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Posted February 26, 2013 in Adventure Journals by Jim Markel
Sarah Kissel took her beloved Sky Train to visit her family in Taiwan and discovered there are a few kinds of trips perhaps a backpack style carry on bag might not be suitable for. This was one of those trips. Being experienced travelers, we offer a few tips one can employ to remedy the situation. Here’s Sarah with her story.
I have wanted to write a review of the Sky Train, but I haven’t had a good trip with it yet. It went with me to Taiwan to meet up with my mom and visit extended family last July.
I over packed it. Never fool yourself into thinking you’re going to go jogging every morning while visiting family in Taiwan. They don’t understand the concept of jogging so you don’t actually get out of the house, and when you do, the humidity is at 95% at 5 in the morning. Leave the shoes at home.
My Mom, not being a planner, but much more spontaneous than I, decided that she and I would be bunking with a different family member every night. This meant a lot of re-packing of the bag. It became a big pain to zip out the bag, put everything in so that it would fit so I could still carry it backpack style, zip it back up, and then repeat the process every night.
My Mom, being A Mom, gifted me with more than twice the stuff I had brought. While the Sky Train remarkably gobbled up everything including clothes, tea, a billion face products because, “You starting look so OOOOLLLDDDD and you not married yet!”), it became impossibly heavy to carry.
So needless to say, as a carry on bag, it served instead as a check-in on the way home!
My family did not understand the concept of me turning myself into a human pack mule and made many disparaging comments about my beautiful Sky Train. And then threatened to buy me a 32″ Made-in-China suitcase on wheels, which is the exact type of bag I’m trying to get away from. I’m fairly immune to criticism from my very loving family, but I was starting to see things their way (ack! no!) after about Day 4 of re-packing my overstuffed Sky Train.
I do have hope for the Sky Train as a great bag for me for a one-destination trip – such as a business trip where I stay in one place for four days straight and not in a bunk bed one night, a futon another night, and next to my cousin, who snores like a freight train despite being 5’1″ super cute Asian chick, on yet another night.
All that to say, if you think that works as an honest opinion with the caveat that none of this is the Sky Train’s fault, it’s just an overview of the kind of trip that the Sky Train is NOT designed for.
While I was in Taiwan I visited the Taroko Gorge, which is located in Hualien, Taiwan, and is largely made up of marble. It’s stunning and the water really is the color in the images below.
Taroko Gorge Marble Lake
The question often arises, “Is it possible to travel around the world with just one bag?” Corinne Johnson certainly proves it’s not only possible, but it’s but one can also travel an entire continent for an whole year! Read up on how this young woman “from the suburbs” traveled around the world, and lived out of, her trusty faithful C-Ruck Rucksack.
This question, every time. I’d step off a bus or train into the warm sunshine and pick out my hosts from the group of waiting people. After a quick hi-how-was-the-trip, they would ask about my luggage, clearly puzzled by my lack of, well, STUFF. I’d just smile, toss my C-Ruck onto my back, and follow them into my next adventure.
The scene: The Land Down Under, last year.
The cast: a well-traveled Canadian (that’s me!) and her trusty, stuffed-to-the-gills Mariner blue C-Ruck.
The plot: girl from the suburbs makes her way around Australia for a year, staying with strangers and helping them with farm work in exchange for room and board through a program called WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms).
Once I’d arrived at my new farm-home and met the resident people and animals, I’d quickly unpack my bag. According to one host, it was like watching that trick where a magician pulls hundreds of silk scarves out of his hand/ear/mouth – I had everything I needed for a year in my sturdy pack. Now, before I start feeling too uppity about my minimalist lifestyle, I should remind myself that my backpack was h-e-a-v-y.
After all, I had all kinds of things in there: camera, laptop, toiletries, books, clothes suitable for running around town without looking like a tourist, clothes suitable for getting down and dirty on the farm, running shoes, flip flops, a deck of UNO cards, my current knitting or sewing project, sketchbook, journal, giant water bottle, leather outback hat, boots, lots and lots of sunscreen, insect repellent, snacks for the road…and more!
Armed with the contents of my bag, I had a blast learning how to shear sheep, wading through a sea of chickens to collect eggs, tending an organic veggie garden, riding horses bareback in the ocean, getting pushed around by friendly (and not-so-friendly) alpacas, pruning grape vines and currant bushes, trying to milk a donkey (I wish I were making this up…), building a mud-brick house, herding cattle on an ATV, picking giant peaches at daybreak, and bathing three reluctant German Shepherds in a bathtub on the roof of a house – three stories up!
You might say I tested my C-Ruck to its limits and it passed with flying colours. The padded back and straps made the bag comfortable to carry, even when it was totally loaded. The zippers are extremely strong and I love those easy-to-grab monkey’s fist knots! When you only have one bag, it’s crucial to keep everything inside neatly organized so it all fits, for one thing, but also so you can quickly lay your hand on whatever you’re looking for.
The side and front zippered pockets on the C-Ruck are brilliant: they hold an amazing amount but are easy to get in and out of. I’m also a big fan of the bottom straps and daisy-chain loops for attaching shoes, keys, and jacket to the outside of the pack.
Now, you might be thinking that the “one bag, one continent, one year” thing really isn’t your style. Not to worry, my C-Ruck has served me faithfully for three years in lots of different situations – walking around St. Petersburg one long night as I tried to find the hostel I’d booked online (now there’s a long story), going hiking in Czech forests, weekend trips to Budapest and Vienna, a 15-hour Greyhound journey through the Canadian Rockies, travel by car/train/plane, and a couple of months in New Zealand; when I settle in one place for a few months. I even use my pack to carry home a week’s worth of groceries. After all that, the bag still looks new and I know it has many years of travel left in it.
My head is full of plans for the future: a weekend trip to Vancouver Island, a year in South Korea, a holiday in Hong Kong, and a long journey around North America by motorbike. Wherever I go, my C-Ruck will go with me!
Red Oxx lives by this philosophy because we see folks every day using our bags from all corners of the globe. We must admit that you are one of the most “on the go” member of the Oxx herd. No doubt you have many stories you can share with us. So many thanks Corrine for sharing with us your adventure. Because we published her story, Corrine gets her choice of either a free Rigger Wallet or Market Tote. When will we hear about about YOUR adventure?
View from Taipei 101
One of my favorite pictures! They have it posted in every stall in the Ladies’ Rooms at Taipei 101. No idea what’s posted in the men’s stalls.
Thanks Sarah for the interesting story and great images. It’s always good to know what kind of luggage is best for a trip. Even better to know what to do with it. Having experienced the daily drudgery of moving from one hostel to the next, we suggest bringing along a Tri-fold Shave Kit to keep all your “face products” in order.
For organizing your electronics and footwear, try a Lil Roy Packing Cube and Nomad Kit Bag. All of these cool travel accessories come with handles so you can hang them up on your doorknob or on your cousin’s bed post. With 12 colors to choose from you can color code your packing cubes, making organizing easy.
If you think you may be coming home with more than you bargained for, pack a couple Aviator Kit Bags. They conveniently fold flat for the trip out and then can be checked for the way home. Some, such as the Extra Small and the Small are carry-on legal.
P.S. Said Sarah,
“I LOVE the advice on luggage that would have made that trip to Taiwan much more organized and easier to handle. The Aviator bag would have been much, much better than the little REI folding duffel I had brought with me.”