Something you might already know about me is that I like to travel light.
It’s a point of pride for me to leave home for weeks at a time with only my trusty blue 24 liter backpack.
Sometimes when I’m walking with a group, I find that supplemental things I carry – a first aid kit, extra snacks and water, etc – make my rucksack quite full.
Usually I have everyone else’s bags transferred each day, so that people only carry a small backpack on the trail. So I have started bringing a tiny collapsable backpack that I cram with my clothes and toiletries to be transferred with the rest of the bags. That way my backpack isn’t so heavy during the day. The small pack is also a waterproof liner if I need to use it in my backpack in the rain. And it doubles as a purse or shopping bag in the evenings. It’s so handy!
So when I arrived on the Camino in March, I had this small pack transferred each day along with the suitcases. After my first ever Camino with the princesses when we had way too much stuff, I now limit everyone to one small carry-on suitcase and one small daypack. It felt a little silly to pay to have my tiny backpack transferred each day, but I appreciated having less weight to carry around.
So in June, on the Portuguese Camino, I was planning to repeat this process.
But my friends who were joining me – let’s call them Ted and Stephanie – had been traveling around Europe already for several weeks. And it seems they had acquired a few souvenirs. Stephanie texted me before I arrived and asked if there would be any extra space in the luggage.
I replied: SURE! Why don’t you buy a big collapsible duffel bag that we can both throw our stuff in. I’ll toss in my little pack of clothes and you can fill the rest with your souvenirs. Since I was going to move my little bag anyway, I won’t have to charge you for a whole extra bag.
When I flew to Porto, I discovered that Ted and Stephanie had not bought a duffel bag. They had purchased a small European sized carry-on suitcase. European carry-ons are much smaller than American ones. They are for tiny Ryanair and Easyjet flights.
The bigger problem was that this tiny suitcase was already full of cheese and wine. I couldn’t just pop my little bag into it. Instead, with quite a bit of effort, I could squeeze my clothes around the souvenirs. Even then, I could not properly close the suitcase. The suitcase had to be perfectly aligned in order for the clasps to work. And when you sat on it, it would just bend, and then it would no longer be aligned. You had to hold both sides of it in alignment and close it at the same time.
After a couple of days of fighting with their new suitcase, and dragging it into the lobby to ask for help with closing it, Stephanie came up with a plan. She and Ted would take care of packing and unpacking the suitcase, and I would stop resenting their souvenirs. Now when we arrived each day, they would deliver my small bag of stuff to me. And in the mornings, I would deliver it back to them, and Ted would pack the suitcase. It was a daily comedy of errors.
Ted and Stephanie now had three suitcases that they unpacked and packed at every stop. I honestly have no idea how they ever made it on time to breakfast.
We had another suitcase adventure just outside of O Porrino a day after we crossed the border into Spain. When we arrived at our guesthouse after a long, hot day, we discovered that one of the suitcases was missing.
Our host helped me to track down the driver who said that they knew they had one missing and they would bring it later. So poor Diane, who was the owner of the neglected suitcase, had to go to dinner without a shower and clean clothes. She was a great sport about it though. She said that she was glad it was her and not one of the other ladies who had just arrived.
(On the Portuguese Camino, five of us walked from Porto to Santiago, and seven more folks joined us for the section from Tui to Santiago.)
But when we came back from dinner, Diane’s suitcase had still not arrived. I got back on the phone with the company but did not receive assurance that our missing suitcase was still coming.
Our host had gone home for the day but his father happened by while I was trying to sort out the problem. Between my broken Spanish and another guest’s better Spanish, we communicated our problem to our host’s father. He then got on his phone and somehow managed to track down the suitcase. It was apparently waiting at a nearby post office.
I still don’t understand how it got there or how he found it. I also don’t know how one gets inside of a post office at 10pm at night. Undaunted by this detail, our knight in shining armor headed out with certainty that he would be able to retrieve Diane’s luggage. The other guest who had been helping us went along with him, just for the ride.
About fifteen minutes later, they returned with Diane’s suitcase, much to our delight. We all said goodnight. Diane headed off to the shower and I went to bed.
When Diane flew home at the end of our trip, somehow her suitcase was diverted to Miami and didn’t make it back to her house until a week after she had arrived home in Arkansas. That suitcase must have really wanted to have an adventure of its own.
Mini Walking Stories is a project I’m doing this month to catalog a fabulous year of walking. During December, I’m inviting you to come along with me on one of the walks I took in 2022. Read more stories here and subscribe to future stories here.