Back in November, when I went to France, I wanted to make sure I packed a good carry on for the long flight. I wouldn’t say I brought an excessive amount of stuff, but I wanted to bring enough items to keep me happy for about ten hours of plane travel, as well as a few necessities in case my luggage got lost. For me, that meant packing the following:
- Phone & charger
- Laptop & cords
- Books (2)
- Small makeup bag w/basic makeup items
- Scarf (in case the plane ride got chilly)
- Extra pair of jeans/underwear/t-shirt in case my luggage was lost
- Small jewelry pouch
- Reading glasses
(I also ended up cramming an extra pair of shoes in my carry-on that wouldn’t fit in my checked bag – don’t judge.)
The night before I left, however, I found myself in a quandary about which bag to pack it all in. I own several bags that work as a carry-on, but unfortunately, I’ve always felt they were all slightly lacking in one way or another. For instance, I have this gym/overnight bag: It’s comfortable to carry, and even has a great waterproof pocket for a wet towel or swimsuit. But the compartments are kind of long and narrow, and won’t accommodate a laptop. It also doesn’t fit well under an airplane seat, which means either unpacking a bunch of stuff before you sit down and then repacking it when you land, or making sure you sit on the aisle so you can keep getting in and out of it. Blech.
I also have this computer bag that I bought in Barcelona a few years back: It’s made out of those vinyl banners that you see on lampposts to advertise special events. I love the company, Vaho Trashion, that makes the bags, and appreciate that they use reclaimed materials. However, the bag isn’t padded, so it requires me to also use a protective case on my laptop, and while it’s fine when using it around town, I did worry about it getting knocked around too much during extensive overseas travel. It also doesn’t hold much more than a computer and a few files, so there was no way I was going to get all my other crap in there.
I own this small carry-on bag from an old set of luggage I bought at Costco a million years ago:
It’s easy to carry, and fits well under an airplane seat, but after multiple attempts to pack all my stuff in it, I had to admit it was just too small (especially with that extra pair of shoes).
I finally settled on this bag:
In the end, it won because it was easy to carry, and big enough to hold all my stuff. I also figured because it was so unstructured, I’d be able to cram it under the seat in front of me. It had a little extra room in case I were to buy anything on my trip – but not enough that I’d be tempted to splurge.
Carrying this bag made me miserable. Because it has absolutely no padding or structure of any kind, I was super neurotic about my laptop getting damaged. The lack of structure also meant that all my stuff clumped up into a pile inside, so finding anything in it was really difficult, and then trying to shove it back under the seat in front of me was almost impossible. The structure issue also meant that the weight inside the bag was frequently unbalanced, so it felt like I was schlepping around a large bag of rocks, and my items would shift into odd angles and poke out the sides, so at one point I found myself running through the Amsterdam airport to make a connecting flight while being repeatedly stabbed in the ribs by the sharp corner of a book. I tried balancing it on the handle of my roller bag while walking along the cobblestoned streets in France, and within seconds it would slide off with a thunk and topple my bag over. In short, it sucked.
When I got home, I decided to casually start perusing options for a good replacement carry-on. I didn’t have another trip planned, so I wasn’t in a hurry, but to my surprise and delight, I almost immediately stumbled across this incredibly great company called Lo & Sons.
What makes Lo & Sons so wonderful? Their bags are smart, sleek, lightweight, and beautifully designed. They hold a TON of stuff. They look classy and stylish. They are designed to conveniently, and firmly, attach to your roller bag. Most of them are made to fit under an airplane seat. They come in a lot of different designs and color options, and all of them are lovely. I could go on and on. (And no, Lo & Sons did not sponsor this post, I am just truly a huge fan now). They also did one of the smartest things on their website that I’ve ever seen a bag manufacturer do: They made a video for each bag, showing someone packing it, and exactly what they were able to fit into it. So even though I was purchasing the bag online, I was confident it would work for me – without the video, I’m not sure I would have ventured to try it.
Their bags are not dirt cheap, but after owning one, I can tell you I have absolutely no regrets (I also got mine on sale, and I had Christmas gift money to spend, so no debt was incurred). This bag is PERFECT for me. I took it with me on my recent trip to Hawaii, and I carried all of the same things I took to France (including an extra bikini and some fashion mags for poolside reading), and it worked like a dream. I especially appreciated how thoughtfully designed it was in terms of the interior and exterior pockets, and how easy it was to access my stuff during the flight. I got the OMG in navy, and I couldn’t be happier.
Click on over to their site and watch the videos for each bag – they do not misrepresent. I got rid of three of the other not-so-great carry-on in my collection (believe it or not, I kept the bag I took to France, because it’s a good around-town tote. But I won’t be taking it on any more flights, ever). I have a feeling I won’t miss any of them a bit.
