She went quickly and painlessly; leaving me in an embarrassing predicament.
Arriving at the baggage claim late, I was greeted by the sight of my old suitcase going around the carousal; with a massive hole in its side, exposing my unmentionables. Thankfully, everyone else had already claimed their bags and departed. Checking that nothing valuable had fallen out, I was left with the dilemma of toting my fatally wounded bag to my car, in the far off land known as Long-Term Parking. My attempts at getting a lift to my car fell on deaf ears, but the airline did kindly offer to repair the bag. I declined. I knew it was time for us to part ways, for me to say a fond farewell and thank my travelling companion for the good times we have shared.
I remember the day I brought that bag, just over 14 years ago. It was a turning point in my life, a time when things were just about to take a turn for the better. Having never flown before, I was selected by the local Council to attend a conference in Sydney; due to being active in my local community and in recognition of my potential. Struggling on a single parents pension, travel had not been a priority. I didn’t even own a suitcase. Luckily I found a nice one in a bargain shop. A pretty purple bag with wheels at the affordable price of $AUS20. Taking that first flight, I felt a little bit posh. And a quite fearful, as I had never been away from my children for that long before.
That first trip was fun, and I was very inspired by the speakers at the conference. The joy of conferences would eventually wear off, years later, but that first one was as if I was in a whole new world. On that trip I also learnt a valuable lesson: never stay up all night meeting locals at the local before sitting on a plane for 2 hours. That was the closest I have even come to testing how liquid proof those bags were that are provided in the seat pouch.
My cheap bag has journeyed with me to many memorable places. Soon after that trip I re-entered full-time employment, and 6 years later became a mortgagee. With a bit more of a cash flow, I was able to take the family on holidays. At first the bag accompanied us to budget holidays, and the occasional splurge on a beachside cottage for a quick getaway. A few years back, we all flew together for the very first time, enjoying a family holiday in Queensland. They then outgrew family holidays, but that bag and I kept on travelling.
Together we have shared holidays with friends, mostly short escapes to Yorke Peninsula, where the beaches are ideal for fun and fishing. The bag and I went with a friend to Port Augusta, to the Yarnballa Festival, where we danced to the music of some top Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander bands. Then we went along a muddy track, 100 kms north of Broken Hill, to dance under the stars far away from city lights, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the handover of the Mutawintji national park to the traditional owners.
Having found someone who enjoyed travel like the bag and I did, we ventured overseas. The bag bounced around in the back of a hire car, as we drove through Independent Samoa, searching for cheap accommodation when the sun started to set.
After that, I started working in jobs where travel was common. At first it was South Australian based, and I toted that bag to many regional and rural cities; from Mount Gambier in the east, to Port Lincoln in the west, and north into remote Cooper Pedy, Oonadatta and through the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (Aboriginal) Lands. Over the years, that bag has been to every capital city in Australia – at least once. Sometimes my suitcase with wheels has looked out-of-place, especially when I’ve taken it to remote locations, where a canvas bag or backpack would have been a better option. Even though it was showing its age, I kept on using it; as I am loyal.
Until vanity set in. The last two years, my jobs have involved interstate trips, mostly to capital cities. And my ageing, purple bag was beginning to look somewhat cheap. So a few months back I splurged on a fancy looking black-patterned bag. With not just two wheels, this one has four. It’s a nice feeling walking beside this fancy piece of luggage. Although, on its second outing, it was ripped coming back from Alice Springs. I didn’t see the damage until I got home, so missed the opportunity to report it to the airline. With another trip looming, I patched it up myself. No longer in pristine condition, the new bag and I have already done quite a few trips together. It has been my bag of choice. Until last week.
Only going for a few nights, I felt the need to travel a bit lighter than what I have become accustomed to with my new bag. So I took the purple one out from under my bed, and off we went to Brisbane. I didn’t even feel embarrassed to be pulling my old bag behind me; not after all the good times we have shared. When its inside were revealed through that gaping hole on the return trip, I felt a small sadness. Though even I knew it was time to let go; there was no sense in prolonging life with a repair job. My travelling companion will never be the same, no matter how much thread or glue is used.
It now sits at home, waiting for me to decide on its final resting place. Meanwhile, the new bag and I are getting to know each other a bit better in tropical Darwin. Life goes on. The old purple bag was from my yesteryear; when I was that overburden young hopeful; struggling with children, study, work, lack of finances, cheap rentals and all the other challenges life had thrown at me. This new black bag belongs to my now; a person with less responsibilities and more hope. And it will travel with me into the future, to wherever the road leads us.
Rest in peace my old travelling companion. You will always be fondly remembered.