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Robyn Yousef: Life as a pack animal

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Many years experience has shown Robyn Yousef she has a fat chance of travelling light.

No kitchen sink, but perhaps a loo lid. Photo / 123RF
No kitchen sink, but perhaps a loo lid. Photo / 123RF

I love to travel. And I dream about being able to travel lightly. But, it seems that if I continue to travel with my favourite travelling companion — The Spouse of 42 Years — this dream is unlikely to materialise.

I seem destined forever to travel like a well-laden packhorse, forever dreading the check-in and constantly checking and rechecking the final weight of our luggage.

I remember reading about a woman who travelled around Europe for weeks with just a carry-on bag. To handle the old "co-ordination dilemma" all the clothes and shoes she took were in black and she simply "rang the changes" with a cluster of scarves.

It reminded me of the countless columns written by fashion editors about how to jazz up your work attire so you can float effortlessly (and very stylishly, of course) from your computer on to the office party or a posh dinner.

But, I do not have an extensive wardrobe, so it's not my clothing that creates our luggage woes.

My dressing requirements are not the reason we must always go packed to the gunnels — if it's a week in the South Island or a month in Europe.

The Spouse has travelled extensively throughout the world in his business as a food importer. He loves his work and every trip away must incorporate the carrying of our samples to the destination (or as gifts to friends) and a return trip with a different assortment of samples.

Many of the pleasant people in the Ag and Fisheries division at Auckland Airport know him well. He's been exporting and importing for 30 years — products ranging from Indian spices through to Lebanese sumac, vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea and European cheeses. And it's rare we arrive back without having to declare some exotic foodstuffs.

The baggage problem emerged even before I married him. When I was travelling to Egypt in 1974 to meet his family, I kept getting endless requests to add to my luggage. I ended up paying a very hefty fee, but his mother got her special cocoa (food has always been the ruling factor), which was difficult to find in Cairo.

Back in the 70s, the retail sector in the Egyptian capital was pretty dismal with imported goodies horrendously expensive. There's good shopping there now but back then the word, LONDON, meant serious shopping. And being a naive girl from North Otago I gleefully announced I was making a trip back to the UK for 10 days.

Well, it was 10 days spent shopping. I went armed with a school exercise book packed with unusual orders. An aunt rolled her expressive Nefertiti eyes when I refused to carry a baby buggy back.

"You see workers arriving back from Libya with small television sets on their shoulders," she said indignantly.

All these years on, my problem persists. Now we have a relative building a house in Apia. So when we visit there for a relaxed break we must carry hardware for the building site.

The last time I was in Apia the customs officer was concerned that I might be carrying spare parts for cars. I was able to deny that, but I didn't tell him The Spouse had a toilet seat in his luggage.

- NZ Herald

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