In the effort to pay down our debt in as short of a time as possible, we have had to make some lifestyle changes to the way we spend our money. Along with being on a grocery budget and obvious restrictions around things such as shopping, we’ve cut spending on things like going out to dinner, going to the movies, throwing parties at our house (unless it’s a potluck sort of situation where everyone is bringing something), manicure/pedicures, regular hair salon visits, buying fancy/expensive food items, buying takeaway coffee, buying anything decorative for the house, doing any kind of non-urgent repair work on the house or yard, limited spending on gifts for each other, using up everything we currently have before buying more and not taking vacations. When I reread this list, I have to admit, all the things we cut truly fall under the category of “luxuries.” Nowhere on our list are things like “heat for the house” or “food.” So yes, we are blessed.
And for the most part, I’m not feeling a ton of yearning around most of those cuts. Yes, it’s nice to be able to buy a coffee whenever I feel like it, but it doesn’t ruin my day to not be able to do that. I was talking to my friend Rose a few weeks ago about our budget restrictions and she wryly commented, “Yeah, you and your first world problems. It’s not like you couldn’t afford groceries or had to go out and get a new job during any of this – it just means you can’t always do the stuff you WANT to do.” She’s totally right. I may not be able to afford luxuries, but I still get to do my erratically-paying dream career and I’m not homeless or food insecure as a result. It’s good to be reminded of that.
The one area though, where I do feel the sting of our cutbacks is travel. God, I love to travel. I didn’t travel much growing up – we drove from Oregon to Washington every summer to visit relatives, but we didn’t take “We’re going to Disneyland!” style vacations – my family couldn’t afford it. My mom stayed home to raise kids, and we survived financially on my dad’s income. I know we weren’t rich, but I never felt poor or deprived. Because we had never taken vacations as a family, I never really had anything to miss. Summers meant sleeping in, swimming, picnics in the park, popsicles, riding bikes and watching soap operas. All are very happy memories for me.
But as a young adult, I started to travel, both in the U. S. and overseas, as a touring actor. On my first overseas trip I was completely terrified, but once I got the hang of it, I got a serious case of wanderlust that has never been cured. If I had to choose between living in a gorgeous mansion but never being able to leave town, or to live in small apartment and take several trips a year, I would choose the apartment without a blink. I love exploring new cities and countries and seeing what life is like for the people who live there. Travel gave me a totally different perspective on the world and myself, and is a huge contributing factor to who I am today.
As I’ve mentioned before, we didn’t take an annual vacation this year, because we couldn’t justify spending the money when we were trying so hard to get out of debt. The loss of that trip has not gone unnoticed. Ron and I spend a lot of time talking about where we would go if we could, and where we will go as soon as we are able to afford it. The top two contenders at this point are Easter Island in South America, or Santorini in Greece. Easter Island is a bucket list item for both of us – to see those moai in person has to be nothing short of mind blowing. And Santorini, with it’s gorgeous views, food, weather and charm, looks equally sensational. We were discussing the pros and cons of each place, dreaming together, as we often do these days, since we can’t take any action for a while, and part of me started to feel a little depressed as we talked. Even though we’ve made really incredible progress on our debt, we still have a ways to go, and this last dragging part of it feels oddly longer and heavier than when we owed almost eight times as much – probably because after almost a solid year of scrimping and saying no to things, we’re just sick of it. Instead of feeling hopeful, I felt bitter, like the whole thing is a pipe dream because we will NEVER see the end of this debt, so what was the point in even dreaming about going somewhere? So I irritably shut the whole thought of a vacation out of my mind.
The next day however, I opened the mailbox, and was greeted by the sight of this catalogue:
Once again, well played, Universe. Of all the places in the world the catalogue could have been themed around, it was Satnorini? It seemed oddly coincidental. I even wondered if it was a sign of some kind – like that’s the place we should indeed go. Whether it’s a sign or not, I’m choosing to take it as one, to remind me that even when life feels like a grind, it’s important to keep hoping and dreaming.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas/Hanukkah/Whatever You Celebrated This Year. Ours was really low key, very fun, and filled with a lot of love, but very little stuff. Progress? I think so. The only thing Ron and I missed was taking our yearly vacation, which we chose to forgo in favor of paying off more debt. We were definitely bummed, but I really look forward to NEXT Christmas when (fingers crossed) we will be debt-free, and have built up a ton of frequent flyer miles to spend. And let’s face it, with our crappy luck this year, it would not have been a surprise to go somewhere tropical and amazing and have it rain the whole time, or be hit by a freak tidal wave or something.
Oh, and speaking of luck, Ron and I both gave each other a bunch of scratch-it lottery tickets in our Christmas stockings, and one of the games was called “Lucky 7”. You scratch off your “lucky number”, and then scratch off a bunch of other numbers, and if one of them matches your lucky number you win the amount listed next to the number. I scratched off the lucky number on mine, and it was the number thirteen. I rolled my eyes and laughed and showed Ron. “Of COURSE it’s my lucky number,” I said sarcastically. “Because the year/number thirteen has proved to be so LUCKY for me.”
I ended up winning $2 on that ticket – and it was the only winning ticket I got this year.
Well played, Universe. Well played.