Bags: Packed

The first leg of my book tour travel begins Sunday morning, when I travel to NYC. Monday I have business meetings with my publisher and some other folks; Tuesday is when things kick off with a panel at Book Expo America. Wednesday I have signings and then an event in Philadelphia. Then I come back home for two local appearances — Dayton and Cincy. This, coupled with the fact that as a guy and a science fiction writer, I’m allowed to dress very casually for my events, means that I can travel very light: One duffel bag and one messenger bag for five days. This does not suck.

The messenger bag (which is really a computer bag, but they call it a messenger bag to make the person carrying it rationalize that he’s hip and cool) is new, bought just today because I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I don’t feel like hauling a backpack everywhere; the backpack is good for many things but is not an optimal form factor for stuffing underneath one’s plane seat, and also, I don’t know. I’m just not feeling the backpack love anymore, you know? These are perhaps contradictory words coming from a man who’s packing t-shirts and jeans for several days of travel, but I’m going to go ahead and stick with them.

Also new but not shown: shoes with arch support, on account that for the next several days I’ll be doing a hell of a lot of walking, and my 43-year-old feet are finally letting me know that my flat-soled checkerboard Vans — beloved though they may be to me — are not going to cut it for extended movement. I am ambivalent about this, as you may expect, but my psychic attachment to iconic totems of my youth have to take a backseat to actually being able to walk. Thus is the life of a middle-aged man.

One thing about traveling this light is that I’m not entirely sure if I’m going to be able to pack my uke; I had sort of casually hinted/threatened to bring it along on tour to sing “Redshirt.” Depending on your point of view, this will either be sad news or you will feel you have dodged a bullet. If someone brings a uke to the Philadelphia event, I may still sing it. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

47 Comments on “Bags: Packed”

  1. You should ask some of the bookstores you’re going to if there’s a music store near them that has a uke you can borrow for the event.

  2. Won’t be any excuses not to play in Dayton, so I’m pumped. Will security throw me out if I wave a lighter back and forth overhead?

  3. What you need for your feet is some Merrells, my 40+ year old feet really appreciate them.

  4. Throw some green “Superfeet” insoles into your Vans and you will love them again. Great arch support and you can keep your style. They are like $30 most places and I have them in all my shoes now.

  5. All your bags are packed, you’re ready to go; they’re standing there outside the door. Hate to wake you up to

    Have a good tour! I hope I manage to get my act together to come to your reading in NYC.

  6. With luck the people that do foot massage will be at BEA this year. I always need them by the time I’ve done half the floor.

  7. Speaking as a man who (willingly) wears MBT shoes because of his back you have my complete understanding. Now if you were only coming to British Columbia I could commiserate with you in person.

  8. John, if you ever need to cram a week’s change of clothes into a duffle, Eagle Creek makes things called compression bags that pretty much prep your clothes for space travel. Until a couple years ago I traveled a lot for work and never once had to check my bag.


    Throw some green “Superfeet” insoles into your Vans and you will love them again. Great arch support and you can keep your style. They are like $30 most places and I have them in all my shoes now.

    Damn, beat me to it. I second the recommendation though. I use the blue for travel and the green for hiking. Someday when I’m old and grey I’ll probably need the green insoles for everything, but for now my feet a spry as two spring-loaded solenoids. They sell them at REI in case you’re a member…the insoles, not spring-loaded feet.

    Also, I never travel without a pair of blunnies or doc martens.

    Xopher Halftongue

    Oh, wrong, I can’t go to BEA. Guess I won’t see you then. Drat.

    Join the bad-timing brigade! I’ll be convalescing from Friday surgery the day John visits Houston.

    Safe travels, John. Here’s some Andrew Lloyd Webber to see you on your way:

  9. Reebok “on the clock” shoes are pretty good for walking for long periods and don’t cost much.

  10. So I see you’ve posted a picture of your luggage in case you leave it somewhere again, now we’ll all be able to help you look for it. Good plan.

  11. And you won’t leave your bag, phone, computer or anything else at the airport, train station, bus term…. you get the idea. K?

  12. Just remember to not put your messenger bag down in the airport.

    Better yet, don’t put it down. Period.

    Well, maybe to take a shower.

  13. I had to stop wearing my beloved Black Converse hightops half a dozen years ago due to the same issue. Now it’s New Balance everyday. (I work at a hospital and am on my feet most of 8 hours a day) Good arch support and NB’s have a larger toe box for feet that are wide across the front. Yes, you could say I have Ape feet, everyone does.

  14. Vans does customization and they’ve got some shoes with decent support. The aged surferboy snoring in the bed next to me right now swears by them and never gave up his Vans (hell, we both wore Vans today to our son’s graduation…desperately clinging to icons of youth? check). Plus, toss in some inserts recommended here, and you can have your youth cake, eat it, and look awesome. ;)

  15. Besides the compression materials mentioned above, Eagle Creek makes the greatest serious travel backpacks on Earth. Mine is getting on 15 years old and several hundred thousand miles of air travel, almost all of it in an overhead compartment; my wife’s is only a decade old but that includes two years in a village in Niger. This is the successor to our model: but you may prefer the one that you can convert to a wheelie bag:

  16. I’m thrilled that the totemic footwear of my goth youth were Doc Martens. I have a pair from the last year they were making them in the UK – sturdy as hell, and great support for my high-arched, wide 40-year-old feet.

