Travel, as any missionary will tell you, is a key part of life. My sister says that travel is what makes my life complicated. To hear her tell it, it takes a 45 minute drive to the airport, two flights with a layover, 30 minutes in a taxi, a bus ride, and short jaunt by donkey just to get to my house. My response is that there are no donkeys involved and that once you arrive at our house life is pretty normal, assuming you consider gutting your own chickens to be normal. Of course, I could point out she is being egocentric and we could say that in fact it takes all those things just to get to her house. However, she apparently lives at the center of the universe (Texas) and we are out on the fringes somewhere, so that sort of logic just won’t hold. In her defense, Texas is fairly close to the center of things.
Actually, the thing that makes missionary travel so difficult is luggage. Over the course of our several years as missionaries we have acquired a variety of backpacks, suitcases, carry-ons, duffels, captain’s bags, footlockers, and trunks. We even own a Dora the Explorer carry-on, obtained as a way of convincing Zachary that hauling your own stuff was cool. The point of these innumerable forms of baggage is to cart your stuff from Continent A to Continent B.
Phase 1 requires us to travel to every store in the tri-county area to search for things we just simply cannot live without once we leave the Promised Land in order to travel to parts unknown. Ziploc baggies, of course, are the mark of civilization, so we’ll need to take those. Also required will be 43 boxes of children’s pain reliever, 12 bottles of Nyquil, a gallon of vanilla (because we are the only nation on earth to possess this substance), 400 yards of Christmas lights, and every form of feminine hygiene product ever invented in the history of womanity. I know what you are thinking: that’s way too much, right? Wrong. You see, science has proven that every object at the point of purchase is roughly the size of a single speck of ground cinnamon, bought in bulk at Costco, of course. And by science, I mean the voices in Stacy’s head. On the flip side, that same science has proven that each luggage piece we own has an internal dimension of something larger, like China.
Phase 2 involves packing your luggage. To my wonderful wife, proper method for years was to pack thematically. The way you do this is to section your goods according to where you would typically find them either in the store or in your cabinet at home. Canned goods, Pop Tarts (to be saved for Christmas), super jumbo cans of peanut butter, boxed cake mixes, and 55 pounds of dried pinto beans all fit into one suitcase. Children’s books, novels, Bible study books, scrapbook magazines, scrapbook paper, ink cartridges for both printers, heavy-duty paper punches, printer paper, and an office desk all go into another footlocker. Cotton balls, bags of air, Q-tips, feminine hygiene, make-up, combs, and diaper wipes all fill another suitcase. Quite reasonably this results in some suitcases weighing 17 pounds while others tip the scales at roughly 235.
At this point it is worth noting that we are products of our environments. As such, Stacy’s shopping and packing tendencies have been honestly acquired from her mother. A wonderful woman, my mother-in-law; she once sent us a care package while were in Europe. Most of the weight was salt; yes, that white stuff on the table that exists all over the world.
My packing methodology is much more organic. My basic approach is, “Don’t buy it in the first place.” Yes, I know: I’m a Neanderthal.
Phase 3 involves heated arguments with Stacy over the reasonableness of her packing methodology. Typically a number of sentences begin with “Well, my family has always…” I usually respond graciously, using words like “inscrutable,” “logically,” and the ever-popular “Cajun in-breds.” We usually agree that she will storm off to read 17 months worth of “People” magazine her mother has saved for her while I stay in the garage and repack everything according to those pesky airline rules regarding baggage weight.
With all checked bags fully packed to their 50 pound maximum, we (I) load them into a motorized vehicle capable of carrying at least two large elephants. I would like to note here my everlasting joy at the drop in baggage weight limits from 70 pounds down to 50. One must consider that we have five family members, each of which gets two checked pieces. Fifty pounds times 10 bags equals 500 pounds of Walmart that I will carry from garage to car. Then I will unload that same 500 pounds at the airport. Baggage men outside the terminal weep with joy at our arrival. Once we arrive at our destination, I claim 500 pounds of bags off the belt, load them onto carts, then remove all 500 pounds from the carts in order to send them through the hands of customs officials. Then it is back onto the cart (still 500 pounds). Loading them into the car outside the terminal (another lifting of 500 pounds) is followed by unloading them and carrying them into the house (500 again). So if we do the math here that makes, roughly, 3,500 pounds. We also have carry-ons.
I’m just glad we moved recently. Our last apartment was at the top of 52 steps…at 10,000 feet.