed the plane, I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Even the daylight seemed different as the sun fought to shine through the hazy greenish sky, and the air had a strange lingering aroma. I could hear hundreds of conversations, but all sounded like gibberish and I couldn’t understand a word.
After standing at least 4 heads above a sea of black haired Japanese people to get to the baggage area, I was finally able to collect all my heavy bags onto a baggage cart, and wheeled it over to a Limousine bus leaving Narita Airport to Tokyo. It was one strange experience after another as the little Japanese bus driver excitedly hoisted my heavy suitcases onto the bus, smiling and never taking his eyes off me for a second. I boarded the Limousine bus to find plush red velvet seating with tables and even Chandeliers that hung from the ceiling.
The most vivid memory of all was when I finally arrived to Tokyo. I remember standing at the base of the subway stairs, hundreds and hundreds of concrete stairs that seemed to climb to the strange lighting somewhere above. I stood there with my 6 large suitcases watching the massive crowds of Japanese people climbing up and coming down the stairs, and I began to cry as I thought how was I ever going to get all 6 bags up these stairs? Just then, a very short, slumped over, elderly Japanese woman approached me. She smiled and said something in Japanese that I did not understand, then grabbed a hold of my bag with a surprising grip, and started climbing up to the top of the stairs. I followed suit with two more bags. We reached the platform before climbing up the next level of stairs and returned back down to grab the remaining bags. After several trips up and down and up again, we finally reached the top. The Woman bowed, smiled and said something else in Japanese, bowed again, and disappeared into the crowd.
I will never forget that experience, and am glad to say that I never repeated it. I learned so much about packing light, traveling with the bare minimum, and traveling with my hands free that I apply my knowledge to every other travel experience I have had since, including all my travel experiences with my kids today. I have learned how to travel with a small amount of clothing that will get me through a whole season in another country. I discovered the wonderful world of wrinkle free, stain free, light weight travel clothing, luggage organization systems, and my favorite – mailing my luggage to the destination so that I don’t have any bags at all. I have done this while traveling with my kids and not only was it easy, but stress free too.
- When packing your luggage, start with a list of what you intend to bring.
- Be sure to carry only what you need such as 3 shirts, 2 pants, a skirt, a dress, undergarments, and comfortable shoes.
- Remember that you can always purchase toiletries upon arrival as well as clothing if the weather is not as planned.
- Comfortable shoes and only a couple of pairs.
- Cosmetics, power converters, medications.
- Document holder for all your important documents including airline tickets, passport, etc.
- And most importantly, be sure to pack your sense of adventure!
I look forward to traveling near and far now with my growing family, and look forward to visiting new strange places, meeting more wonderfully interesting people, and sharing the whole experience with my young children. This planet is really not all that big once you start trotting around on it so get out there and see the world. Life’s a journey – be a happy traveler!