  17. Just make sure you hang onto the Air this time. Or are you taking the new disposable tech netbook with you in that super slick bag?

  18. @Farley, @Xopher,, @ Not the Frank:

    He’s leaving on a jet plane.

  19. You realize this means there will be many many ukeleles at Chicon, right?

  20. Speaking of which, I don’t suppose there’s a chord cheat sheet floating around anywhere?

  21. The whole backpack thing resonates, John. I’m 54 and while I tend to use a backpack for my soccer games, that’s the only time I use it. And, it’s only ONE strap, not two. Big diff. On the other hand, I’ve tried being a grownup and using the whole briefcase or whatever they call it now (messenger bag?) but it just feels a little off. To be honest, the last time I wore a suit was in ’94 when I got married.

  22. I always forget at least one essential item, often related to shaving.

    Anyways, safe travels and I look forward to seeing you at either the signing in Burbank or Pasadena!

  23. Welcome to the world of adult shoes. I switched to NB for most of my around-the-house use (the more expensive, the better). At work, however, I require something a bit more professional. To makes matters slightly more difficult I often shorten my regular bus/subway commute with my longboard. (Shut up. I’m 49, and get to do what I want) In essence, I need a good shoe that looks like a dress-up shoe, but is actually an athletic shoe. Ecco makes several of these that fit the bill. Their Welt Sneaker Tie (available in brown and black) works both with jeans and trousers; the perfect shoe for travel.

    And yes they are comfortable.

    The Walking Company (a chain found in malls all over including several in Ohio) sell ecco shoes and has some pretty spectacular inserts, which I hear are da bomb. I prefer to find shoes that fit me with the stock inserts. Its a pretty good place to start for a one stop better fit for your feet.

  24. So record the instrumental part (on your phone?) and sing it karaoke style. Also, I’ll be saying hello in person when you’re at the Lake Forest Bookstore so be warned.

  25. @ tolladay

    To makes matters slightly more difficult I often shorten my regular bus/subway commute with my longboard. (Shut up. I’m 49, and get to do what I want)

    I discovered in college that commuting by longboard was much easier if I coast softly and carry a big stick…

  26. I have exactly the same duffel bag! Goodness. My dad bought it for me as part of my graduation present from HS in 1988, and I still use it almost every time I travel. They make them well!

  27. I still like a backpack because that extra space at the top is just the right size to cram in a purse. Usually a purse is counted equal to a backpack or messenger/laptop bag, and thus eats up the “personal item” carry-on slot; but a purse doesn’t hold nearly as much. (Well, mine doesn’t. It’s large enough to carry a Nook, but I don’t need one large enough to carry around a change of clothes, slippers, and a travel pillow.)

    By stuffing the purse in the slightly useless top of the backpack (and thus temporarily overloading the backpack for the time it takes to board a plane), I can bring everything I need on board and keep it organized the way that suits me.

    Muah ha ha! Take that, restrictive airline goons!

  28. Gulliver, Good lord man! Do you know how cool that stick is? Here in LA its a pretty dangerous place to ride. The cars simply do not see you, but I’ll bet they would see a Big Stick. Its the perfect weapon , sorry tool, for sidewalk surfing. Thanks for the tip.

  29. tolladay, land surfing got me from my rental in South Central to classes on the USC campus for three and a half years. It takes a little getting used to, but if your already used to a longboard, you’ll be shoving off in no time! Ironically, I’ve almost been mowed down here in Austin more times than I ever was in hood.

  30. That thing is totally a computer bag. It is way too business looking to be a messenger bag.
    Messenger bags do not have the briefcase style handles and usually have a stylish easy access flap over the top.

  31. Re: Yr feet. (not a Jonathon Coulton song, aren’t you glad?)
    1) get good insoles for your Vans. You may have to try several pairs to find ones that work for you.

    2) soak your feet in cold water at the end of the day, and in the morning after a day of intense walking. It will cause the swollen connective tissue to stand down a little and the pain will be much less.

    3) stretch your hamstrings a lot. Standing on the edge of a stair with your heels hanging down every chance you get will help a lot. This exercise is best performed at the BOTTOM of a staircase.

    4) avoid going barefoot in your hotel room if possible. You need arch support every minute of every day, especially if what you have is plantar fasciitis.

  32. I hope that after the picture was taken a luggage tag was added to both bags–or that they just don’t show in the picture. Or maybe I’ve seen the movie Unknown one too many times . . . .

  33. Hugh57 and stoicjim: your helping is NOT HELPING!

    I will be at the Philly event, will not be providing ukelele, and if anyone helpfully brings one I may just have to do the thing like the guy from Animal House- “sorry.” (returns smashed ukelele)

  34. Can you say what kind of bags those are? I am traveling for work for the first time, and I was hoping to avoid luggage check-in. And since you’re a man who knows travel by flight, I was hoping you might share some best practices.

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